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2017 Legislatures in Cornerstone Area Ramping Up
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 7:00 AM

It's that time again—time for the legislatures in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to conduct their respective state's business. In fact today is the opening day and swearing in for the Texas Legislature. What's your state up to?

ARKANSAS
The Regular Session of the Arkansas 91st General Assembly convened at noon on Jan. 9, 2017. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will address a joint session today. He has announced his full list of priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

Each of the announced initiatives fall into one of three categories, consistent with the governor’s 3-E priorities: economic development, education, and efficiencies and government transformation. Currently, 126 House bills have been filed and 95 Senate bills.

"We are looking forward to hosting the first luncheon of the session for the 91st General Assembly, the Arkansas Credit Union Association Legislative Luncheon, on Wednesday of this week," said Arkansas Credit Union Association President Vicky Salkeld. "This is always a well-attended event and an excellent opportunity for our credit union leaders to network with their elected officials."

For more information, please contact Arkansas Credit Union Association President Vicky Salkeld at 501-944-6131 or vsalkeld@arcua.coop.

OKLAHOMA
With Oklahoma lawmakers less than a month away from convening at the State Capitol, a more focused picture of legislative priorities is beginning to emerge.

"Although the final product of any legislative session is impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy, we do know what major challenges lay ahead," said Oklahoma Credit Union Association President Nate Webb. "Chief among them this year is another significant budget deficit. Oklahoma’s budget depends heavily on taxes placed on oil and natural gas production, and a continued lag in energy prices is largely to blame for a projected $865 budget deficit."

Another major factor impacting this year’s session will be the significant number of freshmen in both the House and Senate, Webb said. A total of 45 freshmen will face trial by fire this year.

The good news is that the Oklahoma Credit Union Political Action Committee (OCUPAC) played a significant role in the composition of the current legislature. An impressive 98 percent of candidates supported by OCUPAC were elected or re-elected to their current position.

For more information, please contact Oklahoma Credit Union Association President Nate Webb at 405-445-1510 or nwebb@okcua.coop.

TEXAS
The 2017 Texas Legislature begins at noon today, and new and returning members of the Senate and House will be sworn in.

The Cornerstone Credit Union League board of directors’ legislative priorities for this session are protecting credit unions’ tax exemption, data security, lienholder interests, mitigating regulatory burdens, amending the home equity lending law, and maintaining an independent credit union department with SDSI (semi-independent, self-directed) status.

Bill filing began in November and will continue through March 10. There are more than 900 bills that have been filed in the Texas House and more than 450 filed in the Texas Senate thus far.

Some of the bills filed include a constitutional amendment to allow prize-linked savings accounts, a bill that reduces the size of signage prohibiting guns on credit union property, and legislation requiring a consumer to present a photo ID when purchasing or adding value to a stored value card and using a credit or debit card for payment. There are also bills dealing with notice to lienholders regarding cancellation of auto insurance, the use of credit reports regarding employment, and reduction or elimination of the state franchise tax.

The Texas Credit Union Association is working on legislation to update the home equity lending law. It is expected there will be bills to impose more disclosures and requirements on credit unions when opening new accounts and reduced protections for credit unions as lienholders relating to vehicle storage facilities and non-consent tows.

Comptroller Hegar released his revenue estimates on Jan. 9, which notified the Legislature that they have approximately $8 billion fewer dollars in the general revenue fund with which to craft the next two-year budget. The general fund typically makes up nearly half of the state’s total budget and, along with federal funding, helps pay for schools, health care, universities, and other services.

The session will end on the last Monday in May. The governor then has 20 days to sign, veto, or let a bill become law without his signature.

“It will be important for both state and federal credit unions to be engaged this session, given the wide assortment of issues it appears credit unions will be facing during this legislature,” said Jeff Huffman, president of the Texas Credit Union Association.  

The Texas Credit Union Association Governmental Affairs Conference will be Feb. 15, 2017, which provides an opportunity for state and federal credit unions from around Texas to visit Austin and advocate on behalf of the credit union system. More information on registering for the conference can be found here.

For more information, please contact Texas Credit Union Association President Jeff Huffman at 469-385-6488 or jhuffman@txcua.coop.