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Advocacy on the Hill: A Wrap-Up of the Premier Advocacy Event in DC
Tuesday, March 7, 2017 7:00 AM

As you know, the nation’s premier credit union event, the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference, was held in Washington D.C, Feb. 26-March 2. What you may not know is that the conference set an attendance record of 5,000 participants, including representatives from 77 Cornerstone Credit Union League credit unions.

The high number of attendees is a great reflection of the political engagement that's occurring within the Credit Union Movement. Credit union leaders are realizing how important it is to show up and present as a united force to make the biggest impact possible on our legislators.

During the event, two winners of the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award were recognized from the Cornerstone region. In the $50 million to $250 million category, Education Credit Union in Amarillo, Texas, won Second Place. In the more than $1 billion category, WEOKIE Credit Union received an Honorable Mention. Read more here.

And now for the wrap-up of people and events by state.

"The Natural State" of Arkansas sent nine representatives from four credit unions and the Arkansas Credit Union Association to the GAC, including a Crasher. Attendees were:

Windy Campbell, CEO, Arkansas Employees FCU, Little Rock
Tammy Passafiume, CEO, Diamond Lakes FCU, Malvern
Debbie Gatlin, CEO, Pine FCU, Pine Bluff
Linda Stanton, CEO, UP Arkansas FCU, North Little Rock
Terry Tucker, Operations Manager, Pine FCU, Pine Bluff
Karyn Davis, VP, UP Arkansas FCU, North Little Rock
Michael Armstrong, SVP, Alcoa Community FCU, Benton (Crasher)
Skeeter Brosius, Grassroots Advocacy Manager, Arkansas CU Association, Little Rock
Vicky Salkeld, President, Arkansas CU Association, Little Rock

Arkansas Credit Union Association President Vicky Salkeld noted that this was the first GAC for Debbie Gatlin, Karyn Davis, and Michael Armstrong.

The Arkansas contingent made Hill visits to speak with three of their four House members and both senators—all Republicans. The other representative had been called away to vote, so they met with his legislative director. Salkeld reported that topics covered included regulatory reform, data breaches, and protecting our tax exemption.

Incoming Cornerstone Credit Union League President Caroline Willard accompanied the group on the visit to Rep. French Hill.

"Our congressmen were all in agreement that something needs to be done to reduce regulatory burden and data breaches," Salkeld said. "They were very forthcoming that these are high-priority areas. We were able to explain the hardship this causes for Arkansas credit unions, where almost half of our credit unions have less than $10 million in assets.  We stressed the point that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to regulations."

Arkansas GAC attendees raised $900 for CULAC at the conference.

The Oklahoma contingent included 54 professionals from 14 credit unions and the Oklahoma Credit Union Association.

Oklahoma Credit Union Association President Nate Webb said, "This year, Oklahomans attending the GAC ventured from the traditional Hill visit format of traveling from office to office. Instead, we had a private room reserved at the Library of Congress where we remained for the day and our congressional delegation visited with us."

The Oklahoma contingent took with them several first time attendees, and Webb conducted a first-time attendee briefing. He said he thought the event was a big hit with their attendees.

"Being in Washington affords us the ability for one-on-one meetings with members of our delegation," Webb said. "For example, I was able to meet one-on-one with Congressman Frank Lucas, who's a member of House Financial Services, to deliver a CULAC check. I also had personal meetings with Sen. James Lankford, several key legislative staffers, and staff from the new administration."

From Texas, 176 representatives from 59 credit unions participated in the GAC.

Texas credit unions met with Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz about the need for relief from CFPB regulations. Cruz has filed S. 370 to eliminate the CFPB. Rep. Ratcliff (R-Texas) has filed the House version, HR 1031.

Texas credit unions also discussed the tax reform issue with the senators, the need to maintain the credit union tax exemption, the problems with data breaches, and the need to pass the Carper/Blount data breach legislation.

During their meetings with the House, credit union leaders asked for cosponsors to Rep. Roger Williams HR 1264, the Community Financial Institution Exemption Act. They also discussed protecting the credit union tax exemption. Repeal of the Durbin amendment, which is included in Chairman Jeb Hensarling's Financial Choice Act, and the need for legislation to address data breaches received a lot of discussion as well.