The Congressional Summer Recess started on Monday, August 5, and will conclude by September 7. During this time, members of Congress are back in their home districts meeting with constituents at town halls, chamber events and other local venues. This is the prime time to meet them at the local district office or invite them to your credit union or chapter event to talk about tax reform and the value of maintaining the credit union tax exemption. In addition, you can use this time to talk about the specific regulatory burdens impacting your credit union.
According to the latest from CUNA’s lobby team, tax reform bills are being drafted in the House and Senate. On the House side, Ways & Means Chairman Camp has told his colleagues that he is going to write a bill that places the maximum rate on individual and corporate taxes at 25%. To do so, a significant number of loopholes and tax expenditures would have to be eliminated. On the Senate side, Finance Committee Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Hatch are proceeding with the “blank sheet” approach. Drafts of the tax reform bills are not expected to be made public until October.
Regardless of when the committees markup tax legislation, the most important period of time for the credit union tax status is right now when the bills are being drafted—and that’s why your engagement over the Congressional Recess is critical.
Here is what you can do over the Congressional Recess:
It is essential that we continue to increase grassroots engagement in the coming weeks via emails, phone calls, and local visits. To date, over 600,000 total contacts have been sent to Congress. Approximately 40,000 of these are from credit unions in Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. As you can see by reviewing the contact report, Cornerstone Congressional Tax Contacts, some members of Congress aren’t hearing from very many credit unions. If your member of Congress has received less than 500 messages, please engage your staff, volunteers, and credit union members immediately. The districts that have generated the biggest numbers are those where credit unions are driving their members to the www.DontTaxMyCU.org site and the toll-free number 877-642-4223.
In addition, CUNA is developing a Spanish language version of the Don’t Tax My Credit Union campaign. Components will include a website, video, grassroots action center, and toolkit for credit unions. This should be introduced in early September, so stay tuned for more information.
Get Your Advance copy of the Texas “Tax Brochure”
The Texas tax brochure is a summary of the positions that Texas members of Congress have taken regarding the credit union tax exemption. A copy of brochure will be sent to Texas credit unions soon, along with the 2013 Legislative Summary for the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature. Future editions of the tax brochure will include the Arkansas and Oklahoma delegations.
As you can see, many Texas lawmakers provided a quote in support of the exemption. If your lawmaker was one of these, please send them a note of thanks. If your lawmaker's statement does not directly support the exemption, please contact them about it. Remind them that a tax on credit unions is a tax on credit union members, too. Don't forget to encourage your directors, staff, and members to write similar communications.
And it’s important to note that just because your lawmaker provided a favorable quote doesn’t mean that it’s time to stop communicating to their office in support of the tax exemption. In fact, it’s more important than ever that our friends in Congress hear from us, so they know that we appreciate their support and stand by them.
Attend Town Hall Meetings
CUNA is tracking all town hall events over the Recess and you can access a list of upcoming meetings in our document, August Recess Town Hall Meetings. Town halls are informal meetings where the lawmaker talks about what’s happening in Washington and then takes questions from the audience. It’s a good venue to meet your representative and reinforce the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” message. Join up with other credit unions in your chapter to demonstrate strength in numbers.
Make the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” campaign a central theme for your meetings in August and September. Invite your member of Congress to attend or host a chapter event where credit unions team up to visit the local district office. In addition, you can provide laptops at chapter meetings to allow attendees to send emails or ask everyone to take out their cell phones to call the 800 number and leave a message for their member of Congress.
For help activating your advocacy efforts during the Congressional Recess, contact Jim Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
District Court Decision on Durbin Legislation
By now you’ve no doubt heard that the U.S. District Court vacated the Federal Reserve’s interchange rule. The court held that the Federal Reserve Board's regulation implementing the Durbin Amendment was invalid because (1) it set a cap on interchange fees that was too generous to comply with Durbin; and (2) it failed to ensure that at least two routing alternatives would be available for every debit card transaction. The court’s decision was a disappointment to say the least, as our position has been that the Fed’s rule sets interchange rates too low, not too high.
Since the court has temporarily stayed its own decision, the existing Fed rule is likely to remain in effect for at least a few more months. Credit unions with less than $10 billion in assets will continue to be exempt from the fee cap regulation. CUNA and Cornerstone Credit Union League are watching this situation very closely and will keep you apprised of the next steps.