When it comes to engaging with lawmakers, Reta Kahley, president of the Arkansas Credit Union Association – a division of the Cornerstone Credit Union League, says we shouldn’t do so only when we need something from them. The Arkansas Credit Union Association recently held a luncheon with lawmakers, and according to Kahley, about 20 credit union people representing 12-15 credit unions attended. In the following Q&A, Kahley shares with Leaguer readers more information about that luncheon.
Question: Were credit unions briefed before the event?
Kahley: Absolutely. We provided them a brief update on the legislative session.
Question: What did the conversation with lawmakers focus on?
Kahley: Really just conversational - helping them to understand about credit unions, the difference we are making in our members lives and the positive impact we have on communities.
Question: What specific issues were discussed?
Kahley: This legislative session is really focused on the budget so there were no credit union specific issues discussed with lawmakers. It was just an opportunity to dialogue with our lawmakers.
Question: Why hold a legislative luncheon if there are no issues impacting credit unions?
Kahley: We need to get to know our lawmakers when we don’t need anything from them, and that way when an issue does arise and we need their support we have already established that relationship.
Question: How did lawmakers respond to the luncheon?
Kahley: We had about 100 lawmakers attend the luncheon, which was from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. It was a very causal, informal luncheon and our lawmakers appreciate that. In fact, they hold our format as the standard for other associations to emulate. The luncheon was held in the Capitol Hill building. We didn’t have a speaker and lawmakers could come and go as they needed. The land commissioner also attended the luncheon.
Question: Did anything unexpected happen?
Kahley: Actually yes. One of our lawmakers asked how Dodd-Frank is impacting credit unions, and wanted to know if we’d be willing to talk to him more about this at a later date. I suspect he might be looking at doing an interim study on the impact of the Dodd-Frank. In Arkansas we have only federally chartered credit unions, which I did explain to him; however, I also shared with him that we are a regional league and that we could certainly be a resource for him on this issue.
Question: Overall, what are your thoughts about the luncheon?
Kahley: It was a great turnout. We really appreciate the credit unions coming out for this event, especially given the inclement weather we had at the time of the luncheon. It is because of our credit unions that this luncheon is a success year after year. I’m certain that our lawmakers appreciate our credit unions for being there and being open to conversation. I for one am very appreciative that our credit unions recognize the value in engaging with legislators and sharing our story. If we want to influence legislation, we have to have a presence. Our credit unions understand that and they see value in the luncheon.