Credit unions’ advocacy success in 2021 was nothing short of remarkable, CUNA Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan told attendees at the Wisconsin Credit Union League’s 2022 State Government Affairs Conference in Madison.
While Donovan believes the success of 2021 sets credit union advocates up nicely for 2022, he envisions it being a challenging year. November will bring elections, with all 435 U.S. House of Representatives seats up in the air, as well as 34 seats in the Senate.
The Senate is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, while Democrats hold a small majority in the House.
“This isn’t just any election, it’s the first midterm after a new president has taken office, and traditionally the president’s party loses seats in their first midterm,” Donovan says, adding that the upcoming elections are complicated further because it’s the first midterm election after redistricting.
“A number of pundits would say redistricting has been pretty much a wash or maybe the Democrats have benefitted from the redistricting process,” he says. “That remains to be seen. On paper, Republicans certainly look like they have the advantage in the redistricting process and—as a result of all these factors—they have an advantage going into the November election.”
If it plays out that way, the window of opportunity for Democrats to advance legislation appears to be closing. Donovan expects more action from federal regulators to drive policy in the Biden Administration’s direction and to entice base voters to turn out.
“That should cause us some considerable concern,” Donovan says. “Because what that will look like for credit unions is some aggressive action through rulemaking or enforcement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and from aggressive action potentially from NCUA.”
This is why Donovan preaches 360-degree advocacy—not just relying on Congress to solve credit unions’ problems, but also seeing if advocates can saturate policymakers with their message and make advancements through the regulatory process, state legislators, and the legal arena.
The CUNA-League advocacy agenda sets out to do five things: protect and reflect credit unions’ priorities, expand and protect credit union powers and opportunities, reduce regulatory barriers, enhance credit unions’ relevance to members, and preserve the credit union tax status.
“Advocacy isn’t a sport you just observe, it’s something that requires participation,” Donovan says.
He suggests participating in the Credit Union Legislative Action Council, National Advocacy Fund, Project Zip Code, Hike the Hill, and the Member Activation Program.
“All of these important efforts help us tell the story of how credit unions are working to improve their members’ financial well-being and advance the communities they serve,” Donovan says. “How is your credit union measuring the impact it has on your community and your members? How are you telling that story?”