MADISON, Wis. (5/8/14)--From patent "trolls" to financial literacy to legalized marijuana sales, state legislatures addressed key issues affecting credit unions during recent sessions that are winding down.
Colorado ended its session last night by sending a bill to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk that would create uninsured financial cooperatives for marijuana businesses. Of HB 1398, Andrew Freedman, the governor's director of marijuana coordination, said, "This gives us an avenue to go to the Federal Reserve, and get cash off the street. That was by far our No. 1 priority" (Denver Post May 7).
Because of strict regulations--and the fact marijuana is illegal under federal law--legitimate sellers in Colorado and Washington have been running their businesses on a cash-only basis. Both states consider safety a main reason to allow financial institutions to serve the marijuana industry.
In Missouri, the House voted in favor of SB 706, a bill that sets clear criteria to help distinguish legitimate patent infringement from patent "trolls" that send frivolous demand letters. Passed by the Senate in April, SB 706 now heads to Gov. Jay Nixon's desk. (See News Now May 1: Session end in sight, Mo. patent 'troll' bills keep moving.)
"We know several credit unions in Missouri were affected by patent trolling," said David Kent, director of state legislative affairs, Missouri Credit Union Association (Missouri Difference May 6). "They had little to no protection against the allegation, forcing them to decide either to spend thousands of dollars in court or on a settlement--which, unfortunately, is what many small businesses end up doing. SB 706 flips the scenario, creating parameters that a patent infringement assertion must contain to be considered valid."
The Credit Union National Association supports the demand-letter language within Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013, which would aid credit unions and other businesses that have been targeted with financial threats through demand letters by bad actors who have been come to be referred to as patent "trolls."
In Florida, of the 1,812 bills filed by the legislature, only 258 are headed to the governor's desk. One of those bills, SB 1012, updates state statutes regarding credit unions including the authority of the Office of Financial Regulation (eNews May 6). The legislature also took up a data security bill after the Target breach in December, which is also headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk.
Although they did not pass, bills on financial literacy requirements for high school student "gained an awful lot of traction," according to the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, in part because of credit unions' work with the bills' sponsors.