CUNA Director of Advocacy Becca Durr speaks with West Virginia credit union leaders as part of their Hike the Hill activities. (WVCUL photo)

Leagues/CUs Hike the Hill in support of SAFE Banking, other priorities

October 4, 2019

Credit union leaders from six states visited Washington, D.C. during a busy week in the Nation’s Capital, discussing credit union concerns with policymakers as the House was preparing for its historic vote on the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.

Representatives from the Illinois Credit Union League, Minnesota Credit Union Network, New York Credit Union Association, Ohio Credit Union League, Montana Credit Union Network and West Virginia Credit Union League all visited with legislators and regulators during their visits.

Emily Leite, vice president of advocacy for the Ohio Credit Union League, said these trips are impactful for credit unions, as traveling hundreds of miles to Washington, D.C. illustrates the importance of the issues in question.

“The personal investment made by Ohio credit union leaders to attend the annual Hill Hike not only provides a powerful illustration of cooperation but emphasizes the importance of the issues being discussed,” she said. “Ohio was proud that our delegates not only listened to how policy decisions can positively influence the lives of credit union members, their constituents, but that they also took action stemming from those dialogues. Out of Ohio’s 16 House members, only five voted ‘no’ on the SAFE Banking Act, and that strong support is due to the powerful and persuasive stories provided Ohio credit union leaders during our hill visits.

“If more than 30 Ohio voices, along with hundreds of others, helped make the 321-103 favorable House vote possible for cannabis banking, imagine what else we can accomplish together in the future,” she added.

William J. Mellin, president/CEO of the New York Credit Union Association, called their Hike the Hill visits “extraordinarily productive,” also noting the support from New York members of Congress for the SAFE Banking Act.

“The entire event was a powerful display of direct credit union advocacy and a testament to the importance of collaboration. Of course it was an opportunity to strengthen our relationships with New York’s congressional delegation, but we also saw real, immediate legislative successes come out of these meetings,” he said. “Just one day after our legislative visits, all of which included substantive discussions on the importance of safe cannabis banking, every U.S. House member from New York voted ‘yes’ on H.R. 1595, the SAFE Banking Act.

“We also had the chance to sit down face-to-face with NCUA Board Chairman Rodney Hood and discuss important regulatory issues with the chairman and senior agency staff,” he added. “Chairman Hood has a firm grasp of the New York credit union landscape, and it was encouraging to see first-hand how engaged he is on our issues.”

Keith Sias, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the Illinois Credit Union League, said Hike the Hill visits are a “key component” of their ongoing advocacy efforts.

“Our attendees had the opportunity to participate in Hill visits with key legislators as well as meaningful meetings with regulatory agency officials,” he said. “As an added bonus, one of the key issues discussed during our Hill visits--the SAFE Banking Act--successfully passed the House during our Hike the Hill. The relationships developed during Hike the Hill are critically important to the long-term success of ICUL’s advocacy efforts.”

The West Virginia Credit Union League was able to meet with both NCUA Chairman Rodney Hood and most of their Congressional delegation at a luncheon on Capitol Hill.

“We were able to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Given their pressing schedules, our delegation took the necessary time to seek feedback on our issues, and expressed their support for credit unions and the people they serve,” said Rich Schaffer, senior vice president at the West Virginia Credit Union League. “Congressman David McKinley thanked credit unions for offering affordable financial services and...Chairman Hood stressed the importance of cybersecurity, and NCUA’s commitment to protecting credit union assets.”