NWCUA advocacy results in modernizing Washington, Idaho credit union acts

March 14, 2022

Legislation modernizing state credit union acts has passed in both the Idaho and Washington legislatures. The success in the 2022 legislative sessions is the result of collaboration between credit union advocates, legislators, state regulatory leaders, and the Northwest Credit Union Association.

The Idaho legislation updates the charter in a number of ways, including ease of branching, expanded use of technology and member services, access to credit unions for underbanked or unbanked non-members, and flexibilities allowing virtual board and annual membership meetings.

“The charter updates will help state-chartered credit unions remain relevant and continue to offer convenient and secure financial services to their members and communities,” said Ryan Fitzgerald, Vice President, Legislative Affairs for Idaho. “We’re extremely grateful to Idaho credit union advocates, the Idaho Department of Finance, and the Idaho Legislature for the collaboration to make this possible.”

The Washington legislature also passed a bill modernizing that state’s Credit Union Act,  ensuring credit unions have modern tools they need to serve nearly five million consumers who’ve chosen them as their preferred financial partners.

“Credit unions should be incredibly proud of their collaborative efforts to make legislators aware of the positive impact they have serving their members and communities every day,” said Joe Adamack. Vice President, Legislative Affairs for Washington. “As a result of their engagement in advocacy, the bill passed through both the House and Senate with broad, bipartisan support. As a result of this legislation credit unions will have more tools to ensure their members have access to the financial products and services their members need, deserve, and expect.”

The legislation increases credit unions’ access to and influence on emerging financial technology and other services, by allowing them to make equity investments in companies providing or developing such services that are not and will not become Credit Union Service Organizations. That would allow credit unions to be directly involved in product development, ensuring the technology solutions are useful and relevant for members, as well as become early adopters, help startups scale up, and have board representation.

The Act modernization also increases underserved people’s access to financial services, allowing credit unions to provide basic services such as paycheck cashing to nonmembers. In addition, HB 1165 removes the primary occupancy and move-in timeline requirements for property owned by credit unions. It also empowers the state regulator to provide regulatory relief to small credit unions.

Moving the policy needle in Oregon as well

Having updated the Credit Union Act in Oregon last year, NWCUA and member credit unions took every opportunity during this year’s 35-day “short session” to share community impact data and credit union difference stories with lawmakers. More than 70 advocates attended the Association’s legislative luncheon in Salem last month.

Voice of the members is critical for advocacy success.

NWCUA maintains a hyper-local focus on state-level advocacy. Credit unions in each of the states the Association serves have specific legislative needs every session, but one thing is common across the state lines: members’ engagement in advocacy.

The Association’s model continuously invites credit union leaders to the table to share thoughts on ways removing regulatory barriers would enhance operations and member services. This helps to determine the policy agenda for discussions with regulators, and for development of legislation.

“Key to protecting and evolving the best operating environment for credit unions is members’ engagement and input,” according to Jennifer Wagner, EVP and Chief Advocacy Officer. “Advocates know what the barriers to service are, and when they share examples, legislators listen. Having continuous contact with lawmakers before, during, and after legislative sessions, allows credit unions to always be talking about what their members need and deserve, and how credit unions are meeting those needs.”

To help members share their community impact with legislators, NWCUA developed the Community Impact Reporting Tool. This year, results of the survey were shared in NWCUA-represented statehouses and in the Beltway. State-specific reports detailed volunteerism, financial education, first time homebuyer loans, fees waived during the pandemic, and other services provided by credit unions. This spring, NWCUA is partnering with the Mountain West Credit Union Association and both organizations’ member credit unions to further evolve the tool, so credit unions in all six states served by the associations, will have new data to share with policymakers in 2023.