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MCUL GAC Wrap-up   (Monitor: April 19, 2010)

With elections on the horizon for Congress, the state legislature and the governor’s seat, there was plenty to discuss during the 2010 MCUL Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) concerning credit union issues and how a changing political landscape could affect the industry. The conference also provided some economic perspective, a chance to discuss the many opportunities for credit unions in the down economy, and time to meet with lawmakers.

The conference took place April 13-14 in Lansing, and kicked off with a legislative and regulatory issues update at the Mackinac Room of the Anderson House Office Building. The update prepared attendees for the legislative luncheon, during which credit union leaders met with legislators and staffers from their district. Topics of discussion included legislation affecting payroll debit cards, principal residence, an annual PAC signature requirement, and other areas. The well-attended luncheon also featured proclamations from State Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, and State Rep. Dan Scripps, D-Leland, recognizing April as Financial Literacy Month in the state of Michigan. The lawmakers expressed their appreciation for the credit union industry during brief remarks.


"Every one of us in the legislature knows that when people have trouble, they can turn to people like you within their community who care about them," Nofs told luncheon attendees. "I think that's why you get all the support that you do in the legislature, because of what you're willing to do to help keep our communities strong and vibrant relative to our current economic situation."

Participants then headed to the Lansing Radisson for MCUL President/CEO David Adams’ introductory presentation “Political, PR and Business Opportunities in a Tough Economy.” Adams touched on the importance of staying active in the political process and policy decisions, as these are important for keeping credit unions relevant and preserving their tax-exempt status as lawmakers come and go. He also explained how credit unions can capitalize on their trustworthiness and strong capital base through media outreach.

"The question is: As we do strategic planning to increase checking accounts, build relationships, get more loans out, operate in a safe and sound manner, and other areas, should we be looking a bit harder at how we find alignment with public policy issues?" Adams said. "I say yes, because it's good business, and it's also good for preserving our tax status, keeping us relevant and keeping us looking very positive in the eyes of the public."

After a brief break, attendees reconvened for the rousing “Handicapping the 2010 Elections” session with Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer and Michigan Republican Party Deputy Chair Norm Shinkle. Senior Capital Correspondent Tim Skubick, a regular guest of the MCUL GAC, moderated the discussion and grilled the panelists on a number of current issues while taking questions from the audience. Topics of discussion included the impact of the new federal health care laws on Michigan elections, negative campaign tactics, a possible Michigan constitutional convention, pension for state employees and more.

"There are some very basic differences between the parties in their approach to government," Brewer said. "I disagree with Norm's party on a lot of issues, but I respect his right to have that opinion and to argue for that. It's very easy to say 'drop the partisan bickering,' but that's not what's going on. There are fundamental differences in how people want to govern Michigan."

The first day of the MCUL GAC wrapped up with a reception honoring State Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, with the MCUL State Lawmaker of the Year Award and Emily Davis, a former staffer for State Rep. Andy Coulouris with the MCUL State Staffer of the Year Award.
Wednesday opened with the keynote presentation from Chuck Clay of Brock, Clay, Calhoun & Rogers. Clay, an attorney and expert on public policy, talked about the importance of grassroots lobbying efforts, warning attendees to avoid the "theatre" side of politics and focus on real issues. He also dispelled the myth that lawmakers ignore bulk e-mails sent from constituents on a specific topic.

Economics Professor Jason Taylor of Central Michigan University was next on the agenda, explaining similarities between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the "Great Recession" of the last three years. He also summarized potential effects of the government's economic stimulus programs and the problems of mounting debt.

Participants were able to hear next from OFIR Commissioner Ken Ross on several regulatory issues, including examination, capital strength, and member business lending. Ross noted that while "more pain" is on the way for the economy and financial services in general, credit unions are in a good position compared to many banks due to their strong capital base. Ross also explored some of the important areas credit unions must consider before beginning a member business lending program.

Cencorp CEO Bill Walby closed out the main sessions with an explanation of proposed regulatory changes for corporate credit unions, and their short- and long-term impact on Cencorp. Walby noted that Cencorp will be taking steps in the future such as reducing their balance sheet size, converting and acquiring capital, moving funds from U.S. Central, and other measures to operate in the changing environment of new NCUA regulations and a down economy. He also assured attendees that Cencorp operations and services will continue as normal for the foreseeable future.


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