House to Vote on 'CURIA-Lite'

WASHINGTON – Leaders of the House have agreed to put the slimmed-down version of the credit union regulatory relief bill to a vote next Tuesday on the so-called suspension calendar, reserved for non-controversial bills.

The House also is expected to vote Tuesday on a separate regulatory relief bill for banks and thrifts, giving the banks motivation to cease from attacking the credit union bill in the run-up to the vote.

In order for a bill to bypass a vote by one of the House’s committees and be sent to the full House, it must have the approval of both the chairman of the committee and the ranking minority member, which both bills have.

The credit union bill, known as the CU Regulatory Relief Act, or CURRA, is similar to CURIA, the CU Regulatory Improvements Act, absent two provisions objectionable to the banks – an increase in the cap on member business loans and enactment of a risk-based capital system for credit unions.

“CURRA was always designed as a package that could move quickly,” said Brad Thaler, senior lobbyist for NAFCU. If the House passes the bill, as is expected of something put on the suspension calendar, it would give credit unions a vehicle to get some of the other CURIA provisions added, he noted.

“This allows us to focus on key elements of CURIA,” Thaler told The Credit Union Journal yesterday.

CURRA would expand the ability to branch into underserved markets to community chartered credit unions; exempt business loans made in underserved markets from the MBL cap; and allow credit unions to provide payday loans to non-members within their fields of membership.

As in CURIA, CURRA would: allow credit unions converting to community charters to retain their select groups; exempt credit unions from the pre-merger notification requirements of the Clayton Antitrust Act; increase the amount individual credit unions can invest in a CUSO to 3% of capital from the current 1%; and allow NCUA, rather than Congress, to determine permissible investments for credit unions.

CURRA also would give NCUA greater flexibility in setting the annual interest rate ceiling and ease credit union participation in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Section 504 program.

A vote on the bill, as expected, would move it over to the Senate, where the credit union lobby has failed to gain any traction on CURIA, noted Thaler.

Five years after introduction of CURIA in the House, the Senate has yet to introduce its own version. At CUNA’s Government Affairs Conference March 4, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu promised she and her Democratic colleague Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut were poised to introduce a Senate version of CURIA, but they have yet to do so seven weeks later – apparently because of difficulty in attracting a Republican sponsor to show bipartisan support.

The bank bill, introduced only last week, would expand lending powers for thrifts by raising their business loan limit to 20% of assets from 10%; eliminate the asset limits on small business loans and auto loans; and raise the lending limit on commercial real estate loans to 500% of capital and surplus from the current 400%.

It also would allow banks and thrifts to pay interest on business checking accounts, something the banks have been seeking for years.