HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES

COMMITTEE OKS FIX TO EFTA

WASHINGTON-A key House panel approved a bill last week that would eliminate the Electronic Funds Transfer Act's requirement that credit unions and banks disclose the fees they charge at the ATM twice-on the outside of the ATM and on-screen-and sent the bill on for a vote of the full House.

The bill says the only disclosure requirement for fees would be on-screen.

The vote comes amid a growing number of consumer suits being filed against credit unions and banks for failure to provide the placard on the machines, with one industry representative estimating as many as 500 such suits have been filed over the past few years.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., chairman of the committee, said the bill will help curb the growing number of class action suits, which threaten access to consumers to ATMs, especially in rural areas where ATM access is remote.

Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., one of the sponsors of the bill, said the current EFTA disclosure requirement is duplicative and consumers will still have access to proper disclosure on-screen if the bill is approved.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said the dual disclosure requirement was enacted in 1993 and is now outdated because ATMs are now capable of offering the disclosures on-screen.

Several members of the committee said they were told by credit unions and banks that they have been targeted by unscrupulous consumers who have removed the required placards from the ATMs, then filed class action suit claiming violation of the law.

But the bill, endorsed by the House Financial Services Committee, is expected to have much more heavy opposition when it is debated in the Senate, where it has also been introduced. That's because of broad opposition by consumer groups, who see the on-machine disclosure as an important consumer protection.

FLOOD INSURANCE BILL

STALLED OVER ABORTION BID

WASHINGTON-The Senate's plans to vote a bipartisan, credit union-backed bill to reauthorize the federally subsidized flood insurance program for another five years could be held up indefinitely while Senate leaders deal with an attempt by one Republican to add an anti-abortion provision to the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last Tuesday said a Republican senator is insisting on a vote on an amendment defining "when life begins." Reid did not name the senator, but it was Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who had offered the amendment.

"I think some of this stuff is just - I have been very patient working with my Republican colleagues in allowing relevant amendments on issues, and sometimes we even do non-relevant amendments," said Reid during a news conference. "But really, on flood insurance?"

"After all the work that's been put on this bill, this is ridiculous that somebody says 'I'm not going to let this bill go forward unless I have a vote on when life begins,'" Reid continued. "I am not going to do that, and I think I speak for the majority of senators."

Calling the request "outlandish," Reid said he was told of Paul's demands last Monday night.

Paul responded to reporters the next day: "I think the people who believe in protecting life would like to see a vote."

Credit unions support passage of the flood insurance bill, which would increase premiums on vacation homes and commercial properties in flood zones to help trim the cost of the federal subsidy. The increase in premiums, by as much as a doubling, is projected to save the program $4.7 billion by 2012.

In a letter to Senate leaders, NAFCU Chief Lobbyist Dan Berger urged Senate passage of the bill. "With the NFIP currently operating on a short-term extension scheduled to expire at the end of next month, NAFCU appreciates the urgency with which the Senate is acting to prevent this vital program from lapsing," wrote Berger. "Often times during lapse periods, credit unions are required to keep up with notices to members about flood insurance requirements, but the NFIP is unable to approve new policies and coverage increases. This high level of uncertainty leaves millions of American families who rely on flood insurance in limbo."

Flood insurance is required for all credit unions and banks for government-backed mortgages on property in flood zones.

The program has had 17 short-term extensions and will expire on July 30 without congressional action.

NFIP is the sole underwriter of flood insurance in the country. Lenders, real estate agents, homeowners, insurance providers and the construction industry have been pushing for a long-term bill. The program remains deep in debt from Hurricane Katrina.

CALIFORNIA MEGA CHURCH

SEEKS TO CHARTER NEW CU

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.-The Abundant Living Family Church, one of southern California's "mega churches," has applied to state regulators for a credit union charter.

The faith-based credit union would have a low-income designation and serve parishioners and employees of the church.

The new credit union would be the first chartered in California since 2008, and the first new state charter in more than a decade.

In the slowest chartering period in history, there has not been a new credit union chartered in more than a year and fewer than 10 new charters in the last four years. There is at least one other new charter in the works, the Green Energy FCU in Allentown, Penn.

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