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Week ahead: Can credit union issues compete with impeachment?

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Lawmakers are back in Washington for 2020 and both chambers of Congress are in session. But with President Trump’s impeachment trial possibly beginning in the Senate this week or next, the big question for credit unions is whether issues critical to the industry can get any traction.

Most observers say the chances are unlikely, though legislators are set to consider a variety of matters relevant to credit unions in the week ahead. Among them is H.R. 4458, the Cybersecurity and Financial System Resilience Act of 2019, which the House Financial Services Committee will consider on Tuesday. The bill would require the Federal Reserve’s board of governors to regularly issue reports on cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity and Data protections remain one of the top concerns for credit unions and industry watchers have lamented Congress’s inability to move forward substantive legislation on the issue, in part because it’s one of the few areas where banks and credit unions aren’t on opposing sides of the issue.

The House Financial Services Committee is also expected to consider H.R.5315, the Expanding Opportunity for Minority Depository Institutions Act, and H.R. 4841, the Prudential Regulator Oversight Act. The latter would require all federal financial regulators – including the chairman of the National Credit Union Administration – “to provide annual testimony to Congress on their supervision and regulation activities, and for other purposes,” according to the text of the bill.

Various House committees and subcommittees are also expected to hold hearings this week on issues that touch credit unions.

Among them is a Wednesday meeting of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee focused on public health and cannabis policies in the decade ahead. That’s a particularly timely topic given comments last month from Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) that he won’t support moving the SAFE Banking Act forward in the Senate. That legislation, which has already passed the House, would make it easier for credit unions and other financial institutions to serve the legal marijuana industry without fear of repercussions from regulators or the Department of Justice. The bill is widely supported within the credit union movement.

Also on Wednesday, a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will conduct a hearing on gentrification and the affordable housing crisis. Some credit unions have undertaken programs aimed at solving that issue, but they represent only a small portion of the industry.

Lastly, Wed. Jan. 15 is the cut-off date for credit unions to submit information for the National Credit Union Administration’s diversity assessment. Fewer than 100 credit unions – less than 2% of the entire industry – have participated in recent years. Officials at the agency have emphasized that the voluntary form is not part of the examination process and does not impact a credit union’s Camel rating, and that individual CUs are not identified in NCUA’s annual diversity report for Congress, but that hasn’t stopped some in the industry from being skeptical.

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