Credit union champions from Hampton Roads and Tidewater met with their lawmakers on Tuesday in the General Assembly, kicking off the CU Days.
The League has no bills this session and no major opposition to other legislation, though we are monitoring bills to comment on some of the details. With no legislative agenda, credit unions had the opportunity to showcase what they are doing every day to earn their tax exemption.
Meeting with freshman Del. Monty Mason. He's a Williamsburg Republican, and has had many years experience in the financial service sector, such as working at Visa on fraud prevention and reducing risk for banks and consumers. He also worked in the real estate transactions and title insurance industry.
Mason said he has worked with credit unions a lot. He sits on the Courts of Justice Committee, which sometimes reviews legislation of interest to credit unions. He encouraged credit union constituents to remain in touch with him, saying, "You need to help me because there are so many things going on here, so much work and study."
Paul Muse, 1st Advantage CEO, and Hampton Roads Educators CEO Karen Orie, talked about credit unions offering microloans as low as $100 to give their members an alternative to payday lenders. Mason said that when the bankers visited him, he brought up the subject of payday lenders and said that was an issue they needed to work on.
Responded Muse, "Your answer (to payday lending) is credit unions. We don't promote the cycle" of endless borrowing.
Orie noted that when members get into the regular credit union loans instead of the payday lending, their credit scores improve too. BayPort Credit Union, headed up by George Dudley, also was at CU Day. BayPort also has a strong program to help members avoid or get out of payday lending.
Both 1st Advantage and Hampton Roads Educators operate Student Branches in schools. Orie tallked of how students run the HRE school branches. Mason said, "I love the student branches!"
Commerce and Labor Committee member Del. Lynwood Lewis, the Accomac Democrat who is battling it out in a recount to fill the Senate seat vacated by the now-Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, echoed Mason's enthusiasm for the student branches. "What a great experience!" for the students.
Lewis, like other lawmakers, was appreciative of credit unions offering alternatives to payday loans. "Payday lending is a constant issue. The interest rates make your eyes pop. At the same time, there are folks who need access to loans. More mainstream options are needed."
1st Advantage CEO Paul Muse said his credit union also offers free credit counselors. Muse additionally noted that 1st Advantage has been stepping in to fill the void of lending to small businesses that the big banks don't service. He cited one example where his credit union made a business loan that led to the creation of eight new jobs.
Del. Lionell Spruill, the Chesapeake Democrat, reminded his visitors that he was a member of the Tidewater Telephone credit union back when he was a telephone employee. He said the difference between a bank and a credit union is that the credit union gives the average person "the benefit of a doubt." To assure Spruill that he was correct about the CU difference, Craig Zuidema of ABNB said that his credit union made more than 400 microloans of $3000 or less last year, with half of them subprime.
When one group stopped by to see the aide of Virginia Beach Del. Barry Knight, they discovered that the aide was a member of Beach Municipal. Her husband had been on the board of Beach Municipal at one time. Beach Municipal also was represented at CU Day.
It was a great day, and our CU advocates did a wonderful job representing credit unions. Unfortunately, the weather has caused the cancellation of the scheduled Jan. 22 CU Day. League staff will distribute packets and scarves to the legislators who would have seen credit union constituents that day. The League also notified those lawmakers about the canceled appointments.
On Tuesday, League staffer Karin Sherbin also had a chance to say hello to NOVA Del. Tim Hugo as he was on his way to see the most talked about visitor of the day at the General Assembly, a screech owl who patiently allowed people to pet his feathers while he showed off his 360 degree field of vision.
We look forward to another great CU Day on Thursday.
We did have Twitter coverage of Tuesday's CU Day. We'll try again on Thursday. Follow on #VAcunews or #CUDays.