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State lawmakers urged credit union members to stay in touch with them and provide them insight into the credit union movement during their appearances at legislators events for the Lynchburg and Central Virginia delegations.
The League hosted this year’s legislators’ night on Oct. 17 for the Lynchburg delegation, drawing the following lawmakers: Sen. Tom Garrett and Dels. Lacey Putney, Scott Garrett, and Ben Cline. Sen. Steve Newman was represented by his aide Patti Dempsey. Del. Matt Fariss had to attend to a last-minute commitment and could not attend.
Also attending the Lynchburg event was one of the external lobbyists for credit unions in Richmond, Phil Boykin of Hunton & Williams. Legislators praised Hunton for representing the League well, and noted Boykin’s longstanding tradition of standing outside the General Assembly Building early in the morning to greet lawmakers as they arrive for work.
The longest-serving state lawmaker in Virginia history, Del. Putney said he’s been “educated on credit unions from A to Z” by League President Rick Pillow through the years. He remembers getting quite an education years ago when the car tent sales issue raised its head in the legislature. He also praised credit union support for his campaigns. “I don’t have words to express my appreciation of what you folks have done for me,” he said. He also noted that what credit unions do for their members is an essential part of the state’s economy.
Del. Cline said he first encountered credit union issues when working for Congressman Bob Goodlatte defending the credit union tax exemption. He also reminded the audience that he is a credit union member too, having joined Wright Pattman while a Congressional staffer. Making note of the League’s latest Impact Report that details what Virginia’s credit unions do to help their members, Cline said that credit unions provide a valuable service to members, including making small loans, even to people with lower credit scores. “You know these people. If you didnt, you couldn’t take that chance,” he said. He added, “You have a lot of strong allies in the General Assembly.”
Del. Garrett, reminded the audience that legislators “need your input. I’m not a financial services expert, I need to hear from you on how to help your business.” One way lawmakers can help credit unions, he said, was to “get government out of your hair.” He thanked credit unions for what they do, and applauded the annual Credit Union days at the General Assembly, known for the red scarf motif.
Sen. Garrett, in his freshman year, acknowledged that “one of the biggest challenges of being a lawmaker is that no one can know everything.” That is why credit unions need advocates to educate him and fellow legislators, he said. He thanked credit unions in particular for loaning money to small businesses.
Sen. Newman’s aide, Patti Dempsey, explained that the Senator was in California on a business trip, but “he has been happy to support your bills.”
An aide to Del. Fariss, Al Wright, wrote to Pillow on Thursday that the delegate “asked me to convey his appreciation for all that the credit unions do for his constituents and his apologies for missing the event. Please continue to communicate any future functions and don’t hesitate to call if there are issues you wish to discuss or if he may be of service.”
The Central Virginia Chapter hosted a breakfast Oct. 18 for its legislative event.
Del. Cline gets special kudos for attending his second credit union legislators’ event in two days. In fact, when the League’s Karin Sherbin, as emcee for the event, asked what the theme was for this year’s International Credit Union Day, Cline was the first to shout out, “Members Matter Most!” He again cited credit unions for developing good connections with their members and being able to serve them well. Building those relationships in the community “makes you special.”
Del. Steve Landes did double duty at the event. He is the community relations coordinator at DuPont Community as well as a state lawmaker. He too honed in on the message that lawmakers welcome opportunities to speak with business people. “It’s important for us to know about your issues, get your take on what is important to your for the General Assembly session.” He thanked his DuPont Community colleages for embodying the credit union mission, and recognized other credit unions for that commitment. “Everyone is concerned about their communities and members. In the business world, that is not always the case” because other organizations are more focused on how they can improve the bottom line. He said that credit unions are the only option for many people as the larger banks serve them less. “We need policies to support credit unions.” He also urged credit unions to continue fighting for legislation to allow them to loan more money to small businesses because he hears business owners continuing to talk about accessing capital.
Del. Dickie Bell noted that he and his wife are longtime credit union members. “We know the importance of credit unions and I think you have a bright future.” He called on credit unions to continue their efforts to teach young people financial literacy. “We are functionally illiterate, it’s sad.” He noted that financial education is now part of the SOLs but added that students also need practical experience. As a former educator, “This is a special concern of mine.” He also cited credit unions as good sources of loans for small businesses, and said that credit unions really identify with the feeling that “we’re all in this together.” He too told the audience to continue talking to the lawmakers about their needs and concerns. “Sometimes we (lawmakers) need to turn to the experts” because “we need to be generalists.” He ended by saying that “I believe in your mission.”
Del. Tony Wilt was represented by his aide, Chad Funkhouser. He too praised the legislators’ events as giving lawmakers and their staff “perspective on your issues. We want your feedback on issues. Don’t assume we know both sides.” He said Del. Wilt was out of town on legislative business.