AL Advocacy Conference emphasizes ways CUs make difference

Rep. Merika Coleman receives the Lawmaker of the Year Award from the LSCU’s Jason Ccochran.

The Alabama Credit Union Association kicked off its annual conference on Feb. 6 with a CUNA  Mutual Group sponsored luncheon and an awards ceremony to recognize lawmakers and individuals who make a difference to the industry. Rep. Marika Coleman, a strong supporter of CUs in the Alabama House of Representatives, was presented the LSCU’s Lawmaker of the Year Award.

Lunch was followed by a session featuring a panel scrutinizing the payday loan industry and the resulting damages. Panel members spoke about ongoing efforts to mitigate the proliferation of predatory lending with legislation requiring a 30-day term.

Speaking to attendees at the Montgomery, AL, event on the Payday Lending panel were Shay Farley, policy counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center; Frank Knaack, executive director, Alabama Appleseed; Bill Connor, CEO, America’s First FCU; and Susan Lupton, senior policy associate, Center for Responsible Learning.

Farley gave an impassioned argument against payday lending, encouraging all to vote in favor of SB138, a Payday Legislation bill that would give borrowers a 30-day repayment period for the predatory loans that cast borrowers into a sea of debt. She cautioned, “Don’t throw anyone an anvil when they need a life jacket,” which is what payday lenders do to borrowers.

Panel members explained in some instances, borrowers could pay $7,000  in interest on a loan for only $300, just one of many indicators of the significance of the problem of payday lending in Alabama.

Social media consultant Jessie Metzler spoke to credit union professionals about the importance of a strong presence in social media, conveying that various mediums have the purpose and power of impacting those we want to reach with the credit union’s “people helping people” message.

After a break sponsored by CU Members Mortgage, the focus turned to legislative issues.

Kim Adams, LSCU’s contract lobbyist, who works with the LSCU’s Jason Cochran, senior director of government affairs and the LSCU advocacy team, spoke about the state’s budget and other priorities in session this year. Adams anticipates a more quiet year with pending elections, though the state has a high-rate of turnover in offices this year.

Cochran, who is closely attuned to the political climate in Montgomery, candidly discussed the status of the payday lending legislation, SB138, which was introduced by Sen. Arthur Orr (D-Decatur). He presented the opportunity for those present to testify in a hearing Thursday on behalf of the legislation. He also shared insight into other legislation important to credit unions.

LSCU Director of Regulatory Advocacy Mike Lee introduced Sarah Moore, administer of Alabama Credit Union Administration, and Robert Parrish, Region III’s associate regional director of operations for the NCUA. Moore said 2017 was a great year for state-chartered credit unions, who set a new record of $15 billion in assets.

Parrish briefly reviewed Alabama’s statistics, before going on to discuss the reorganization of the NCUA and 2018 supervisory priorities for the organization,, which includes cybersecurity.

A reception, hosted annually by Print Resources, followed the day.