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Second hearing on S.337 illustrates CU difference, carries bill for further preparation

Thursday, April 20, 2017   (0 Comments)
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With more than forty credit union representatives in attendance at its Wednesday, April 19 hearing, the Senate Banking and Insurance Subcommittee voted to carry over S.337, which would update the state credit union charter. Senator Sean Bennett (R-Summerville), chair of the subcommittee, acknowledged the valuable information shared in the two hearings to date and advised against hasty action in the General Assembly’s short remaining schedule for 2017.

The Carolinas Credit Union League will push for another hearing on S.337, understanding it will most likely be in early 2018 since the current session ends May 11.

Top: League Director and SPC CU CEO Linda Weatherford (center) offers testimony before the SC Senate Banking and Insurance Subcommittee on Wednesday, April 19.

Above: With the committee room at capacity, some credit union supporters stand outside in the Gressette Building hallway.

S.337 is important to the Carolinas Credit Union League and credit unions because it makes long-awaited amendments to the South Carolina Credit Union Act, improving charter choice by balancing provisions of the state charter with those a federal charter allows. According to League VP of Governmental Affairs Billy Boylston, the move to adjourn debate allows the subcommittee to best prepare detail for the full SBI Committee, which does not hear testimony and instead debates and acts only on information provided.

From the outset, Bennett noted the limited time available and asked that both sides speak only on bill specifics and need. League Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Schline began testimony, recapping the process that brought the compromise amendment adopted in the subcommittee’s first hearing. He then provided detailed perspective on provisions that have brought debate, answering to their satisfaction the subcommittee questions on non-member services, fixed-asset percentage, and field of membership.

League Director and SPC Credit Union President/CEO Linda Weatherford was second to speak for credit unions, providing a history of SPCCU, its membership, and the work they do to serve the underserved. By noting that careful, steady growth over 75 years has the credit union at $170 million in assets—compared to a local bank that in less than twenty years has amassed over $200 million—Weatherford illustrated that structure and philosophy stand against banker claims of greater competitive threat.

Also in contrast was the general nature of banker testimony, reiterating basic points from the March 29 hearing and insisting bill provisions add to already unfair competition. Senator Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) asked where the greater threat exists if credit unions can already do the same or more with a federal charter, and he challenged the status quo that has seen the number of state charters diminish to eleven among 67 South Carolina credit unions. To each, the banker representative had no direct answer.

“The difference this time is that the senators were more engaged and informed, and seemed to be coming around to our arguments,” Boylston said in addressing the similar outcome. “I believe they understand our position and want to make sure that if there is contention—which is highly likely—they can fully address any objections so it can successfully pass through committee.”

Boylston and the League extend their thanks to all who stood together for credit unions in and outside the Senate hearing including Anderson FCU, CPM FCU, Founders FCU, Health Facilities FCU, Heritage Trust FCU, Mid Carolina CU, MTC FCU, Palmetto Citizens FCU, Palmetto Health CU, SC Federal CU, SC State FCU, SC Telco FCU, Santee Cooper CU, and SPC CU.

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