By Michael Lieberman, Association VP of Governmental Affairs
The 2017 session of the New York State Legislature came to a close late in the evening on Wednesday, June 21.
As a result of our advocacy, the Department of Financial Services took up our cause to include credit unions in the Banking Development District Program, and introduced departmental legislation to do so through the Banks Committee Chairmen in both houses. And before that legislation was introduced, Senator Jesse Hamilton, Chair of the Senate Banks Committee, introduced a stand-alone version of this legislation at our behest. It should also be noted that our advocacy at the annual State Governmental Affairs Conference in Albany helped bring Assemblyman Zebrowksi, Chair of the Assembly Banks Committee, on board as a sponsor of our municipal deposits legislation, and yielded a number of new cosponsors for our priority bills.
We also did well on defense, making sure nothing that would be harmful to our industry was passed. The Association opposed legislation that would authorize DFS to regulate online lenders and legislation that would authorize financial institutions to refuse transactions and freeze accounts where financial exploitation of vulnerable adults is suspected. Moreover, the Association strongly opposed legislation that would greatly expand the permitted banking activities of check cashers and payday lenders, granting them de-facto special bank charters.
When the lawmakers passed legislation authorizing ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate throughout New York state, we ensured that credit union collateral would be protected through the inclusion of a provision requiring that drivers have adequate motor vehicle physical damage coverage.
Finally, on the regulatory front, we successfully lobbied DFS to exempt most credit unions from the zombie property regulations that were promulgated last year. This greatly mitigates the burden that would otherwise have been imposed by the implementation of this law.
Ultimately, we are well-positioned to advance some of our major legislative priorities next year because of our progress this year.
Nevertheless, what most insiders agree was a peculiar legislative session came to a close without much fanfare and with few bills of consequence being passed.
From a credit union perspective, this bleak legislative climate posed a significant barrier to achieving our priorities. We sought the passage of controversial legislation at a time when lawmakers wanted to keep their heads down and run out the clock.
However, we gained real traction at the end of session with respect to some of our top legislative priorities, including legislation to authorize credit unions to participate in the Banking Development District Program. For the first time in many years, this bill was passed in the Assembly. The bill had a difficult journey through several tough committees that can often be graveyards for good legislation—from Banks to Ways and Means and then to Rules—before finally getting a vote before the entire house.
Getting this bill to the Assembly floor for a vote was a real challenge and its passage marks the triumph of our collective efforts over an aggressive campaign by bank lobbyists.
Our grassroots campaign resulted in the distribution of more than 150 letters and emails to lawmakers urging them to support our legislation. The bill ultimately passed the Assembly by a vote of eighty-three to nine.
Despite our progress, however, the bill did not pass the Senate. If there was another week of session, perhaps we would have seen a different result. We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time.
But it’s not necessarily over just yet. The legislature did not adjourn “sine die,” which permanently closes out the session; rather they adjourned temporarily at the call of the leader. This is common practice, and allows for a special session at a later date to take up any unresolved issues. If this happens, we may have another opportunity to get our bill passed this year.