As Florida starts to put COVID-19 in the rear-view mirror, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates’ advocacy team is working with state legislators and regulators to focus on a positive operating environment where credit unions can thrive.
That was the message delivered to the 45 credit union professionals who joined the Florida Credit Union Association’s Virtual Advocacy Conference on March 24.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez thanked the credit unions present for being “part of the solution” during the COVID-pandemic over the past year – and said the State of Florida remains committed to helping businesses, including CUs, to thrive.
Event attendees also heard from prominent Florida officials including: Speaker of the House of Representatives Chris Sprowls; Senator Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills); Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis; Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Russell Weigel; Associate Regional Director of Programs for NCUA Southern Region II Joe Ostrowidzki; and Chief Bureau of Credit Union Regulation for the Florida Office of Financial Regulation Ben Brinkley.
LSCU President Jared Ross and LSCU Senior Director of Governmental Affairs John Rothell also discussed key legislative priorities that could affect credit unions.
Each Florida official highlighted the ways in which they plan to clear the way for credit union success in a post-pandemic world. Sprowls, for instance, stressed how seriously the state legislature has been working toward passing a COVID Liability Bill to protect businesses – including credit unions – from frivolous lawsuits pertaining to the pandemic.
Rothell said the LSCU advocacy team is closely tracking this bill to make sure it pertains directly to credit unions. At the same time, Rothell and associates are also keeping an active eye on an important bill that has nothing to do with COVID – but could still immensely affect how credit unions operate in the near future.
Rothell said Florida’s pending merchant liability legislation is meant to protect state consumers by making sure big tech companies disclose how they’re handling consumer data and whether they sell any of that information. However, certain portions of the legislation – as it reads now – could put undue regulation on credit unions.
“It’s one of the biggest issues we’ve seen this session,” Rothell said. “We wanted to let legislators know that financial institutions are already governed by the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act – and that we don’t sell our members’ information. We should not be a target in this legislation. Right now, the act only exempts the financial data we hold and not the specific financial institutions. So, the LSCU advocacy team is continuing to advocate for an industry exemption.”
Luckily, many Florida officials seem receptive to the credit union message and eager to help them succeed. CFO Patronis, for example, expressed his gratitude for the helpful and positive way in which credit unions interacted with members throughout the pandemic.
Patronis and other officials said that’s why they’re eager to help credit unions continue to thrive in the “new normal.” It was a welcomed message among participants of the 2021 Virtual Advocacy Conference.
“It’s hard to believe, but the Florida Virtual Advocacy Conference flew by because the information was so valuable,” said First Florida Credit Union CEO and President Brent Lister. “I thought it was well worth my time – and while I am looking forward to getting back to in-person events, anyone who did not attend this virtual session missed out.”