Georgia Credit Unions Celebrate Successful Legislative Session at State GAC

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Georgia credit unions took time to celebrate a particularly successful legislative session at the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates 11th Annual State Governmental Affairs Conference – Grassroots Academy – on Tuesday.

Brandee Bickle, senior advocacy officer at GCUA – the trade organization for credit unions in the state – used the conference to highlight success the industry had during the recent legislative session, which was made uniquely challenging by major changes in state leadership.

“Even though this particular session had probably one of the ugliest sausage-making processes, it was the best session that we’ve had for credit union issues,” Bickle said. “Everything that we wanted to see passed, passed. Everything we needed to stop, was stopped. That’s huge – and it happened because of you guys.”

Bickle, along with seven other distinguished speakers, spent Wednesday breaking down the session to 75 people from 26 credit unions across the state who had gathered at the Capitol for this unique GAC Day.

Traditionally, GCUA holds its GAC Day in January, and focuses on topics that could be important in the upcoming legislative session. But a winter storm warning postponed this year’s GAC until April – about a month after the state session ended.

That allowed credit unions to take a deep dive into the outcomes of a session marked by monumental change in state leadership.

“This legislative session, as you know, we had a new governor, a new lieutenant governor and a new speaker of the House,” said Spiro Amburn, chief of staff for Speaker of the House David Ralston. “We also have in the House about 35 new members this session, based on the 2018 elections. It was a big year for change.”

Despite the sea of fresh faces, the Georgia legislative session chugged along at its typical breakneck pace. Spiro along with Phil Kent, CEO and publisher of InsiderAdvantage and panelist on the Fox TV Show “The Georgia Gang” and Jim Galloway, a political reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution broke down a few of the issues that affected the 2,300 bills that came out of the session.

In all that turmoil, Georgia credit unions still managed to get what they needed from more than 340 bills that touched the industry. Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and Minority Caucus Chairman Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) said they had an idea of how the credit union lobby accomplished that feat.

They both said it hinged on relationships Georgia credit unions have built with influencers across the state over the past decade.  Beverly said he drove from Macon to Atlanta that day simply to take part in the GAC – because of the relationship the industry had built with him.

“It’s unusual that I’m at the Capitol a month after the session ends,” he said. “The reason I’m up here today is for Brandee and for your organizations. That is the only reason I’m up here today – because of what you do for the citizens of Georgia. I thought it would be wrong not to come up and speak with you.”

Charaun Little, community development representative from Delta Community Credit Union, attended the event for the first time.

“I had never thought about so many of these issues,” Little said. “It really showed me the importance of getting involved in local politics and paying attention to policy.”