Project Zip Code is More Important Than Ever
By: Chris Abeel, NJCUL Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

While there are still some races in last week’s mid-term elections that have yet to be decided, it’s clear that an unusually large number of new lawmakers will descend on Capitol Hill when the 116th Congress convenes on January 3rd.

PZCLogo18In fact, here in New Jersey, we’ll have four new members of our 12-member House delegation. That’s a turnover of one-third of the delegation, and three of those four have never held elective office. That’s a sea change, the likes of which I’m hard-pressed to recall.

All of those new lawmakers will need to be brought up to speed on credit unions and our issues. We have our work cut out for us!

Luckily, we and CULAC supported the winners of the two open-seat races, Congressman-elect Jeff Van Drew (D-2) and Congresswoman-elect Mike Sherrill (D-11).  We have already visited with both of them during their campaigns to build our relationship.

With the election of these new lawmakers, grassroots support programs such as lawmaker meetings and Project Zip Code become all the more critical. We’ve scheduled a Hike-the-Hill for December 11 and, together with CUNA, we’re issuing a renewed call for Project Zip Code, asking credit unions who have participated in the past to update their numbers, and those who haven’t participated to get onboard.

Lawmaker meetings are essential part of our 360-degree advocacy program. Being able to illustrate to a lawmaker how many credit union members live in their district is invaluable in those meetings. We’ll never match the bankers’ deep pockets, but they’ll never match our grassroots numbers. In the end, as we saw last week, it’s all about votes, and we have more than a million credit union members in New Jersey alone.

The votes are almost done being counted. Now let’s make sure we count all credit union members. 

New Jersey credit unions interested in participating in Project Zip Code should contact CUNA Engagement Consultant Sterling Nowka (608-231-4088 or or myself (800-792-8861, ext. 127 or to get started.

And please contact me if you’d like to join us on December 11 in Washington, DC for Hike-the-Hill.

Political & Legislative
Providing a Positive ROI for Your Dues Investment NCUA Awards Grants to Low-income CUs
By: Chris Abeel, NJCUL Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

When it comes to the League’s budget, David often refers jokingly to governmental affairs as a “big black hole.” Quantifying an ROI on governmental advocacy is always a challenge, for any business or organization, so when we do see a measurable return I’m sure you’ll forgive us for tooting our horn.

Political & Legislative
CULAC in NJ: Tuesday’s Primary Election Results
By: Chris Abeel, NJCUL Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

So, there were little or no surprises in this week’s Congressional primaries in New Jersey. Those incumbents running for re-election won their party’s nomination for another term, and all CULAC-supported candidates won their races.

In one of the two open-seat districts, CULAC supported state Senator Jeff Van Drew, a strong credit union supporter, to be the Democratic nominee to succeed Congressman Frank LoBiondo in New Jersey’s 2nd District. A long-time credit union supporter, LoBiondo decided to retire rather than seek a thirteenth term.

Van Drew will face-off against GOP nominee Seth Grossman in November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted the district in its “red to blue” program, and the Cook Political Report rates the race as “Leans Democratic”. Right now, the 2nd District is looking like it’ll be a pick-up for the Dems in November.

We haven’t taken a position yet in the other open-seat, the 11th District, where 12-term Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring. We’ll see how that race develops before jumping in.

Here’s a rundown of where CULAC contributor dollars have gone to in this year’s primary races here in the Garden State:

  • Josh Gottheimer for Congress: $5,000
  • Leonard Lance for Congress: $2,000
  • Tom MacArthur for Congress: $5,000
  • Bob Menendez for US Senate: $4,500
  • Donald Norcross for Congress: $4,000
  • Frank Pallone for Congress: $5,000
  • Bill Pascrell for Congress: $ 5,000
  • Donald Payne, Jr. for Congress: $3,000
  • Jeff Van Drew for Congress: $5,000

Another $10,000 has already been provided to four campaigns for the November election.

Our total for the primaries comes to $38,500. The additional $10k for the general brings us to $48,500 so far. We expect to spend another $20k or so between now and November. The total far exceeds the amount we raise. 

CULAC allocates those funds based on seniority and Committee assignments, along with philosophical compatibility. So, we can take some solace in the fact that the New Jersey delegation is both influential and sympathetic to credit union issues. 

Contact me at or 1-800-792-8861 ext. 127 for more information on CULAC.

You might also want to register for my Political & Legislative Update webinar scheduled for next Friday (6/15) at 2 p.m. where I’ll recap Tuesday’s election results, and make a few predictions about what we may see in November. You can register here for the free webinar.


Political & Legislative
The Proof is In: Members Do Respond When We Ask for Their Grassroots Help
By: Chris Abeel, NJCUL Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

Our strength has always been in our numbers. We’ve never been able to compete with the bankers’ deep pockets but, then again, they’ve never been able to compete with our grassroots numbers. After all, how many customers love their bank enough to contact their elected officials for them? My guess is not many. Well that’s not the case when it comes to credit unions, and the proof is in!

We just launched another Call-to-Action on the important regulatory relief legislation (S. 2155) making its way through Congress. The Senate passed the bill in March and the House is poised to vote on it next week. We’re on the threshold of an historic legislative victory, and credit union professionals and volunteers across New Jersey have been stepping up to the plate.

We also encouraged our member credit unions to reach out to their members using CUNA’s Member Activation Program (MAP). Aspire FCU, Credit Union of New Jersey, and XCEL answered the call, and the response has been impressive.

The open-rate on emails to their members averaged 25%, with click rates approaching 10%. And, out of more than 89,189 emails, there were zero complaints and only 31 unsubscribes.

Ok, it may be a pipe dream, but imagine this - every New Jersey credit union goes out to its members, a quarter of those members open the email, and 10% of those send an email to Capitol Hill. Our 14-member delegation would be hit with a tsunami of some 25,000 emails!

Imagine the impact that would have. Imagine what we could accomplish if we could mobilize the more than one-million credit union members. This is the stuff lobbyists dream off!

Dreams aside, in addition to thanking all those individuals who responded to our Call-to-Action, we all owe a special debt of gratitude to Aspire, CUNJ, and XCEL for going the extra mile, for taking a special leadership role in this effort.

We’d love to broaden the effort - please contact me a for information on mobilizing your credit union’s members.

Political & Legislative
When it Rains, it Pours: Expanded Paid Family Leave is Up Today
By: Chris Abeel, Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

When Gov. Murphy was campaigning for office last year he pledged to support a number of workplace “reforms” that had been thwarted during the eight years of the Christie Administration. We’ve already seen two become law: pay equity, and a paid sick leave mandate.

Political & Legislative
More Forward Progress on Electronic Lien & Titling (ELT)
By: David Frankil, NJCUL President/CEO

We’ve been covering our effort to make ELT a reality in New Jersey for more than a year, focusing on all our progress, finally getting it signed into law by Gov. Christie in the final days of his Administration. If you recall, the law gave the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) 60 days to determine whether or not “…the commission has the resources and capability to establish and implement within 12 months…” otherwise they would be required to contract with an outside vendor.

But, as we’ve seen with Prize-Linked Savings, sometimes getting a bill signed into law doesn’t mean the Administration will move quickly on implementation. We’re determined to avoid that fate for ELT, given how important it is to your bottom line.

You may have seen an article in the Daily Exchange this morning reporting on a comment made by the new MVC Chief Administrator. Asm. Mukherji asked a question during an Assembly Budget Committee hearing about ELT, and her response was: “The study is complete for ELT and at this point, the statute requires us to be online within 12 months and we are on track to do just that."

As I’ve noted in prior posts, sometimes the "blocking and tackling" work of our Government Affairs team doesn’t make 22-point, above-the-fold headline news. But, rest assured that question was no coincidence—kudos to Chris Abeel and our contract lobbyist Carol Katz for keeping up the pressure and moving the issue forward.

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of ELT in the months to come.

Political & Legislative
Mandatory Paid Sick Leave is Coming to NJ
By: Chris Abeel, Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

Assuming Gov. Murphy signs the legislation on his desk, New Jersey is about to join nine other states in the country, becoming the tenth to require all companies provide paid sick leave for their New Jersey employees. Best estimates are that it will affect upwards of one million private sector workers and their employers, taking effect 180 days after enactment.

As they say, the devil is in the details—particularly in how broadly “sick leave” is defined. Paid sick time may also be used for an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or other health condition, or for preventive care. It may also be used to care for a family member under the same circumstances, or for an absence resulting from the employee or a family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence if the leave is for medical attention, counseling, relocation, legal, or other services.

This is one of several workplace measures that failed to achieve final approval during the Christie Administration that Gov. Murphy has pledged to approve.

We joined with many others to press for a small employer exception. While unsuccessful on that count, the business community was successful in getting numerous amendments that will ease the burden on employers, including credit unions.

Among the changes, the revised bill permits existing paid-time-off plans to satisfy the measure’s requirements and overrides local ordinances in 13 cities so businesses will have to follow only one uniform set of rules. The amount of paid sick time was also reduced from 72 to 40 hours per year.

As I think of the compromises in this legislation, I’m reminded of the Otto von Bismarck quote that “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable—the art of the next best.” In other words, it may be less about what's “right” or what's “best,” and more about what can actually get done. In this case, a paid sick leave mandate was a certainty, so these changes are considerable wins for credit unions.

Political & Legislative
Victory in Trenton on the Joint Insurance Fund Investment Bill
By: Chris Abeel, Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

Sometimes we measure progress in great leaps (Electronic Lien and Titling signed into law), and sometimes we measure it in inches. In this case, ensuring parity for New Jersey credit unions buried deep in the minutiae of pending legislation.

Both houses of the state Legislature are slated to vote tomorrow on legislation that liberalizes investments for the state’s 48 joint insurance funds, or JIFs. JIFs are self-insurance pools formed by groups of local government entities such as municipalities and school boards. Because they’re capitalized with taxpayer funds, they fall under the same investment rules as other local government agencies.

A provision in the legislation also liberalizes available investment vehicles for the state’s 566 municipalities, 611 school boards, and countless other local government authorities.

Buried among the various types of investments is language to permit what are called CDARS, short for Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service. So what are CDARS?

CDARS are syndicated CDs that enable a financial institution to offer essentially unlimited FDIC coverage. In short, the CD is broken up into insurable amounts and then syndicated. The institution then receives syndicated deposits for the same amount. The customer receives a simple consolidated statement, as if they had an account with the one institution.

As originally introduced, the legislation allowed for the deposit of public funds into “multiple FDIC-insured accounts.” We were successful in obtaining an amendment that broadened that language to include federally-insured credit unions, not just FDIC-insured depositories.

From a global perspective, it’s not only good public policy, but, frankly, critical that NCUA’s Share Insurance Fund always be given parity with FDIC insurance.

More specifically, we’re focused on making sure that New Jersey credit unions have as many growth opportunities as possible.

Please let us know if you are pursuing CDARS with government entities as a growth strategy – we’d like to help once the legislation is signed into law.

Political & Legislative
Credit Union Advocacy Yields Reg Reform Advances, Final Push Needed on S.2155
By: Chris Abeel, Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

To say that March was exceptionally productive for credit unions and their members when it comes to regulatory reform advocacy would be an understatement. Legislative wins are usually few and far between, but in March, the stars seemed to align for credit union issues.

We crossed a bunch of items off of our U.S. House to-do list. Legislation was introduced to change the structure of the CFPB from a single director to a five member commission – and then the House passed both the Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk (TAILOR Act) and the Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act.

But our most significant victory occurred in the Senate, with passage of the landmark Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155), following House passage of the Financial CHOICE Act last June.

These victories wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the relentless grassroots advocacy by credit unions that included the GAC Hike the Hill just two weeks before, and the more than 50,000 messages sent to Senators in support of S.2155. I’m proud to say that New Jersey credit unions played a significant role in this effort, with responses to our calls-to-action.  

I'm fond of referring to what I call the “3P’s” of legislative advocacy – policy, politics and process – and how a successful initiative has to prevail on all three. We’ve pretty much won on the policy and politics of S. 2155. After all, how often do credit unions and community banks agree on a bill? That said, the process is the challenge facing us now, getting it final legislative approval and onto the President’s desk.

Like a ping-pong ball, S. 2155 has gone back to the House, and it is now up to them to act. House Finance Services Committee Chair Hensarling is expected to try to add additional relief provisions from his Financial CHOICE Act. But with an abbreviated election year schedule, it’s essential that the House act quickly and avoid a conference committee to reconcile differences in the two bills, a process that might derail the legislation altogether.

So today you should have received another call-to-action, this time targeted at our House delegation. It’s going to take the same level of grassroots advocacy on the House side if we’re going to get this one across the finish line before Congress recesses for the campaign season.

Political & Legislative
Providing a Positive ROI for Your Dues Investment Electronic Lien & Titling (ELT)
By: David Frankil, NJCUL President/CEO

Back at my first NJCUL Annual Convention in 2016, we promised you a League that was focused on your needs, providing compelling value and a solid ROI for your dues investment. We’ve spent the last 15 months living up to that promise.

It can be difficult to estimate benefits from legislation, which often only have indirect benefits on our operating environment. But ELT gives us a chance to attach some numbers to a standard business process.

ELT legislation was signed into law by Governor Christie this week, and it requires the NJ Department of Motor Vehicles to determine within 60 days whether it can create its own ELT system within a year, or to outsource it.

We did a back-of-the envelope estimate a few weeks ago, but let’s dig deeper into the analysis. What would ELT save a typical credit union in New Jersey?

Let’s start with an estimate of the additional internal cost of manually processing lien and titles. Assume a typical employee involved in this process is paid a $35k salary plus benefits. Manual processing includes storage, recording/perfecting title, replacing lost titles (if applicable, and this is an additional cost to the CU), releasing the title, and mailing the title (footnoting in internal systems – core/LOS).

Let’s assume this all chews up on average 30 minutes per title, which translates into a cost of $12 per title. And then let’s figure an additional $1.00 per title savings by not having to mail the physical title and additional paperwork or store it.

That gets us to $13 in savings per title - so for a credit union with

  • 100 auto loans per year, the savings are $1,300
  • 500 auto loans per year, the savings are $6,500
  • 1,000 auto loans per year, the savings are $13,000
  • 2,000 loans, the savings are $26,000, and so on.

These estimates are if everything runs 100% perfectly as intended, and doesn’t even consider the extra costs when your credit union might need to replace a lost title, which is a fee of $60. Even with being conservative, that would be a solid ROI on dues for most NJCUL members right there – but go one step further, and include the benefits from reducing fraud and manual errors, which both require mitigation. This is going to differ significantly from credit union to credit union, and we can’t estimate it unless we know your fraud losses and incidence of errors.

For example, this category of costs addresses issues where the lien wasn’t placed correctly, resulting in no lien; or the borrower not making good on the loan, with the lender stuck with no recourse and/or duplicate loans on one vehicle. 

So if we assume a combined 0.1% fraud and error mitigation rate, depending on the cost of the car involved, we could be looking at anywhere between $15k-$60k per year for a credit union doing 1,000 car loans per year. In other words, the cost of a single fraudulent car loan or a single error that require mitigation.

So for credit union doing 1,000 car loans per year, the total estimated benefit from ELT is somewhere between $28,000-$73,000.

Email me at if you’d like the spreadsheet to plug in your own numbers!

Political & Legislative
Tell Senators Menendez & Booker to Support Common Sense Regulatory Relief Bill
By: Chris Abeel, Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

So it looks like 2018 is off to a fast start!

Today we issued our first Call to Action for the New Year in an effort to advance a regulatory relief bill in the U.S. Senate as early as possible in 2018.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155) was reported favorably from the Senate Banking Committee in December. The bi-partisan legislation includes several provisions that would improve the operating environment for credit unions and enhance their ability to better serve their members.

Among other things, the legislation provides credit unions parity with banks by reclassifying 1-4 unit, non-owner occupied residential property loans, affords relief of QM rule requirements for certain lenders, and changes to HMDA’s reporting threshold requirement.

We’re urging credit union professionals, volunteers, and members to use CUNA’s Grassroots Action Center to encourage Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to support the legislation. If this is your first time using the grassroots Web site, you’ll need to type in your address information to display the correct message. But don’t worry, it won’t let you send the wrong email!

Successfully protecting the credit union tax status during tax reform is proof positive that when credit unions mobilize good things happen. We’ve gained some significant traction on the regulatory relief front and need to maintain that momentum.


Political & Legislative
When Will We Know Who Could Be A Heartbeat Away in NJ?

Something is happening in New Jersey for just the third time in our history - our gubernatorial candidates will have running mates.

Before 2009 New Jersey was one of only a few states that didn’t have a lieutenant governor to succeed to the governorship in the event of a vacancy. Only two individuals had previously held the title, both in the Colonial times.

For most of the state's history, a vacancy in the position of governor was filled by the president of the State Senate.

After episodes where the state had multiple "acting governors" in the span of a few years following the resignations of Governor Christie Whitman in 2001 and Governor Jim McGreevey in 2004, pressure mounted for a better solution to gubernatorial succession. After all, the senate president/acting governor, or “SPAG” as it became known, was inherently a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. 

In 2006 a referendum was put before the voters to amend the state's constitution to provide for a lieutenant governor to be elected on a ticket with the governor to serve a concurrent a four-year term. Incumbent lieutenant governor and current GOP gubernatorial nominee Kim Guadagno was elected the state’s first lieutenant governor on a ticket with Governor Chris Christie in 2009, and re-elected with him in 2013.

New Jersey doesn’t have the equivalent of the national conventions where party standard-bearers and their running mates are formally nominated. Here in New Jersey voters select their party’s nominee in a statewide primary election and the nominees select who they want to be their running mate. 

So when might New Jersey voters know who’ll be running for lieutenant governor?

The answer rests on two factors; when the primary election results are officially certified, and when the candidates feel they can get the most political bang for their buck.

Officially, a nominee has thirty days to name their running mate once the Division of Elections certifies the primary results.  Because that can take about two months, the June 6 primary results might be certified as late as say mid-August. That would leave the potential window for announcing a running mate open until mid-September. 

Timing of any announcement is critical, to maximize exposure and momentum. For practical purposes, Labor Day weekend is the traditional start of political campaign season in the state.  Unless one of the candidates can do something wildly attention-getting with their pick, it’s going to be hard to get any attention before the end of the summer season. In fact, I’d argue that few other than reporters, pundits and outright political junkies are more than slightly aware there’s even a gubernatorial election this year

I’m betting we won’t know who might be a heartbeat away in New Jersey until after Labor Day. But, in the words of Yogi Berra, “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Political & Legislative
Four Years to Uncover a Title Fraud Ring?
By: Chris Abeel, Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

Every so often, a story comes across the wire that just makes you shake your head. In this case, a tale of fraud that is not only easily preventable but would not occur in any state in the nation that has implemented electronic lien and titling (ELT) technology.

Unfortunately, New Jersey is not one of those states.

NJ Attorney General Christopher Porrino recently announced the indictment of five individuals on various first-degree charges for a scheme in which they financed car purchases and then resold the vehicles after fraudulently removing the liens.

The five enterprising individuals, now defendants, apparently purchased or had others purchase vehicles on credit. They then forged letters purporting to be from the lender stating that the loan had been satisfied, and used those letters to get clear titles from the MVC. The vehicles were subsequently flipped for cash, involving at least 25 vehicles over a four-year period “with a total value of well over half a million dollars.”

Who does this hurt the most? Whose pocket did that half a million dollars come out of? The poor consumers who now “own” cars without proper title, and are on the hook for the lien. I doubt the MVC is going to make lenders or unsuspecting consumers whole. And, of course, taxpayers have to pay for the investigation, a trial, and presumably future lodging with the Department of Corrections.

If this doesn’t make the case for ELT, I don’t know what does, and you can bet we’re telling Trenton lawmakers at every turn.

What I find most ironic is that our state regulators are saying all the right things. “This investigation reaffirms the value of motor vehicle documents and the need for the MVC to maintain the security and integrity of its operations,” MVC Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez was quoted in the attorney general’s press release announcing the indictments. “Complacency is not an option, which is why we continue to invest in technology, training and internal controls that help us to identify and crack down on criminal activity.” 

The current investment in “technology, training and internal controls” allowed this fraud to run for some four years. So may we respectfully suggest implementing ELT, something we began asking for more than five years ago.   

ELT can significantly reduce if not eliminate altogether this type of fraud. ELT is a closed looped system, meaning only the lienholder can issue a release through the system, and access is controlled by a user authentication protocol. Is it perfect? No. But it sure is a lot harder to beat than simply cutting and pasting a letterhead!

Apart from fraud prevention, ELT benefits consumers who would no longer have to worry about lost titles, or delays in issuing a title, or getting a lien released. ELT benefits lenders because it helps reduce the cost and time associated with paper liens and titles, including filing, handling, mailing, and, perhaps most cumbersome, going physically to MVC offices with batches of paper forms to be processed.

And, ELT can be outsourced and implemented at no extra cost to the state. 

Because the MVC has refused to move forward on an administrative level, we’ve been actively supporting legislation (A1943/S2968) that would mandate ELT and we’re grateful to the sponsors, Senators Joe Vitale (D-19) and Linda Greenstein (D-14), and Assemblymen Craig Coughlin (D-19) and John Wisniewski (D-19), for their support and leadership on this issue.

Political & Legislative
Two Calls to Action in Two Weeks is a New Record for Me!
By: Chris Abeel, Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

The Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) and other potential regulatory relief measures have been center stage for most of us in the credit union movement since the new administration took office. But two congressional appropriations issues related to community development funding surfaced requiring our attention, hence the back-to-back alerts.

Political & Legislative
Foreclosure Filing Surcharge Bill Moving in New Jersey
By: Chris Abeel, Vice President, Corporate & Governmental Affairs

As if foreclosures aren’t already costly enough here in New Jersey, buckle your seat belt because some lawmakers want to tack on an $800 surcharge for each filing, at least for the foreseeable future.

Legislation (A2036; S2344) has begun to move in Trenton to create a Foreclosure Prevention and Neighborhood Stabilization Trust Fund.

Political & Legislative
One Step Closer to Bringing Electronic Lien and Titling to New Jersey
By: Chris Abeel, NJCUL Vice President, Corporate and Governmental Affairs

Almost everything we do today—from paying for a cup of coffee to hailing a “cab” to booking a flight or hotel—has gone digital. These processes are quick and simple. No paperwork, no paper receipts—or statements even.

Political & Legislative