By Amy Heaslet, Executive Vice President/General Counsel, Tennessee Bankers Association
As we enter the third month of legislative session, I am reminded what a privilege it is to represent the Tennessee banking industry in the General Assembly. Not only do we have one of the strongest grassroots networks in the state but also one of the most respected.
That power was on full display last month during TBA’s Legislative Reception. To walk through a crowded room of Tennessee bankers and legislators discussing issues from their districts, it was evident how strong the relationship is between the two. I encourage you to turn to page 28 to see the photos from the event.
I can say with confidence that those relationships are one of the leading reasons we have a successful track record on lobbying banking issues in Nashville. One of the best examples is that for a third year in a row we defeated significant efforts from a coalition of retailers across the state to prohibit interchange fees on the sales tax portion of retail transactions paid for with a plastic card.
This was no small feat as retailers despise interchange fees, and they can cast a sweeping grassroots net across the state. But bankers’ grassroots efforts outmatched theirs and, ultimately, they could not overcome your arguments against their “Swipe Fee Fairness” legislation. As TBA’s Government Relations Chairman Pete Williston recently wrote in an op-ed, “The banks eat the fraud costs – not the retailer!”
TBA’s government relations team has also advanced legislation to update the state’s trust laws and passed legislation to provide for a replacement benchmark rate (the Secured Overnight Financing Rate) for agreements based on LIBOR after it ceases to be published. Both pieces of legislation represent important changes in the law for our members and have strong legislative support.
We are also proud of the government relations engagement we are fostering with Tennessee banks’ emerging talent. This year’s Day on the Hill, held March 2, was a great opportunity for young bankers to participate in the legislative process. Attendees witnessed firsthand the committee process and advocated for banking the industry during meetings with the legislators. We look forward to the continued involvement of this group and appreciate the great addition they make to our grassroots network.
With Day on the Hill behind us, our priority issues on the path for passage, and session expected to wrap-up next month, our focus is shifting to one of our largest advocacy initiatives—the Washington Conference. When we are in D.C. May 9-11, 2022, it will mark our first large-group trip to Washington since 2019, and we anticipate record-breaking attendance. And what better time to put our power in numbers to effective use.
While in Washington, we’ll continue to remind Tennessee’s members of Congress of the unintended consequences of unnecessary regulatory burdens and advocate for ECORA legislation. Another significant focus will be the CFPB’s Section 1071 rule on small business reporting.
TBA’s government relations team is well positioned to continue the government relations successes our association has enjoyed for so long. However, lasting success comes from bankers’ willingness to engage in the process as advocates for the industry. I hope you will continue to stay engaged at the state level and consider joining us for this year’s Washington Conference.