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Florida officials share agenda to helping CUs thrive in post-COVID world during 2021
Florida Credit Union Association's Virtual Advocacy Conference
TALLAHASSEE, FL. – 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 remain focused on a favorable 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.”
Jared is president at League of Southeastern Credit Unions and has been with the organization since 2011. He has more than 17 years of experience lobbying and as an association executive, including as chief legislative aide in a private lobbying firm and director of public policy for the American Cancer Society’s Florida Division. Jared graduated from The Florida State University in 1999 with a bachelor's of arts degree in history and from The Florida State University College of Law in 2006 with his juris doctorate degree. He is also a member of the Florida Bar.
Jeanette M. Nuñez was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She was elected as Florida’s First Hispanic Female Lieutenant Governor of Florida in 2018. She previously served as a State Representative of the Florida House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018 and was named Speaker Pro Tempore from 2016 to 2018.
In November 2016, Lieutenant Governor Nuñez was named Speaker Pro Tempore of the Florida House of Representatives. She served as the Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and served on the Rules and Policy Committee. She was appointed Chair of the Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness. In the past, she chaired the Health Quality Subcommittee, Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, and Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee.
She began her healthcare career working at Jackson Health System in 2004 as the State Director for Government Relations. In 2006, she was promoted to Vice President of Government Relations and was responsible for overseeing the advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal level. In addition to her duties, she served on numerous boards and healthcare organizations, including the National Association of Public Hospitals Fellowship Program. In 2010, Lieutenant Governor Nuñez joined Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) as their Vice President of Community Affairs for both Kendall Regional Medical Center and Aventura Hospital and Medical Center.
In late 2013, Lieutenant Governor Nuñez began her own consulting firm, OnPoint Strategies.
She has been involved with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Miami, WHEN, and Women in Government. In 2007, Lieutenant Governor Nuñez was named Hispanic Woman of Distinction. From 2007 – 2015, Lieutenant Governor Nuñez served on the Board of Kristi House, an organization dedicated to children who are victims of sexual abuse. Additionally, Lieutenant Governor Nuñez served as a member of the Statewide Council of Human Trafficking. Recently, Lieutenant Governor Nuñez was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board which sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. She was also appointed to the Constitution Revision Commission which examined the Florida Constitution, identified issues, performed research and possible recommendations to amend the Florida Constitution.
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez is a proud graduate of Florida International University (FIU) and a lifetime member of the FIU Alumni Association. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Political Science, her Master of Public Administration from FIU, and a Six Sigma Certificate from the University of Miami. She is also a graduate from Leadership Miami. Lieutenant Governor Nuñez attends Christ Fellowship West Kendall Campus. Lieutenant Governor Nuñez is married to her husband of 23 years, Adrian Nuñez, and together they are the proud parents of three children – Megan age 20; Justin, age 17; and Jason, age 12.
Jimmy Patronis is a native Floridian born and raised in Panama City. He earned his associate degree in restaurant management from Gulf Coast Community College and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University. He is a partner in a family-owned seafood restaurant called Captain Anderson’s that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. His public service career began with experience as an intern in the Florida Senate and the United Kingdom’s House of Commons. Following Patronis' college graduation, Governor Lawton Chiles appointed him to the Florida Elections Commission, and he was later reappointed by Governor Jeb Bush.
He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014, representing his hometown region in the Florida Panhandle. He was appointed to serve on Florida’s Public Service Commission, as well as the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets once every twenty years to propose changes to the state constitution.
He is recognized for outstanding leadership in his hometown of Panama City and throughout Florida. Committed to active civic engagement and business development, he has chaired the Greater Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Council, served on the board of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, the Salvation Army Advisory Board, the Bay County Chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and as national president for the Florida Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. He is a former trustee of the Gulf Coast Medical Center, and former director of the Bay Medical Center’s Foundation and Gulf Coast Community College Foundation Board.
He was instrumental in the establishment of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City and has served as chairman and a board member of Bay County-Panama City International Airport and Industrial District.
He and wife Katie are proud parents to two sons, Jimmy Theo III and John Michael.
Chris Sprowls is a Republican legislator, attorney, and Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. He assumed the role of presiding officer in November 2020. At only 30 years old, Sprowls was first elected to represent Florida House District 65 on Nov. 4, 2014. He was re-elected in 2016 and 2018, and 2020. House District 65 is northwest of Tampa and includes Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin and Clearwater. Sprowls spent seven years as an Assistant State Attorney for Florida's Sixth Judicial Circuit, where he acted as a gang and homicide prosecutor. Sprowls provided a voice for victims and worked tirelessly to provide them the justice they deserve. He has applied this legal experience to his work as a state representative by sponsoring legislation to improve criminal justice data transparency, end surprise medical billing, enhance DNA privacy, and significantly expand school choice in Florida. Sprowls is married to his wife Shannon, and they have two boys, Prescott and Conrad.
Joe serves as Associate Regional Director for Programs in NCUA’s Southern Region. He has more than 32 years of experience in the credit union industry.
Prior to becoming the Associate Regional Director for Programs in 2017, Joe served as the Associate Regional Director for Operations. He has also held positions as a Director of Insurance, Supervisory Examiner, Supervision Analyst, Insurance Analyst, Training Specialist, and Examiner.
He holds a finance degree from the University of Texas and is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute’s Leadership for a Democratic Society program.
Mr. Weigel commenced his appointment as Commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation in March 2020 where he supervises Florida’s securities industry, state chartered banks and credit unions, and regulates consumer lending and other financial matters. Prior to that he served the private sector as a securities attorney for 19 years, counseling securities issuers and securities industry participants on securities law compliance and protecting them from government investigations and litigation. From 1990 to 2001, Mr. Weigel served in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement in various capacities. He started his legal career in 1989 as a criminal prosecutor for the state of Florida.
Mr. Weigel is the author of Capital for Keeps, a book designed to help entrepreneurs plan a capital raise and avoid running afoul of the law.
Ben Brinkley joined the Florida Office of Financial Regulation in July 2005. He worked as a Credit Union Examiner in the Jacksonville field office until November 2008, when he transferred to the Tallahassee headquarters to work as a Credit Union Analyst. In January 2011, he moved to the Bureau of Bank Regulation where he worked as the Administrator for the South Florida District. In January 2014, he took the position of Supervisor of the Tallahassee field office and was promoted to Area Financial Manager of the North Florida District in September 2017. In September 2019 he was promoted to Bureau Chief of Credit Unions. Before joining the Office of Financial Regulation, he worked as a loan officer in the Jacksonville office of Washington Mutual. Ben graduated from Georgia Southern University in 1998, and the Florida School of Banking in 2012.