AGO Opinion 98050
Credit Union Act; Formation of and Membership in Central Credit Unions
DATE: December 3, 1998
SUBJECT: Credit Union Act; Formation of and Membership in Central Credit Unions
REQUESTED BY: Peter M. Graff, Director Department of Banking and Finance
WRITTEN BY: Don Stenberg, Attorney General
Fredrick F. Neid, Assistant Attorney General
You have asked two questions relating to the formation and
membership of central credit unions in this state. The first
question posed is whether more than one central credit union can be
chartered by the State of Nebraska under the provisions of the
Credit Union Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 21-1701 to 21-17,116 (1997).
It is our opinion that the statutory provisions authorize the
formation of one or more central credit unions chartered by the
State of Nebraska.
By way of background, central credit unions may be formed by
credit unions organized and existing under the Credit Union Act.
The membership is broad-based and includes state and federally
chartered credit unions, certain organizations, and employee
groups. You have related that a state chartered central credit
union is operating in Omaha, Nebraska.
At the outset, we point out that the legislative intent is not
clearly manifested in the statutory provisions nor is any found in
the legislative history with respect to the issues you have raised.
The formation requirements of a central credit union are generally
described in the statutes in a singular sense. Neb. Rev. Stat.
§ 21-1752 (1997) in particular part provides:
Credit unions organized and existing under the Credit Union
Act may organize and have membership in a central credit
union to which federal credit unions organized and operating
in this state may belong and in which officials of both such
credit unions may have membership. . . . (Emphasis added).
Other provisions of the Credit Union Act relating to a central
credit union use the singular number with reference to the
organizational requirements. See Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 21-1753 to 21-
While the statutory language refers to "a central credit
union" in the singular, we think the meaning extends to more than
one central credit union. It is a recognized principle of
statutory construction that singular words may extend and be
applied to several persons or objects. See, e.g., Lux v. Mental
Health Board of Polk County, 202 Neb. 106, 274 N.W.2d 141 (1979);
Moser v. Turner, 180 Neb. 635, 144 N.W.2d 192 (1966). This rule
has been codified in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 49-802 (1993), which in
material part states:
Statutes; general rules of construction. Unless such
construction would be inconsistent with the manifest intent of
the Legislature, rules for construction of the statutes of
Nebraska hereinafter shall be as follows:
. . . (6) Singular words may extend and be applied to several
persons or things as well as to one person or thing.
Thus, the use of singular words in the statutes does not limit
the formation of a central credit to one such entity. This
conclusion is supported by the fact that the provisions of the
Credit Union Act relating to the formation of "a credit union" also
employ singular words. See Neb. Rev. Stat. § 21-1724 (1997)
(authorizing the organization of "a credit union"). However, the
provisions of the Credit Union Act have long been interpreted and
applied to permit the organization of multiple credit unions and,
indeed, credit unions have been organized throughout the state. It
is our view that the consistent application of the provisions of
the Credit Union Act support the formation and organization of more
than one central credit union.
The second question you ask is whether credit union and small
employee groups "must" choose a single central credit union to
belong to or whether a credit union may belong to multiple central
credit unions at the same time. After review, we conclude credit
unions and certain employee groups are limited to membership in one
central credit union.
As we have pointed out above, the statutory language provides
little indicia as to the number of central credit unions that may
be organized. Similarly, the statutory provisions and history of
the Act do not address multiple membership issues. Our conclusion,
in part, is based on the language used in § 21-1752 which in
relevant part provides:
. . . Organizations which are organized for the purpose of
furthering credit union activities and their employees may
have membership in such credit union. Small employee groups
of fifty or more employees have a common bond of occupation
whose probability of a successful operation would be limited
because of the lack of adequate membership may join as a group
in the central credit union and become members of that credit
union with all the rights existing under the act.
It seems to us that the phrases, "membership in such credit
union," and "may join . . . in the central credit union and become
members of that credit union . . . " have reference to a particular
credit union and thus restricts membership to one central credit
union. As noted above, this interpretation is consistent with the
application of the other provisions of the Act.
Our conclusion is also based on the concept of "common bond"
requirements for membership in a particular credit union. Neb.
Rev. Stat. § 21-1743 (1997) in part states:
Membership; requirements. (1) . . . Credit union organization
shall be limited to groups of both large and small membership
having a common bond of occupation or association, including
religious, social, or educational groups, employees of a
common employer, or members of a fraternal, religious, labor,
form, or educational organization and the members of the
immediate families of such persons.
(2) A person having been duly admitted to membership, having
complied with the Credit Union Act, the articles of
association, and the bylaws, having paid the entrance fee, and
having paid for at least one share, shall retain full rights
and privileges of membership for life unless the membership is
terminated by withdrawal or expulsion in the manner provided
by the act.
Multiple membership in more than one central credit union
would in a certain sense undercut the common bond requirements
which generally restrict membership of individuals to one credit
In construing statutes, the courts determine and give effect
to the purpose and intent of the legislature as ascertained from
the entire language of the statute itself. Sanitary & Imp. Dist.
No. 1 of Fillmore County, Neb. v. Nebraska Public Power Dist. , 253
Neb. 917, 573 N.W.2d 460 (1998); Abboud v. Papio-Missouri Natural
Resources Dist., 253 Neb. 514, 571 N.W.2d 302 (1997). Further,
components of a series or collection of statutes pertaining to
certain subject matter may be conjunctively considered and
construed to determine intent of the legislature so that different
provisions of an act are consistent, harmonious and sensible. In
re Involuntary Dissolution of Battle Creek State Bank, 254 Neb.
120, 575 N.W.2d 356 (1998); Slagle v. J.P. Theisen & Sons, Inc.,
251 Neb. 904, 560 N.W.2d 758 (1997).
Application of these accepted rules of statutory
interpretation support the conclusion that more than one central
credit union may be organized and that organizations and
individuals described in § 21-1752 are limited to membership in one
central credit union. To conclude otherwise would necessitate
Fredrick F. Neid
Assistant Attorney General