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State Legislative Issues - 2014

Georgia’s 2014 General Assembly session ended
March 20.  This was the second of a two-year term. The bills below were both carryover bills from the 2013 session that could be considered in the upcoming session plus new ones introduced in the 2014 session, designed with
(N). notation indicates new in the 2014 session.

Click here for our final 2014 GBA Legislative Update and here for our final 2013 GBA Legislative Update summarizing the outcome of the two sessions.

GBA at the Capitol
Throughout the sessions, GBA was represented by our Senior Vice President for Government Relations, Elizabeth Chandler, 404.420.2027, and President and CEO, Joe Brannen, 404.402.2026. Contact either of them with questions about legislation, information about your legislator's stance on a particular issue or to request any other information related to the Georgia General Assembly.

Click on the bill numbers below for summaries and links to the full text of bills.

Full Summaries of All Legislation Monitored

Support / Amend / Oppose

Fees are Not Interest (GBA Priority)
H.B. 824 (N) by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) clarifies that a variety of routine fees for banking services offered by state-chartered banks and credit unions will not be considered interest. The legislation is intended to clarify and confirm the Department of Banking and Finance's Declaratory Order last July related to overdraft fees. The legislation is intended to remove any ambiguity that Georgia-chartered banks and credit unions may continue to charge a fee that will not be considered interest for offering a range of services, including overdraft services. The bill creates parity between state-chartered and federally-chartered banks and credit unions operating in Georgia. Without this legislation, families and businesses that have chosen to do business with state-chartered institutions may not have access to valued services they have come to expect as basic account features for customers in good standing. Click here to read an Issue Brief about this bill. GBA supports.

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Patent Trolls (GBA Priority)
H.B. 809 (N) by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) creates a new section within the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act that says a person shall not make a bad-faith assertion that a patent has been infringed. Businesses throughout Georgia, including a number of our community bank members, have had to defend themselves from patent infringement allegations, most all of which are baseless. The allegations are coming from Patent Assertion Entities, or patent trolls as they are more commonly called. The legislation will give targeted companies a new tool to fight back. The bill is similar to one passed in Vermont that has been adopted as a model bill by the Council of State Governments. At least 11 states now have similar legislation pending. Click here to read an Issue Brief about this bill. GBA supports.

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Contractor Liens - Cause of Action for Unpaid Work.
S.B. 363 (N) by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) would require lenders making A, D & C loans to develop a schedule for payments for a borrower that would be made available to a contractor along with verification that funds are available for each phase of the project. The bill further requires a lender to adhere to the schedule, and the developer or owner of the project is required to disburse funds to the contractor within seven days of receipt. If the lender adheres to the schedule of disbursements, it will not be held liable for any funds not paid to contractor. This is related to legislation Tippins has proposed in the past two sessions that would have
given liens for work performed on real estate priority over a deed to secure debt by requiring distributions from a foreclosure sale to first be used to satisfy these liens. GBA opposed.
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Foreclosure - Confirmation Process
H.B. 917
(N) by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) extensively revises the foreclosure confirmation process which would also apply to post-judgment foreclosures. The bill also introduces the term "fair market value" replacing "true market value" in the current code. GBA opposed.
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Foreclosure – Unpaid Condo / HOA Assessments
S.B. 56 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) would require the purchaser of a foreclosed property, prior to the purchaser obtaining title to the property, to pay an amount equivalent to six months of unpaid assessments if the foreclosure is a condo and up to one-half of unpaid assessments in the previous 12 months if the foreclosure is a lot or home governed by a homeowners association. GBA opposed.
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Foreclosure - Property Owner Associations
H.B. 502 by Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) would require mortgage holders to pay up to six months of unpaid property association fees on a property upon foreclosure. GBA Opposed.
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Note Sales

H.B. 82 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) would require an acquirer of a note purchased from an insured institution at a discount of more than 60 percent to notify to borrower of a new right being given the borrower to purchase the note for a 10 percent premium if purchased within 30 days or a 20 percent premium if purchased within 90 days. GBA opposed.
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Liens - Priority over Deed to Secure Debt
S.B. 269
by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) would give liens for work performed on real estate priority over a deed to secure debt by requiring distributions from a foreclosure sale to first be used to satisfy these liens. GBA opposed.
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Actively Monitoring With Concerns

Auctioneers
H.B. 1042
(N) by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) would change the code related to the individuals and entities who must be licensed as auctioneers. We are looking at the bill and may request amendments if our members who are selling foreclosed or repossessed property could be inadvertently caught by the new licensing provisions.
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Foreclosure - Post Judgment Process
S.B. 126 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), would add a new right for borrowers related to the valuation of property sold at foreclosure after a judgment has been granted on a note. Within 30 days after a foreclosure, any person or entity obligated on the debt may file a complaint against the holder to establish the fair market value of the real estate. If the court determines the property was sold at less than the fair market value, the court may set aside the foreclosure OR reduce the balance of the remaining judgment by the fair market value, with any excess funds left over after satisfaction of the judgment paid by the holder to the person or entity obligated on the debt.
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Foreclosure - Post Judgment Process
H.B. 344 by Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) would add a new right for borrowers related to the valuation of property sold at foreclosure after a judgment has been granted on a note. Within 30 days after a foreclosure, any person or entity obligated on the debt may file a complaint against the holder to establish the fair market value of the real estate. If the court determines the property was sold at less than the fair market value, the court may set aside the foreclosure sale OR the court enters an order crediting the amount of the court's finding of true market value against the remaining balance of the judgment. A primary difference from S.B. 126 above is that if the court's finding of true market value exceeds the remaining balance of the judgment, the credit shall be limited to such remaining balance in full satisfaction of the judgment and the holder shall not be liable to any person or entity for any sum in excess of the full satisfaction of the judgment."
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Foreclosure Study
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H.R. 1643 (N) by Rep. Paulette Braddock (R-Powder Springs) would create the House Committee on Foreclosure Reform. The committee would look into the use of the money the state received in settlements from large mortgage servicers, the processes behind the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), the validity of mortgages if some of the paperwork cannot be produced, dual tracking of modifications and foreclosures, and protecting Georgians from fraud and undue hardships related to foreclosures.
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Foreclosure Study
S.R. 1186
(N) by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) would create the Senate Committee on Foreclosure Reform. The bill is similar to H.R. 1643 above by Rep. Paulette Braddock (R-Powder Springs). The committee would look into the use of the money the state received in settlements from large mortgage servicers, the processes behind the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), the validity of mortgages if some of the paperwork cannot be produced, dual tracking of modifications and foreclosures, and protecting Georgians from fraud and undue hardships related to foreclosures.
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Foreclosure Withdrawal/Notice of Completion
H.B. 903
(N) by Rep. LaDawn Jones (D-Atlanta) requires a notice to the debtor if a foreclosure is withdrawn prior to completion, allows the debtor to remain in the property until the deed if filed post-foreclosure and requires notice of completion to the debtor. A hearing in the House Banks and Banking Committee is set for Feb. 11.
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Mortgages - Property Covenants
H.B. 464
by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) would make deeds to secure debts on residential development lots subordinate to covenants on the properties. Entities foreclosing would be subject to all properly filed homeownership association and other covenants.
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Other Bills Actively Monitoring

Ad valorem Taxation of Property
H.B. 954
(N) by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) requires a tax assessor when determining fair market value of property to consider decreased value of the property based on rent limitations and any other restrictions imposed upon the property in connection with the property being eligible for certain income tax credits or receiving any other state or federal subsidies provided with respect to the use of the property as residential rental property.

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Brownfields
H.B. 957
(N) by Rep. Chuck Williams (R-Watkinsville) renames the Georgia Hazardous Site Reuse and Redevelopment Act to the Georgia Brownfield Act while expanding the limitation of liability to certain purchasers of properties covered by the Act.

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Bridge Naming Honors Bank Founder
H.R. 1184 (N) by Rep. Gerald Greene (R-Cuthbert) recognizes the contributions of William Riley Curry, founder of what is now First State Bank of Randolph County in Cuthbert and calls for the naming of a bridge on U.S. 82 over Pachitla Creek in his honor. Curry is the uncle of current bank CEO Charlie Curry.

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Check Cashers/Money Transmitters
H.B. 982
(N) by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) was introduced at the request of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance to update and revise the current statutes related to non-bank check cashers and money transmitters and to require these entities to register with the Nationwide Multi-State Licensing System & Registry. Introduced at the request of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance.

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Disclosure of Financial Account Numbers
S.B. 386
(N) by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) would prohibit the public disclosure of social security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, and financial account numbers in court documents

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Dispossessory Judgments
H.B. 928
(N) by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) provides for a court procedure including a trial when a tenant answers a writ of possession.

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E-Discovery
H.B. 643 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and S.B. 354 (N) by Sen. Bill Cowsart (R-Athens) creates new provision within the Georgia Civil Practice Act related to the discovery, preservation and production of electronically stored records. T
he bills mirror the federal rules which require a pre-trial discovery conference for determining the scope of discovery for electronically stored information, introduces a concept of proportionality in searching, so that duplicative, burdensome, or expensive searches are not required unless there is a demonstrated need and permits the court to allocate discovery costs between the parties, and provides a safe harbor in the event that relevant information is unintentionally lost or destroyed. GBA is following the legislation as records maintained by our members would be affected.
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Credit Reports
S.B. 20 by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) with limited exceptions, prohibits employers from requesting credit reports on existing or potential employees.
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Credit Scores
H.R. 1104 (N) by Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) is a resolution calling for limiting the use of credit scores in connection with employment and insurance.
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Credit-based Barriers in Employment
H.R. 1105 (N) by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) is a resolution seeking the reduction of credit-based barriers in hiring and employment
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Condo Associations
H.B. 820 (N) by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) would specify that the rights of condo associations can't be waived by contracts or other documents recorded before the expiration of the declarant's right to control the association. It would act to hold a developer liable for a longer period of time for claims by an association.

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Condo Assessments
H.B. 854 (N) by Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Marietta) would require amounts in excess of one-sixth of the per unit annual common expense assessment to be approved by a majority vote of the unit owners.
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Consumer Lawsuit Lending
H.B. 801 (N) by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) adds a regulatory scheme for consumer lawsuit lending for loans of any amount to the Georgia Industrial Loan Act that generally applies to loans of $3,000 or less. Financial Institutions are exempt from the new provisions.

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Court Filings
H.B. 215 by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) would change the process by which clerks record instruments in their records and raises the fee for certain filings.
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Debt Management/Settlement Services
H.B. 465 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) would enact a new Chapter 5 for Title 18 of the Official Code of Georgia to require certain companies providing debt management services to be regulated by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance. It would require annual registration with the department, and it defines several other rules related to fees, advertising and services that may be provided.

H.B. 1154 by Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) to create a regulatory scheme for debt settlement companies within the Department of Banking and Finance.
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Electronic Payments
H.R. 1107 (N) by Rep. Karen Bennett (D-Stone Mountain) is a resolution calling on the Federal Government to use more electronic payments for citizens.
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Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards - ATM Usage Prohibition
H.B. 181 by Rep. Kevin Cooke (R-Carrollton) would prohibit the use of EBT cards that provide public assistance benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to be used at ATMs to withdraw cash. Banks and other ATM operators would have to set up the machines so they will not accept the cards.
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Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards - Retail Usage Prohibitions
H.B. 138 by Rep. Andrew Welch (R-McDonough). As required by the Federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, this bill would prohibit the use of EBT cards by beneficiaries of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in establishments such as liquor stores or adult entertainment venues. Those establishments would also have to prevent access to cash from EBT cards through ATMs or point of sale terminals. EBT recipients would not be able to use and other retailers would not be able to accept EBT cards for purchases such as alcohol, tobacco, firearms, gambling, pornography, tattoos and other defined items. A number of reporting and disclosure requirements are included, as well.
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Flood Insurance
H.R. 1055 (N) by Rep. Alex Atwood (R-Brunswick) encourages repeal of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, citing resulting high increases in premiums, inaccurate mapping and devalued home and property values.
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S.R. 747 (N) by Sen. William Ligon Jr. (R-Brunswick) encourages repeal of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, citing resulting high increases in premiums, inaccurate mapping and devalued home and property values.
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Forfeiture of Seized Assets
H.B. 1 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) would establish a comprehensive forfeiture procedure for seized assets. Financial institutions qualify as an “interest holder” if they have filed proper paperwork with the court asserting that interest in seized property. As an interest holder and upon being granted permission from the court, a financial institution may dispose of seized property using commercially reasonable means to satisfy their interest plus recoup selling costs. Any excess would be turned over to the court. In addition, if the seized asset is cash, the clerk of court will be required to place the funds in an interest bearing account at a financial institution branch in the county where the civil forfeiture action is located.
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Foreclosure -- Confirmation Process
S.B. 106 by Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) relates to the confirmation process and adds new requirements for providing appraisals to the court.
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Foreclosure -- Deeds to Secure Debt Transfer

S.B. 108 by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), among other things, would remove the small dollar exemption for transferring deeds to secure debt, requires notification to the borrower of the transfer, requires all transfers to be recorded, prevents property from being sold if transfers are not recorded, adds new notice requirements on residential foreclosures, and creates a new crime of residential mortgage foreclosure fraud.
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Foreclosure - Definition of a Mortgage.
S.B. 123 by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) provides that any document or instrument made for the purpose of securing the payment of money for owner occupied residential real property shall be deemed to be a mortgage and if the property is later foreclosed upon, the foreclosure process for a mortgage would apply.
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Foreclosure – Right to Cure

H.B. 47 by Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) would give a borrower the right to cure a default up to five calendar days before a sale is scheduled.
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Foreclosure – Rescue Consultants

H.B. 49 by Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) would create a licensing procedure within the Georgia Real Estate Commission for individuals and companies that operate as foreclosure rescue consultants.
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Foreclosure – Study Committee

H.R. 75 by R
ep. Dar’shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) calls for the creation of the House Committee on the Foreclosure Crisis, which would study all the factors related to foreclosures in Georgia the past few years and make recommendations to the 2014 legislative session.
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Garnishment - Exemption of Retirement Funds and Benefits
H.B. 377 by Rep. Ronnie Mabra (D-Fayetteville), would exempt retirement account, pension fund and certain other employee benefits from garnishment until such earnings or funds are actually paid to the person or transferred to a beneficiary. The exemption would not apply to garnishments for alimony, child support or divorces involving property divisions.
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Gift Cards as Unclaimed Property/Trauma Care S.B. 190 by Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) adds remaining balances on gift cards after one year to be designated as unclaimed property and the money collected would be administratively set aside to help fund a statewide trauma care system.
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HomeSafe Program
S.R. 595
by Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Decatur) calls on the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to broaden the coverage of individuals who could be served using the federal HomeSafe grant money. A similar resolution, S.R. 757, was introduced in the House by Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) introduced an identical resolution,.

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Liability of Property Owners
S.B. 125 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) would codify the duties, responsibilities and liability of owners and occupiers of land for protecting trespassers from harm. Land holders would owe no duty of care for adult trespassers other than to refrain from causing willful or wanton injury. A possessor of land may be subject to liability for physical injury or death to a child trespasser under certain situations. The legislation would apply to bank ORE property.

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Liens - False
H.B. 985
(N) by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville) expands to all citizens the current prohibition on filing false liens or encumbrances against public employees.

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Liens - Towed Vehicles
H.B. 878
(N) by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) creates new lien rights for towing companies that would remain subordinate to liens to security interests granting them a share of proceeds of excess funds following the sale of an abandoned vehicle.

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Liens - Waste Management

H.B. 595 by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) would prevent liens generated from unpaid taxes, fees, or assessments owed local government solid waste providers from being attached as a lien against the property upon which the taxes, fees or assessments are imposed.  
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Medicaid - Smart Card Pilot
S.B. 220
by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) would establish pilot program for the use of smart cards for Medicaid program recipients. The cards could be used to authenticate participants and providers, and could include the ability to store multiple recipients on one card as well as include photo identification features and store pertinent billing codes and deductible amounts, among other things.
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Merchant Acquirer Limited Purpose Bank
H.B. 883 (N) by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) corrects a couple of Code section cross-references contained in the bill passed during the 2012 session.

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Mortgage Originator Licensing
H.B. 750 (N) by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) would exempt employees of certain affordable-housing related nonprofit corporations who originate mortgage loans from having to obtain mortgage loan originator licenses.
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Notaries Public
H.B. 815
 (N) by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) repeals the current statute related to notaries and replaces it with an entire new scheme for registration and compliance.
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Payment of Wages by Prepaid Debit Card
H.B. 947
(N) by Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) would amend the Georgia code to allow, with consent of an employee, the payment of wages to be made by prepaid debit card.

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Predatory Loans - Protections
H.R. 1101
(N)  by Rep. Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia) is a resolution advocating for the protection of the elderly, active duty military personnel, veterans, and persons with cognitive disabilities with limited financial understanding from predatory short-term loans.

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Property - Uniform Rule against Perpetuities
S.B. 159
by Sen. William T. Ligon, Jr. (R-Brunswick) would change the law
designed to prevent someone living today from dictating for a long time how the property is used after his or her death. The legislation would extend the period from 90 years to 360 years.
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Property Taxes - Non-Tax Fees
H.B. 159
by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) would restrict property tax bills from including any nontax related fees or assessments.
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Resolution Honoring Rep. Calvin Smyre
S.R. 843 (N) by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) and,
H.R. 1190 honor Rep. Smyre's induction into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.
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Security Freezes for Minors
H.B. 915
(N) by Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) authorizes the placement of a security freeze on a minor's identifying information by a credit reporting bureau.

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State Income Tax -
Credits for bad debts on private label credit cards of dealer credit program
H.B. 307 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) would allow tax deductions or refunds for lenders or dealers on unpaid balances on accounts or receivables charged off as bad debt from certain private label credit cards.

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Tax Executions
S.B. 327 (N) by Rep. John Albert (R-Roswell) revises the statute related to the sale of tax executions. The bill is similar to H.B. 819 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) we added last week.
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Taxes -
Rate on Past Dues
H.B. 847 (N) by Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) changes the interest rate charged on past due state and local taxes from 3 percent per month to 3 percent per year.
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Tax Credits - Downtown Investments

H.B. 128 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) would provide $30 million annually in tax credits for certain investments
in commercial, industrial or residential projects in Georgia’s historic downtown districts. Each project would be eligible for a tax credit equal to a certain percentage of its total cost. Commercial projects would be capped at $500,000 and residential projects or renovations at $50,000. Also, donations to a fund that would finance low-interest loans for such projects would be tax deductible. The concept for the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Tax Credit Act is among the results of a 2011 Georgia Municipal Association/Georgia Cities Foundation special Downtown Development Task Force. GBA Past Chair Rick Whaley, president and CEO, The Citizens Bank of Americus, and Joe Brannen, GBA president and CEO, served on the task force at the request of Lt. Gov. Cagle. GBA supports.
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Tax Executions
H.B. 819
(N) by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) revises the statute related to the sale of tax executions.
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Tax Sales - Redemption Costs to be Paid
H.B. 69
by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) would add amounts owed to property owners' associations to the various costs to be paid to redeem property from a tax sale.
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Tenants - Storage of Property after Eviction
H.B. 379
by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) would require a landlord removing personal property after an eviction to store the property for up to two weeks in a convenience warehouse and provide a receipt of the contents to the court. Landlords would be entitled to reimbursement of costs and fees by the tenant, and would have a lien on the property that could be satisfied after two weeks by sale or disposition of the property.

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Trust – Transfer of Property
H.B. 222
by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella) would allow property to be transferred to a trust (in addition to a trustee) if the name of the trust is ascertainable with reasonable certainty.

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UCC - Bulk Transfers
H.B. 554 by Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold) repeals UCC Article 6 related to Bulk Transfers.
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Archive

Click here for our final 2013 GBA Legislative Update summarizing the outcome of the 2013 session. We also archived summaries of all the bills that were considered in the 2013 session. Access the 2013 archive here.


Questions?  Email the Webmaster.

GBA's professional staff represents the membership at the state and federal levels. Contact any of them with questions about issues:

Joe Brannen
President & CEO

Elizabeth Chandler
SVP, Government Relations

David Oliver
SVP, Communications & Marketing