Home I GBA University I Member Services I Volunteers I Government Relations I Calendar of Events            February 21, 2014


Legislature Hard at Work this Week After Weather Disruptions

With temperatures in the upper 60s and 70s this week, it's hard to remember last week's ice and snow storm unless you're traveling around the state and see the toll the storm took in east Georgia. At the State Capitol, you notice a heightened sense of urgency to take care of necessary business efficiently. For example, the House passed the 2015 annual budget and sent it to the Senate so the Senate Appropriations Committee can make its changes and additions before going to conference with the House. We've been busy with meetings of the House and Senate banking committees as well as with several other committees where bills we're monitoring have been holding hearings. GBA's two priority bills dealing with certain bank fees and patent trolls were the subject of discussion in the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. Below is more information about those bills and an update about all the goings on around the Capitol this week.


GBA Priority Bills Moving Through Process

The "Fees are Not Interest" bill, H.B. 824, was presented to the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee by its House author Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus). In his presentation, he focused mostly on the bill being needed to ensure parity between state-chartered and nationally-chartered banks. The bill has been carefully drawn to support the Department of Banking and Finance Declaratory Order last year related to overdraft fees. This bill confirms and clarifies that those and other common bank fees should not be considered interest. A trial lawyer from Columbus testified against the bill and asked that it be amended to make it effective for fees charged after July 1. Of course we opposed that, and GBA's two witnesses at the hearing gave the committee more background on the issue and explained why the effective date being requested would put 179 state chartered banks at risk for lawsuits related to overdraft fees. Our thanks to Bill Custer with Bryan Cave and Pete Robinson with Troutman Sanders for their compelling testimony. In a subsequent hearing, the bill was amended so as to not affect any existing litigation, but shuts down future litigation on these fees. The bill was reported out of Committee and hopefully will be on the Senate floor soon where it will be presented by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). Click here to read an Issue Brief about the bill.

Patent Troll Bill Passes Senate

GBA's other priority bill, H.B. 809 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), is commonly referred to as the patent troll bill. The bill adds bad-faith assertions of patent infringement to the list of violations of the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act. Rep. Williamson presented the bill to the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee Tuesday, and it reported the bill out unanimously. The bill was presented to the full Senate today by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and they passed it 48-4. Voting against the bill were Sens. Hardie Davis (D-Augusta), Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), Josh McCoon (R-Columbus) and Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). Because the committee amended it slightly to clarify a provision for pharmaceutical companies, the bill will need to go back to the House for a final vote. More than 20 states are considering similar legislation this year. Joining GBA in supporting the legislation are a number of associations and companies ranging from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Technology Association of Georgia, Georgia Electric Membership Corporations, AT&T, Oracle, Dell, Fiserv and Delta Airlines. Click here to read an Issue Brief about the patent troll bill.


GBA Continues to Have Serious Concerns about Contractor Bill

S.B. 363 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) as originally introduced created a guaranteed payment mechanism and cause of action for any contractor involved in the improvement and development of property from raw land to construction ready building sites. We met several times with Sen. Tippins letting him know of our concerns, and we appreciate his willingness to listen. At the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee meeting this week, Sen. Tippins unveiled a substantially scaled back version of his bill, removing many of the onerous provisions. Ford Thigpen, president of Westside Bank in Hiram, testified on GBA’s behalf. Although he came prepared to testify on the original bill, Thigpen did a great job quickly reviewing the new version and pointing out problem areas that remain. The new version would apply to contracts of $20,000 or more; upon request of the contractor, require a schedule of disbursements to be prepared by the owner (synonymous with borrower) and provided to both the contractor and the lender; require the lender to provide written verification to the owner's contractor that funds are available sufficient to satisfy the schedule of disbursements; and thereafter, any notice to the owner from the lender of a "material default" or notice of foreclosure proceedings would be concurrently provided to the contractor. Thigpen pointed out several concerns in his testimony from both a philosophical and technical standpoint: the bill lessens the incentive for the contractor to do due diligence on the borrower before entering into a contract; the privacy of the bank’s customers is paramount; and legislators should understand the potential negative effect providing notices to non-customers could have on both the project(s) the owner is developing as well as the owner’s reputational risk; the notice requirements to non-customers is a new burden and will raise the cost of borrowing because those costs must be covered within the loan; the threshold of a $20,000 contract is too low; “material default” is an undefined term and the question would arise about which default notices to owners would require concurrent notice to contractors; and the public notice through advertising of foreclosure proceedings is already addressed in current law and this notice for contractors is not needed. In a subsequent committee meeting this week, the Homebuilders Association of Georgia came out against the bill. The committee amended the bill to better define "material default" and passed it out. The only negative vote on the bill was from Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta). We will continue working on the bill to help legislators understand how bad it will be for real estate lending. Be sure and let your Senator know your views.



Ford Thigpen testifies before Senate Banking & Financial Institutions Committee

New Foreclosure Confirmation Proposal Discussed in Subcommittee

A House Judiciary Committee subcommittee held a hearing Monday on H.B. 917 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) that proposes to extensively revise the current foreclosure confirmation process and extend that confirmation process to post-judgment foreclosures. Rep. Strickland said his principal reason for introducing the bill was to close what he described as a loophole that allows foreclosures completed after a judgment on a note has been granted to be exempt from the confirmation process. However, the bill goes much further than that. Coming to the subcommittee hearing to testify on GBA's behalf was Bret Thrasher of the Thompson, O'Brien firm in Norcross. Thrasher has extensive experience in a variety of litigation issues and represents many of our member banks. The hearing ran long because of other issues on the committee's agenda, so only testimony from Rep. Strickland was heard. The subcommittee chairman has told us he plans to resume hearing testimony soon on the bill.






New Bill We're Following/Other Action This Week

We've added one new bill this week to our tracking list to monitor. Hearings were also held on a number of bills we're following. Obviously not all bills will be passed, but we monitor all bills related to our interests to keep an eye on the process. Be sure and check out GBA's State Issues Page on our website where you'll see all the bills we're following.

  • Tax Executions. H.B. 819 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) revises the statute related to the sale of tax executions. A hearing was held in the House Judiciary Committee on the bill. GBA requested language be added to the bill related to redemptions of liens that had been sold. The language changes the application of the 20 percent the redeemer of the lien pays from being applied to the amount the lien sold for to the amount of the tax due. Testifying on GBA's behalf was Kevin Watters of The Watters Law Firm in Atlanta who specializes in these matters.

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

  • Payment of Wages by Prepaid Debit Card. H.B. 947 by Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) would allow, with consent of an employee, the payment of wages to be made by prepaid debit card. The bill was reported out of the House Industry and Labor Committee this week.

  • Merchant Acquirer Limited Purpose Bank. H.B. 883 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) corrects a couple of Code section cross-references contained in the bill passed during the 2012 session. The bill was considered in a hearing of the House Banks and Banking committee but no vote has been taken yet to report it out.

  • Condo Associations. H.B. 820 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. The bill passed the House this week and was sent to the Senate for further consideration.

  • Foreclosure Withdrawal/Notice of Completion. H.B. 903 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 is filed post-foreclosure and requires notice of completion to the debtor. A hearing was held on the bill by the House Banks and Banking Committee this week, but no action was taken.

  • Senate Majority Leader. Sen. Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) who also serves as the Senate Majority Leader announced this week that he will retire after this session. Our best wishes to Sen. Chance in his future endeavors.








Behind the Scenes

Members of the Georgia General Assembly elect the leadership to govern the House and Senate. The second highest ranking member in the House holds the position of Speaker Pro Tempore. Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton) was the first woman ever elected to the position in 2010 and was reelected overwhelmingly in 2012. In her role, she serves in the absence of the Speaker and should there be an unexpected vacancy, would serve as acting speaker until the new speaker is elected. In the Senate, the comparable position is President Pro Tempore. Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) was elected by his peers to the role in 2012. The president pro tem chairs the Senate Administrative Affairs Committee, which is responsible for operations of the Senate, and is charged with speaking on behalf of the entire Senate. He also assumes the duties of the Lieutenant Governor in his absence. It's quite an honor to be elected to these positions and the jobs take a huge amount of time. We thought you'd like to know a little more about them.

  • Rep. Jones was elected in 2002 to a district covering northwest Fulton, including Milton, Mountain Park and portions of Roswell and Alpharetta. Prior to being elected Speaker Pro Tem, Rep Jones served as Majority Whip. She serves on the Appropriations, Education, Ethics, Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment and Rules Committees. At the national level, she has been active with the Council of State Governments, National Conference of State Legislatures, Southern Legislative Conference, Georgia Legislative Council, Southern Regional Education Board, Land Conservation Partnership, American Legislative Conference and the Education Commission of the States. Rep. Jones earned an MBA, Finance from Georgia State University and a BA, Journalism/English from the University of Georgia. Born in Warner Robins, Rep. Jones has lived in Fulton County for 25 years. A former marketing executive for Home Box Office, she also owned and operated a small business. She and her husband, Kalin, have four children and they worship at Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta.


  • Sen. Shafer was first elected to the Georgia State Senate in 2002. His district includes portions of Fulton and Gwinnett counties. Prior to being elected President Pro Tempore, Sen. Shafer served as chairman of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee and as an Administration Floor Leader for Gov. Sonny Perdue. Sen. Shafer is also vice chair of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee and a member of the Senate Appropriations, Health and Human Services and Reapportionment and Redistricting Committees. He is an ex-officio member of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities, Banking and Financial Institutions, and Rules Committees. Sen. Shafer is a business owner and investor and serves on the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Active in his community, he has served terms as vice chairman of the Gwinnett County Library System Board of Trustees and as a member on the former Gwinnett-Forsyth Regional Library System Board of Trustees. He has also served on the Board of Directors for both the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Atlanta and the Partnership Against Domestic Violence (formerly Georgia Council on Battered Women). Sen. Shafer was educated in DeKalb County Public Schools. He is a graduate of The University of Georgia and serves on the Board of Directors of UGA’s National Alumni Association. He lives in Duluth with his wife Lee, stepson J.W. and daughter Ellie. The Shafers are members of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church.


Let Us Know if You Have Questions

Throughout the session, GBA will be 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 how your legislator voted on a particular issue or to request any other information related to the Georgia General Assembly.

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