Home I GBA University I Member Services I Volunteers I Government Relations I Calendar of Events            February 27, 2014

 

Legislature In Session Three Days This Week

The Georgia General Assembly was in session Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Committees were busy perfecting and reporting bills in preparation for what's called Crossover Day coming up Monday. That's the day a bill must pass at least the body of origin in order for the other body to consider the bill this year. The House and Senate agendas were long, and the leadership ensured a smooth and efficient process as bills moved through floor votes. This time of the session is hectic for legislators, as many handle multiple bills in several committees. It's quite a balancing act for them. The big issue for Georgia bankers was the full Senate consideration of a bill GBA opposed dealing with non-customer notifications  Below is more information about that bill and an update about other legislation we're asking be passed or are monitoring.

 

GBA-Opposed Contractor Bill Fails in Senate

Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) pressed forward this week on his bill, S.B. 363, relating  to the relationship between a bank, its borrower and contractors working for the bank’s borrower involved in the improvement and development of property from raw land to construction-ready building sites. In testimony before the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, GBA made it clear the bill had significant problems and we could not support it. Our concerns were many, but most centered around the concurrent notification to non-customer contractors when lenders notified their borrower of a payment default. We told Sen. Tippins we could work with the other portion of his bill that authorized lenders, with approval of their borrower, to disclose money was undisbursed to the borrower. However, we could not come to agreement on the notification provision, so GBA remained opposed to the bill. Also opposing the bill were the Homebuilders Association of Georgia and the Building Owners and Managers Association. Sen. Tippins was passionate in presenting the bill and focused on lien rights that are extinguished upon a foreclosure even though those rights were not part of his legislation. The only Senator who spoke against the bill was Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta). Sen. Thompson described his experience as a former banker and how the legislation would hurt the very people the bill was described as helping. He talked about the likelihood of contractors stopping work on projects when default notices were received, which would effectively kill the development project even though it may be salvaged through further negotiations between the borrower and the lender. Thompson also strongly opposed notifying non-customers to protect the privacy of the borrower. Before voting on final passage, the Senate adopted four amendments managed by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) on behalf of Sen. Tippins, who described them as improving the bill. However, when the final vote was taken, the bill received only 26 votes, three short of the constitutional majority of 29 necessary for a bill to pass. Voting against the bill were 25 Senators, while five did not vote. Click here see how your Senator voted. A second vote to reconsider the first vote also failed to reach the constitutional majority, so the bill failed. "Our thanks to Sen. Tippins for keeping an open door to discuss the bill with us. However, when we reached an impasse and reported that to our members, calls started pouring in to individual Senators from bankers explaining how bad the bill would be for real estate lending in Georgia. Those calls were important because they helped Senators better understand the bill and caused many to vote against it," said GBA president and CEO Joe Brannen. While this is likely the end of the debate on the bill this year, we expect to face challenges to Georgia's lien laws in future sessions of the General Assembly.

 

GBA Priority Bill Awaiting Further Action in the Senate

The "Fees are Not Interest" bill, H.B. 824, by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) has been reported out of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. The next step is for the bill to be chosen by the Senate Rules Committee for a vote on the floor. Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) chairs this important committee. The bill is needed to ensure parity between state-chartered and nationally-chartered banks and has been carefully drawn to support the Department of Banking and Finance Declaratory Order issued last year related to overdraft fees. This bill confirms and clarifies that those and other common bank fees should not be considered interest. The bill was amended in committee so as to not affect any existing litigation, but shuts down future litigation on these fees. The bill will be presented to the full Senate by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). Click here to read an Issue Brief about the bill.
 

Patent Troll Bill Awaiting Action in the House

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. The bill has passed the House and the Senate; however the Senate made a slight amendment at the request of the pharmaceutical companies. The next step is for Rep. Williamson to ask the House to agree to the Senate change. We expect that to happen early next week. 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 and Fiserv. Click here to read an Issue Brief about the patent troll bill.

 

Other Action This Week

Hearings were also held on a number of bills we're following and some have received floor action. Be sure and check out GBA's State Issues Page on our website where you'll see all the bills we're following.

  • Foreclosure Confirmation.  H.B. 917 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) proposes to extensively revise the current foreclosure confirmation process and extend that confirmation process to post-judgment foreclosures. A subcommittee hearing was scheduled this week, but was canceled because of a busy schedule in the full Judiciary Committee.

  • Tax Executions. H.B. 819 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) revises the statute related to the sale of tax executions. 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. The bill was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee this week.

  • Disclosure of Financial Account Numbers. S.B. 386 by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) prohibits the public disclosure of social security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers and financial account numbers in court documents. The bill was slightly amended and reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

  • 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 passed by the House this week. Rep. Clark announced this week that he will not be seeking reelection. Our best wishes to Rep. Clark in his future endeavors.

  • Security Freezes for Minors. H.B. 915 by Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) authorizes the placement of a security freeze on a minor's identifying information by a credit reporting bureau. The bill was reported out of the House Banks and Banking 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 reported out of the House Banks and Banking committee this week.

  • Check Cashers/Money Transmitters. H.B. 982 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.The bill was reported out of the House Banks and Banking committee this week.

  • 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. The bill was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee this week.

  • Brownfields. H.B. 957 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. The bill was passed by the House this week.

  • Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards - Retail Usage Prohibitions. H.B. 138 by Rep. Andrew Welch
    (R-McDonough) would prohibit the use of government benefits in certain retail establishments and for certain products and services, including buying gift cards. Part of the bill requires signage to be posted on ATMs about the prohibitions. The bill was amended in the House Government Affairs committee to alleviate liability for failure to post and to give the option of posting the information on the ATM screen as opposed to a sign.

     

Strickland

Martin

Albers

Clark

Mitchell

Williams

Welch

 

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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