Home I GBA University I Member Services I Volunteers I Government Relations I Calendar of Events       January 24, 2014

 

General Assembly Sets Schedule for First Half of Session; Elections Set for May

The House and Senate leadership weren't kidding when they said this year's session would go by quickly. They've already taken visible steps to show they were serious. From compressing a week of hearings on the budget down to one day and not being in recess the  four days following the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the General Assembly has already used nine of the 40 legislative days they're allowed to meet. They also telegraphed their intent to meet five days each of the next two weeks which gets them to day 19. They'll then meet four days the next week and then be in recess for the Friday of Valentine's Day and the following Monday which is Presidents Day. Day 24 will be Feb. 18. One of the reasons for a quick session this year is the need to move federal elections to May from July. In order to hold both state and federal elections at the same time, the legislature had to pass legislation to do that and it's just been signed by the Governor.

 

GBA Priority Bills Introduced this Week

Two bills GBA hopes to see passed this session were introduced in the House this week. Both have been assigned to the House Banks and Banking Committee and we expect hearings will be held soon.

 

  • Fees are Not Interest. H.B. 824 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.

 

  • Patent Trolls. H.B. 809 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.


Smith

Williamson

 

Also introduced this week were seven bills and resolutions that we've added to our tracking list; another bill we were tracking last year began to move through the Senate:

  • Consumer Lawsuit Lending. H.B. 801 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. The bill is a priority for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. Click here to learn more from the Institute.
     

  • Tax Executions. H.B. 819 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) revises the statute related to the sale of tax executions.
     

  • Protection from Predatory Loans. H.R. 1101 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.
     

  • Electronic Payments. H.R. 1107 by Rep. Karen Bennett (D-Stone Mountain) is a resolution calling on the Federal Government to use more electronic payments for citizens.
     

  • Credit Scores. H.R. 1104 by Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) is a resolution calling for limiting the use of credit scores in connection with employment and insurance.
     

  • Credit-based Barriers in Employment. H.R. 1105 by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) is a resolution seeking the reduction of credit-based barriers in hiring and employment
     

  • 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. The bill passed the House last year and was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
     

  • 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.

 

House Passes Budget
Most Capitol Hill observers who've been around awhile were scratching their heads this week trying to remember a time the Supplemental Budget was ready for passage this early in the session. The House passed the budget today sending it on to the Senate. In presenting the budget, Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn) told his colleagues the additional $320 million that had become available since passing the original budget were being spent primarily in three areas: local school systems around the state to pay for increased student enrollment in the K-12 grade levels; the Department of Economic Development to help pay for the disbursement of OneGeorgia development grants; and the Department of Community Health, which administers Medicaid. The total budget for FY2014 now stands at $20.2 billion.

England

House Banking Committee Gets First Shot at Most Industry Legislation

As mentioned above, two GBA priority bills have been assigned to the House Banks and Banking Committee. The committee has built a well-deserved reputation over the years for being deliberative in their work and thoughtful about the kinds of legislation they report to the full House for consideration. The committee is ably led by Chairman Greg Morris (R-Vidalia). Morris joined the legislature in 1999 and was named committee chairman by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) in 2011. The committee's vice chair is Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). Williamson began his second term in the legislature this year. Well-respected by his peers, he was recently named a deputy whip by House Republican Caucus. Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange) is the Committee's Secretary. He has a background in insurance, investments and banking and has been an important voice on the committee since he was sworn into the Legislature in 2007. It's important for our members to get to know your own legislator as you will most likely get a call asking about bills that might affect you. But don't wait for them to call you. Take a look at the full list of the House Banks and Banking Committee below. If your local representative is a member, be sure and reach out and offer to be a resource. They will appreciate hearing from you and having your contact information when they've got questions.

 

Morris

Williamson

Nix

House Banks and Banking Committee
The committee has jurisdiction of financial institutions, real property finance, and corporate securities law.

 

Behind the Scenes

Most of our time and effort are spent on legislation of specific interest to our members. However, there are times when we work with coalitions and other interests on issues important to the business community at large. One of those organizations is the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. GBA's SVP for Government Relations, Elizabeth Chandler, is the Vice Chair of the Chamber's Government Affairs Council. In that role, she serves on the executive committee that works with a variety of sub-committees that cover legislation affecting business before virtually every committee of the General Assembly. "It's a great way for us to work on the major legislation that will ensure Georgia continues to be a national leader in creating jobs. Many of our member bankers are active with their local and the state chamber. With our members playing such an essential role in the flow of credit, this gives us another opportunity to work together to keep Georgia the number one place to do business," Elizabeth said. She will begin a two-year term as chair of the Government Affairs Council in 2015.

 

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.

50 Hurt Plaza, Suite 1050 | Atlanta, Georgia 30303 | 404.522.1501