Home I GBA University I Member Services I Volunteers I Government Relations I Calendar of Events       January 31, 2014


Weather-related Events Delay Hearings on GBA Priority Bills

The unexpected snowfall hitting north metro-Atlanta resulted in suspension of committee and floor action Wednesday and Thursday this week. As a result, the hearing on GBA's two priority bills has been rescheduled for Mon., Feb. 3. Speaker Ralston and Lt. Gov. Cagle had this to say in a joint statement: "In support of Governor Deal's request that Georgians remain at home so that first responders can focus their efforts on transporting children from schools to home and on providing relief to stranded motorists, both the State Senate and the Georgia House of Representatives will suspend all business tomorrow [Thursday]. Law enforcement and first responders are appropriately focused on returning children to parents, providing relief to stranded motorists, and clearing major roadways. Additional vehicles on the roads will only complicate these efforts. We appreciate the diligent work of our first responders under the leadership of Governor Deal and Mayor Reed and we're confident that through their efforts the region will soon return to normal. Like all Georgians, our prayers are with those impacted by this severe weather event and we take great heart in the generous actions of those reaching out to help their neighbors in need." Fortunately there have been no power outages, so Legislators stayed in touch with each other by phone and email and worked remotely as did we at the GBA.The Legislature was officially in session all five days this week, so they're staying on the schedule we've told you about that would have them completing the 2014 session the end of March. We've replaced the usual picture we use with our Legislative Update this week to show this one taken by WABE's Capitol reporter, Jonathan Shapiro. By Friday, most of the snow was gone and business had returned to normal.


Bankers Reaching out to Legislators

Our thanks to our member bankers whose representative is on the House Banks and Banking Committee for reaching out to them in support of our two priority bills. Legislators tell us they always appreciate hearing from their constituents on important issues, so your outreach is important. This two-way communication is crucial to an effective citizen-legislature like we're fortunate to have in Georgia. With the hundreds of bills crossing their desks every session, our legislators can't be experts on every topic. So in addition to their own legislation, they spend most of their time on issues before the committees on which they serve. Both the House and Senate leadership make it clear they expect the committees to perfect legislation before it's reported for floor action. As a reminder, here is a summary of the two bills we're supporting:

  • 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. We've been pleased to hear from a number of other industries expressing support for the bill we brought forward for the Legislature's consideration. In addition to our support, we've heard from Oracle, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, Dell, FiServ and the association representing Georgia Electric Membership Corporations that will be supporting the bill. We're glad to have some good company.



Smyre Honored by Resolution

Our congratulations to the Dean of the Georgia House of Representatives, Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus). Rep. Smyre was honored this week with a bipartisan resolution authored by House Minority Leader, Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) with Speaker of the House David Ralston cosponsoring. The resolution, H.R. 1190, recognizes Rep. Smyre for his induction into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame during the 10th annual Trumpet Awards at the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site. The International Civil Rights Walk of Fame was created in 2004 to give recognition to "the foot soldiers of justice who sacrificed and struggled to make equality a reality for all," says the resolution in part. Rep. Smyre was first sworn into office Jan. 13, 1975, and serves on the powerful Appropriations, Higher Education and Rules Committees. When he's not wearing his legislator badge, he's Executive Vice President, Corporate External Affairs, Synovus and President of the Synovus Foundation. He also serves on the company's eight-member Corporate Executive Group.


New Bills We're Following

We've added six new bills this week to our tracking list to monitor. We occasionally get asked why we follow some of the bills we do. There are all sorts of reasons, but most often the bills are amending sections of the Code that affect other issues we either support or oppose. It's not uncommon for amendments to get offered to legislation as it moves through the process, especially toward the end of the session. The General Assembly staff does a great job of posting committee notices about the bills that will be heard, so we're able to monitor those we have concerns about. Most the legislation introduced at our request is usually in the form of a standalone bill and there's often interest by others to attach amendments to our supported legislation that's moving through the process. Sometimes, there is no concern about that; while other times, doing so would totally affect the bill's progress. This process is managed by the legislator who authors the bill. 

  • Notaries Public. H.B. 815 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.

  • Rate on Past Due Taxes. H.B. 847 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.

  • Condo Assessments. H.B. 854 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.

  • Tax Executions. S.B. 327 by Rep. John Albers (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.

  • Liens for Towed Vehicles. H.B. 878 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.

  • 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.








Behind the Scenes

Members of the House of Representatives elect their leaders within the democrat and republican caucuses. The two senior positions are Majority and Minority Leaders. Rep. Larry O'Neal (R-Warner Robins) is serving as the Majority Leader and Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) is serving as the Minority Leader. It's a huge honor to be elected to these positions, but the jobs take an enormous amount of work over and above what it already takes to represent their own districts. We thought you'd like to know a little more about them.

  • Rep. O'Neal was elected to the House of Representatives in 2001. He has served as the Governor's Floor Leader and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee prior to his election as Majority Leader. As a former accountant and tax lawyer, Rep. O'Neal brings an auditor's knowledge to budget deliberations and fiscal management. His involvement with state legislation has been one of bipartisanship and distinction. Rep. O'Neal is known for being able to build relationships across the aisle, which serves the House and people of Georgia well. He is a former member of the Warner Robins Rotary Club and sits on the Advisory Board of Directors of CB&T Bank of Middle Georgia. He is married to Kathy O'Neal, and Larry has two children, Megan and Lawrence O'Neal, III. He and Kathy are members of the First Methodist Church of Perry. He is Of Counsel at Walker Hulbert Gray & Moore, LLP in Perry.


  • Rep. Abrams is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and is the first African-American to lead in the House of Representatives. She serves on the Appropriations, Ethics, Judiciary Non-Civil, Rules and Ways & Means Committees. She co-founded and acts as Senior Vice President of NOWaccount Network Corporation, a financial services firm. She also co-founded Nourish, Inc., a beverage company with a focus on infants and toddlers, as well as other entrepreneurial ventures. Formerly, she was Deputy City Attorney for the City of Atlanta. Rep. Abrams is an award-winning author of eight romantic suspense novels which have sold more than 100,000 copies. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Agnes Scott College, the Board of Directors for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the Board of Directors for the Gateway Center for the Homeless, and the Advisory Boards for Literacy Action and Health Students Taking Action Together. She received her J.D. from the Yale Law School. She graduated from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin with an M.P.Aff. in public policy. She earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Political Science, Economics and Sociology) from Spelman College, magna cum laude.



Now you see why their colleagues elected them as their leaders? They are both passionate about their service and represent their constituencies well, both from their districts and within the legislature. Next week we'll tell you about the Senate leaders.


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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