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

 

General Assembly Adjourns

The Georgia General Assembly completed the second 40-day session of the 2013-2014 biennial at the stroke of midnight Thursday. The session will be remembered for the way the leadership ensured members stayed on task, committees got their work done efficiently, and only the most essential legislation was cleared for floor votes. And that's a monumental task. Over the past two years, more than 2,900 bills and resolutions were introduced in the House, and more than 1,600 bills and resolutions were introduced in the Senate. Only a fraction of those have ended up on Governor Deal's desk. He has 40 days to sign or veto legislation, otherwise bills passed by the Legislature will ordinarily go into effect July 1. It was a busy year for GBA as we were actively involved in more than 70 bills that had a direct effect on our members, including two priority bills we proactively asked to be passed. Below you'll see a list of the major bills we followed that passed and a list of some of the major bills we had concerns about that received action, but did not pass. With the primaries moved from July to May this year, those legislators who qualified for either re-election or for another office will have to quickly jump into campaign mode. We recognize below a number of legislators who are either retiring or seeking another office.

 

GBA's Two Priority Bills Awaiting Governor's Signature

We've been reporting throughout the session on two bills that were priorities for our members and were introduced at GBA's request:

  • Fees are Not Interest. H.B. 824, by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) will ensure parity between state-chartered and nationally-chartered banks. The bill was 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 will not be considered interest. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Patent Trolls. H.B. 809 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) adds bad-faith assertion of patent infringement to the list of violations of the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act. The bill was introduced in response to a number of GBA community bank members receiving vague and threatening demand letters alleging ATM patent infringement from a New York-based patent troll. Our members had to engage counsel to respond to the demand letters wasting precious time and money. Other patent trolls have also been active in Georgia, both among our members and others in the business community. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

Other Bills GBA Supported or Monitored Passed

We were actively involved in the hearing or amendment process on many other bills. Be sure and check GBA's State Issues Page on our website where you'll see all the bills we've been following. Here are some of the more significant other bills that were passed this session:

  • 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 sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature. The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance has geared up and is prepared to act on the first charter requests expected to be filed soon.

  • 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 statute related to non-bank check cashers and money transmitters. The bill further requires these entities to register with the Nationwide Multi-State Licensing System & Registry.The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Downtown Investments. H.B. 128 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) as amended creates a revolving loan fund administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for certain downtown improvement projects. Funding would come from general appropriations of up to $5 million per year for four years. GBA was represented on a joint Georgia Municipal Association/Georgia Cities Foundation Task Force that developed the concept. The recommendation from the task force was that a combination of tax credits and private dollars be used to front the projects. The legislature has been cautious about new tax credits, so this alternative funding method was developed. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Ad valorem Taxation of Property. H.B. 954 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. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • 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 sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven), where he added a new section related to garnishment filings. The bill has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Condo Associations. H.B. 820 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) specifies that the rights of a condominium association cannot be waived by contracts or other documents recorded before the expiration of the declarant's right to control the association. The new law will act to hold a developer liable for a longer period of time for claims by the association. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Flood Insurance. S.R. 747 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. The resolution was passed by the Senate. A similar resolution, H.R. 1055 by Rep. Alex Atwood (R-Brunswick), passed the House.

  • False Liens. H.B. 985 by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville) expands to all citizens the current prohibition on filing false liens or encumbrances against public employees. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Mortgage Originator Licensing. H.B. 750 by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) exempts employees of certain affordable-housing related nonprofit corporations who originate mortgage loans from having to obtain mortgage loan originator licenses. Rep. Frye says the bill will only apply to Habitat for Humanity organizations. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Auctioneers. H.B. 1042 by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) changes the code related to the individuals and entities who must be licensed as auctioneers. GBA supported language that was adopted by the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee eliminating the definition of an auctioneer. As originally drafted, the bill could have required entities such as local governments, financial institutions and others who are selling assets to either be licensed as an auctioneer or use someone who holds an auctioneer license. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • 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 sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Court Filings. H.B. 215 by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) changes the process by which clerks record instruments in their records and raises the fee for certain filings. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), has passed and is awaiting the Governor's signature.

  • Bridge Naming Honors Bank Founder. H.R. 1184 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.

  • Resolutions Honoring Rep. Calvin Smyre. S.R. 843 by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) and H.R. 1190 by Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) recognize Rep. Smyre's induction into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.

  • Synovus Recognized. H.R. 1134 by Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Columbus) recognized Synovus Financial Corporation for receiving 16 Greenwich Excellence Awards.

Strickland

Miller

Williamson

Stone

Peake

Ginn

Harrell

Hill

Albers

Jacobs

Powell

Jeffares

Ligon

Atwood

Kirby

Cowsert

Frye

Dempsey

Hufstetler

Williams

Benton

McKoon

Greene

Smyre

James

Abrams

Harbison


Other Bills GBA Opposed or Monitored Did Not Pass

It's often just as significant when a bill GBA has concerns about does not pass. Here are a few that saw action that we were actively engaged on, but didn't make it to the Governor's desk this session:

  • Contractor Liens - Cause of Action for Unpaid Work. S.B. 363 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), as introduced, would have required 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 lender could have been responsible to the borrower's contractor under certain circumstances to pay for work done, but not paid for, by the borrower. Sen. Tippins met with us several times in an effort to forge a compromise. The bill was substantially amended, but never to the extent that GBA could support it. After a spirited debate on the Senate floor, the bill failed to receive enough votes to pass. Leading the Senate debate in support of GBA's position was Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta). You can see how your Senator voted by clicking here. We understand talks are underway to possibly open the lien laws next year to challenge lenders' superior lien rights over materialman liens in foreclosures.

  • Foreclosure Confirmation. H.B. 917 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) proposed to extensively revise the current foreclosure confirmation process and extend that confirmation process to post-judgment foreclosures. A subcommittee hearing was scheduled, but was canceled because of the Judiciary Committee's busy schedule with other legislation. Special thanks to Bret Thrasher of the Thompson, O'Brien firm in Norcross who was prepared to testify on GBA's behalf. Thrasher has extensive experience in a variety of litigation issues and represents many of our member banks. A similar bill, H.B. 344 by Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), was the subject of a hearing in the House Banks and Banking Committee in the 2013 session. GBA testified suggesting the Legislature use caution when making such a significant change to the foreclosure process. The committee chose not to move the bill forward.

  • Payment of Wages by Prepaid Debit Card. H.B. 947 by Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) would have amended the Georgia code to allow, with consent of an employee, the payment of wages to be made by prepaid debit card. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson). The bill was introduced at the request of Home Depot who wanted to get away from paying employees by paper checks. An amendment adopted by the Senate on Day 40 retained a check option for employees, and efforts by Home Depot representatives throughout the day to salvage their original bill's intent failed. GBA followed the bill because of threats to limit fees on prepaid debit cards, and we met with all concerned expressing our opposition to those restrictions. We expect to see a similar bill in 2015 session.

  • Ad Valorem Tax. H.B. 295 by Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville) was a proposed comprehensive rewrite of the statutes relating to the collection and filing requirements for ad valorem taxation. The final bill contained revised language GBA supported removing the term "fair market value" so that verbiage similar to the existing statutory requirement for stating value is retained. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), and a conference committee between House and Senate members was meeting when time ran out in the session.

  • Tax Executions. H.B. 819 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) would have revised the statute related to the sale of tax executions. Language supported by GBA related to the redemption of liens was added to the bill in the House. However, as the bill was originally intended to apply to the sale process rather than the redemption process, that language was removed by the Senate committee. Special thanks to Kevin Watters of The Watters Law Firm in Atlanta, who testified on GBA's behalf explaining this complex area of the law to the legislators. Watters specializes in these matters and represents a number of GBA members. The bill with the original language was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), and was pending a final vote in the Senate when time ran out in the session.

  • Foreclosure Study. S.R. 1186 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and H.R. 1643 by Rep. Paulette Braddock (R-Powder Springs) would have looked 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. No action was taken on the Senate resolution and a hearing was held on the House resolution. No vote was taken so the formal study committee was not created. That does not prevent an informal study committee from being formed, and that's certainly possible.

  • Foreclosure, Right to Cure. H.B. 47 by Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) would have given 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 but never went further.

  • Foreclosure Withdrawal/Notice of Completion. H.B. 903 by Rep. LaDawn Jones (D-Atlanta) would have required a notice to the debtor if a foreclosure is withdrawn prior to completion, would have allowed the debtor to remain in the property until the deed is filed post-foreclosure and would have required a notice of completion be sent to the debtor. A hearing was held on the bill by the House Banks and Banking Committee, but no further action was taken.

  • E-Discovery. S.B. 354 by Sen. Bill Cowsart (R-Athens) is similar to H.B. 643 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and would have created new provisions within the Georgia Civil Practice Act related to the discovery, preservation and production of electronically stored records. Extensive hearings were held on both bills. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce coordinated the proponents' efforts with significant pushback from the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. GBA followed the legislation as records maintained by our members would have been affected. The House version was taken up by the Senate but was defeated in a close vote. Click here to see how your Senator voted.

  • Forfeiture of Seized Assets. H.B. 1 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) proposed to revise and update statutes related to forfeitures. We followed the bill as it would have affected the way a financial institution may dispose of certain seized property, among other things. The bill was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, but received no further action primarily due to intense opposition from the Georgia Sheriff's Association.

  • Tax Sales - Redemption Costs to be Paid. H.B. 69 by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) would have added amounts owed to property owners' associations to the various costs to be paid to redeem property from a tax sale. GBA monitored the bill to ensure other amendments were not added. You may recall we successfully opposed legislation in the 2013 session that would have made lenders responsible for up to six months of unpaid HOA fees upon a foreclosure sale. There is still some support for that concept in the legislature, but no attempt was made to add such a provision to this bill this year. The Benton bill passed the House, was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, but no further action was taken.

  • Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards - Retail Usage Prohibitions. H.B. 138 by Rep. Andrew Welch
    (R-McDonough) would have prohibited the use of government benefits in certain retail establishments and for certain products and services, including buying gift cards. GBA was involved in having language added in the bill that would have allowed signage to be automatically displayed on the ATM screen and would have disallowed a private right of action against a federally insured financial institution presumably for non-compliance. The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), was reported out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, but was not brought up for a vote in the full Senate.

  • Condo Assessments. H.B. 854 by Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Marietta) would have required 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. The bill passed the House, was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), and was reported out of the Senate Finance Committee. However it was not brought up for a vote in the full Senate.

  • Security Freezes for Minors. H.B. 915 by Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) would have authorized 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 but never went further.

  • Liens for Towed Vehicles. H.B. 878 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) would have created 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. The bill passed the House, was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee, but no further action was taken on the bill.

  • Debt Settlement Companies. H.B. 1154 was introduced this week by Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) to create a regulatory scheme for debt settlement companies within the Department of Banking and Finance. The concept has been introduced in other forms in previous sessions. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The debt settlement companies want a regulatory scheme in place as state law apparently is unclear whether these firms can legally operate in Georgia. The non-profit consumer credit counseling agencies have adamantly opposed this legislation in the past and the bill will likely be used as a discussion draft for action in the 2015 session.

Tippins

Thompson

Strickland

Ramsey

Clark

Jones

Battles

Gooch

Stone

Martin

Albers

Unterman

Braddock

Mitchell

Jones

Cowsert

Willard

Benton

Welch

Jeffares

Dollar

Powell

Jacobs

 

Election Season is Already Upon Us

The sea of papers traditionally thrown by legislators at the conclusion of their annual session had hardly hit the floor of the chambers when the 2014 campaign season got officially underway. Ten incumbent House members and seven Senate members chose to retire or are seeking another office. Serving in public office takes an enormous amount of time and personal sacrifices. We've worked with these legislators over the years and will continue to follow them as they embark on their next journeys.

  • Rep. Carl Von Epps (D-LaGrange) is retiring. He was first elected in 1992.

  • Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Douglas) is retiring. He was first elected in 1996.

  • Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) is retiring. He was first elected in 2010.

  • Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle) is retiring. He was first elected in 2004.

  • Rep. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) is running for an open state Senate seat. He was first elected in 2000.

  • Rep. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) qualified for an open state Senate seat. There is no challenger, so barring unforeseen circumstances, he will join the Senate in 2015. He was first elected in 2010.

  • Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta) qualified for an open U.S. Congressional seat. He was first elected in 2004.

  • Rep. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) qualified for an open U.S. Congressional seat. He was first elected to the Senate in 2004, had a break in his service and was elected to the House in 2012.

  • Rep. Delvis Dutton (R-Glenville) qualified for an open U.S. Congressional seat. He was first elected in 2010.

  • Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) qualified for the open Georgia School Superintendent position. She was first elected in 2002.

  • Sen. John Crosby (R-Tifton), current Senate Banking & Financial Institutions Chairman is retiring. He was first elected in 2008.

  • Sen. Tim Golden (R-Valdosta) is retiring. He was first elected to the House in 1990 and the Senate in 1998.

  • Sen. Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) is retiring. He was first elected in 2004.

  • Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) is retiring. He was first elected in 2004.

  • Sen. Jason Carter (R-Decatur) qualified to run for Governor. He was first elected in 2010.

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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