February 12, 2016  

General Assembly Reaches Half-way Point

The Legislature was in session Monday through Thursday this week completing day 20 of the 40-day session. The members will be in session Tuesday through Friday next week.

GBA’s Priority Bills Pass on Strong Floor Votes

Both of GBA’s priority bills were passed in their bodies of origin this week thereby clearing the bills for action by the other body.
Multibank Pledging Pool. The Senate passed the GBA-requested multibank public deposit collateralization pool bill, SB 283. The bill establishes a third collateralization option for banks doing business with public depositors. This option will be a contingent liability pool comprised of all the banks with over $50 billion in assets doing business in Georgia and other banks qualified as state depositories and approved by the State Depository Board. In return for the cross-guarantee, banks may be eligible for a lowered collateralization percentage from the current 110 percent of the public deposit. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) ably handled the bill on the Senate floor. He successfully beat back an amendment from Sen. Mike Crane (R-Newnan) that would have essentially rendered the bill useless. The vote on final passage was 51-3. The bill is pending in the House Banks and Banking Committee chaired by Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) where a hearing is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 16. Sen. Kennedy will present the bill and if they vote to move the bill forward as we expect, Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) will be handling the bill in the House.
Banking Department Housekeeping Bill. The House passed the Department’s annual housekeeping bill, HB 811 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). Much of the bill was the work product of the public-private Code Review Task Force chaired by Brad Miller, United Community Bank, Blairsville. Among the issues covered by the bill: 1) recognizes the preemption of the DBF’s role in approving branches of out-of-state institutions, 2) removes prohibitions for state-chartered banks to charge a fee to cash “on us” checks; 3) removes the reserve requirements referenced in Federal Reserve Regulation D so that the provisions will only be applicable to institutions whose deposits are not federally insured; 4) removes the authority of the DBF to present a case directly to a grand jury; 5) reduces the violation of an institution’s charter or bylaws to a misdemeanor from a felony; 6) authorizes banks to participate in cross-guaranty state-level collateral pools; 7) clarifies that interactive ATMs are not branches; and 8) establishes a regulatory structure for virtual currencies. Other sections of the bill apply only to credit unions or non-bank entities registered with or supervised by the DBF. The bill now moves to the Senate where we expect it will be assigned to the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee chaired by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson).

Other GBA-monitored Bills Saw Action this Week

Garnishment. The Senate passed SB 255 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). The bill is intended to address the reasons a federal judge ruled portions of Georgia’s garnishment statute unconstitutional. Efforts to improve the bill on the floor by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) were unsuccessful. The Senate-passed bill was subsequently reported out of the full House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs). There still seems to be conflicts in the bill and those will need to be addressed either in this bill or another, and we will continue to work with the various stakeholders.
Banks Serving Firearms Dealers. The Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee chaired by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) reported out SB 282, the Georgia Firearms Industry Nondiscrimination Act by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). The bill prohibits the discriminatory refusal to provide credit or financial services to persons engaged in the lawful commerce of firearms or ammunition products and their trade associations. The bill essentially means that there has to be a reason other than the fact that the business has a federal license to sell firearms for the relationship to be affected. Three people representing the firearms industry testified about their anecdotal experience of losing account relationships that they felt were because they were related to the firearms industry. GBA’s Elizabeth Chandler testified against the bill saying that we were unaware of any banks refusing to do business with firearms dealers, the bill creates an unlevel playing field between state- and nationally-chartered banks, and the private right of action created for the firearms industry is a bad precedent. Others testifying against the bill made similar points. The committee voted to move the bill to the Senate Rules Committee chaired by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga). GBA will continue to work against the bill.
Unauthorized Practice of Law. The full House passed HB 759, the bill by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) that clarifies credit unions have parity with other financial institutions so that loan closings may be done without the use of an attorney in limited situations. GBA is monitoring.
Real Estate Broker Paperwork. HB 869 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) was reported out of the House Regulated Industries Committee chaired by Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas). The bill removes the requirement for mortgage brokers to retain indefinitely copies of certain paperwork related to real estate sales transactions. The bill is pending in the House Rules Committee. GBA is monitoring.

Other Bills Introduced This Week

We add bills daily to our tracking list as they’re introduced throughout the session. Be sure and watch the State Issues page on our website for updates. This week we added several bills.
Liens – Water. SB 206 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) would establish a process for liens on properties for nonpayment of water service to be appropriately filed as a public record so they can be identified and known at the time of a real estate closing. As drafted, it appears those liens would be placed ahead of mortgages which was not the intent of the author. GBA is opposed to the bill in its current form and efforts are underway by the author to address our concerns.
Public Retirement Funds – Permissible Investments. SB 335 by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) would add as eligible public retirement system investment s comingled funds and collected investment funds managed by state-chartered banks and state-chartered trust companies. GBA supports.
Powers of Attorney. HB 918 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) would apply uniform terms, conditions and requirements relating to powers of attorney to various code sections. GBA monitoring.

Tax Sales – Property Maintenance. HB 938 by Rep. Brian Prince (D-Augusta) would establish that the purchaser of property at a tax sale is responsible for proper maintenance of the property during the period from the sale through the foreclosure of the right of redemption. If the property is redeemed by the original owner, the owner would pay reasonable costs incurred for maintenance during that period to the purchaser. GBA monitoring.
Pawnbrokers – Installment Transactions. SB 371 by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough) would establish an "installment pawn transaction." Currently pawn transactions are only single-payment type obligations. This bill would allow a pawn transaction that can be repaid monthly for a term up to 24 months. GBA monitoring.
Purchasing Cards. HB 949 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) would prohibit certain county officials from issuing purchasing cards without enacting regulations regarding their use. GBA monitoring.

GBA’s Advocacy Team at the Capitol

Led by GBA’s Senior Vice President, Government Relations, Elizabeth Chandler, GBA is at the Capitol every day advocating on behalf of our members. Also at the Capitol are GBA’s government relations consultant Steve Bridges and GBA President and CEO Joe Brannen. If you’re going to be around the Capitol with your local chamber, a leadership group, or bringing someone to page, be sure and let us know as we’d love to visit with you and let you know what’s happening that day. Legislators also like to see their hometown constituents taking an interest in their work and we’ll help you get connected. With questions about GBA legislation, other issues of interest, or anything related to the legislative process, contact Elizabeth at 404.420.2027, Steve at 404.420.2037, or Joe at 404.420.2026.