February 5, 2016  

Busy Week in General Assembly

The Legislature was in session Monday through Thursday completing day 16 of the 40-day session. The members will return next week and be in session Monday through Thursday. Committees were active in perfecting legislation and passing the bills on to the Rules committees of the House and Senate. Several bills important to our members saw action.

GBA’s Priority Bills Reported out of Committees

Both of GBA’s priority bills were the subject of hearings this week and favorably reported for further action.
Multibank Pledging Pool. The Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee chaired by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) met to consider the GBA-requested multibank public deposit collateralization pool bill, SB 283. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) is the author and did a great job presenting the bill to his colleagues on the committee. In addition to GBA President and CEO Joe Brannen, also testifying in support of the bill were Banking Commissioner Kevin Hagler and State Treasurer Steve McCoy. 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 voluntary for 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. The committee unanimously reported the bill. In subsequent action, the Senate Rules Committee chaired by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), scheduled the bill for a floor vote in the Senate on Monday.
Banking Department Housekeeping Bill. The House Banks and Banking Committee chaired by Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) met twice this week to consider 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, and made up of members of the GBA’s Bank Counsel Section and senior department staff with Deputy Commissioner for Legal and Consumer Affairs, Bo Fears, serving as scrivener. 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 was reported out of committee on Thursday and is now eligible for the House Rules Committee to schedule floor action.

Other GBA-monitored Bills Saw Action this Week

Garnishment. The Senate Judiciary Committee this week amended and reported SB 255 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). The bill was introduced to address the reasons a federal judge ruled portions of Georgia’s garnishment statute unconstitutional. The bill is the result of a task force put together at the request of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs). Adam Cleveland of the Thompson O’Brien firm in Norcross, a GBA associate member, and Ellen Fleming, an in-house attorney at SunTrust, served on the Task Force representing the interests of financial institutions. At the hearing, Cleveland and other attorneys who primarily represented creditors raised several issues that would continue to improve the bill. A couple of helpful changes were made, as were some that will need further work. We will continue to work with Sen. Stone and others to make the bill more palatable while still complying with the federal court’s ruling.
Boat titling. A House Ways and Means Subcommittee reported HB 356, a bill by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) to establish a boat and boat motor titling program using the same Electronic Lien Titling process currently used for motor vehicles The full committee will consider the bill when a fiscal note has been prepared. GBA supports the concept.
Data Center Tax Credit/Exemptions. A subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on HB 487 by Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta) that possibly would be helpful to banks operating their data centers in Georgia. No further action was taken on the bill.
529 Savings Account Tax Deduction Increase. The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing and reported out HB 802 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta). If passed, the tax deduction for joint return filers for annual contributions to 529 college savings plans will increase from $2,000 to $4,000.
Tax Exempt Savings Accounts for the Disabled. A subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee reported HB 768 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville). The bill would establish a qualified program in Georgia so people can contribute to tax-exempt accounts to pay for qualified expenses such as education, housing and transportation of eligible individuals with disabilities. This is a national initiative and is commonly referred to as an ABLE account, which stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience.
Cyber Security Study Committee. The Senate Science and Technology Committee met this week to get an update on the growing importance of the growing Financial Technologies and Financial Security industries in Georgia. The committee also reported out SR 360 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) that establishes a study committee to consider the security of information held by state agencies.
Unauthorized Practice of Law. The House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. John Meadows (R-Calhoun), has scheduled HB 759 for a floor vote in the House Monday. The bill by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) clarifies that credit unions have parity with other financial institutions so that loan closings may be done without the use of an attorney in limited situations.
Georgia State Small Business Credit Initiatives. A joint meeting of the House Banks and Banking Committee and the House Small Business Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch), heard good news from Holly Hunt of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs as she briefed members on the success of the Georgia State Small Business Credit Initiatives. Hunt told members of the important roles banks play by working in concert with the Department in making loans that likely would not be made were it not for the state funding piece. She gave examples of several projects where the businesses were startups and needed operating capital. The banks financed the portions of the loans related to real estate on the project and the state funded the operating capital portions. Hunt distributed a map showing broad support of the program statewide and encouraged legislators to talk with their local bankers if their area is not yet being served by these funds.

New Bills Introduced This Week

We add bills 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 three bills.
Free Security Freezes. SB 306 by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville) would prohibit credit reporting services from charging a fee to freeze or remove a freeze on their credit reports to individuals who have been notified of a potential breach of security involving their personal information. Notice of a breach by telephone is also being removed as an option. The bill has been assigned to the House Science and Technology Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Real Estate Broker Paperwork. HB 869 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) 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 Regulated Industries Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Industrial Loans. HB 891 by Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) authorizes alternative rate charges for industrial loans and changes the name of industrial loans to installment loans. GBA is monitoring.
Tax Execution Registry. HB 912 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) creates a new statewide Tax Execution Registry to record tax liens. The bill was introduced at the request of the Department of Revenue and is being assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Financial Technologies and Payment Processing Industry Incentives. SR 883 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) creates a joint committee to study the financial technology and payment processing industries to determine if additional incentives would be helpful to these companies to expand their businesses in Georgia. The bill is pending in the Senate Science and Technology Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Fair Business Practice Act Violations. HB 914 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) creates a violation of the Fair Business Practice Act if a mail solicitation for certain real estate related services is not marked as a solicitation. GBA is 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.