March 11, 2016  

General Assembly Has Busy Week

The Legislature was in session Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week completing day 35 of the 40-day session. Committees are hard at work perfecting bills to get to the floor before the session ends. March 24 is the day currently scheduled for final adjournment.

Update on GBA’s Priority Bills

GBA is involved with over 75 bills this session. One of our “must pass” bills saw final legislative action this week:
Multibank Pledging Pool. On Monday, the House passed the GBA-requested multibank public deposit collateralization pool bill, SB 283, thereby clearing the bill for the Governor’s signature. Other than the supplemental budget passed earlier, this is the first bill to make it through the House and Senate this session. We appreciate all the courtesies the leadership and members of the General Assembly showed us by prioritizing the bill for quick passage. 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 optional 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. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) authored the bill and Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) handled the bill on the House floor.
Banking Department Housekeeping Bill. Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), author of the Banking Department’s annual housekeeping bill, HB 811, has requested the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), to schedule the bill for a Senate floor vote. 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. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) will be handling the bill when it’s scheduled for a floor vote.
GBA President and CEO Joe Brannen testifying before the House Banks and Banking Committee

Other GBA-monitored Bills Saw Action this Week

Banks Serving Firearms Dealers. We testified this week before the House Banks and Banking Committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia), against SB 282 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), the Georgia Firearms Industry Nondiscrimination Act. As originally introduced, the bill essentially said that if a bank chose not to do business with someone who has a federal license to sell firearms, the seller could sue the bank. The bank would then have to prove that the bank’s decision was for a reason other than the seller was related to the firearms industry. That provision was taken out in an amendment on the Senate floor, but the bill passed. Although watered down, we still oppose the bill as the remaining language gives the Attorney General the right to bring an action against a bank if he believes the bank is about to violate, is violating, or has violated the act. No other industry has such a carve-out as is being given the firearms industry, and we believe this sets a bad precedent. We also asked the committee to include a parity provision for state chartered banks should the OCC or federal courts rule the bill does not apply to nationally chartered banks. We told the committee the bill was in response to the federal Operation Choke Point initiative that has been stopped, so there is no need for the legislation. The committee did not take action on the bill, but we expect they will meet again soon to vote whether to report the bill. Here’s a link to the members of the House Banks and Banking Committee. If your representative is on that committee and you are as concerned about the bad precedent this legislation sets as we are, we encourage you to call your representative and ask that he or she oppose the bill. Click here to read what we said to the committee...
Water Liens. The House Judiciary Committee reported a revised version of SB 206 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick). The bill as currently written gives certain individuals and entities, specifically including lenders, the right to file a written request with a public or private water supplier inquiring about the existence of unpaid bills attributable to the property. GBA has successfully worked with the author and others to improve the bill and we will continue to weigh in as needed.
Unauthorized Practice of Law. The Senate Banking Committee reported 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.
Notaries. The Senate Special Judiciary Committee amended and reported HB 381 by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough). The bill makes significant revisions to the Georgia code dealing with notaries public. GBA is monitoring.
Real Estate Broker Paperwork. HB 869 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) was reported out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee this week. The bill removes the requirement for mortgage brokers to retain indefinitely copies of certain paperwork related to real estate sales transactions. GBA is monitoring.
Electronic Real Estate Filings. The Senate Special Judiciary Committee reported HB 1004 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper). The bill provides for the addition of electronic images of maps, plats and plans to be filed with the Clerk of Superior Court and into the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority registry. GBA is monitoring.
Benefit Cards. The House Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing on SB 389 by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta). The bill adds compliance rules for certain public benefit recipients to follow to continue receiving the benefits. The bill also would require benefit card issuers or ATM operators to disallow benefits when used when the card is presented in a range of establishments such as tattoo parlors and aboard cruise ships. An amended version removing the ATM provisions is in the works and we expect it to be considered next week. GBA is monitoring.
Foundations. The House Judiciary Committee reported SB 333 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). The bill provides a mechanism for foundations to re-domicile in Georgia. GBA supports.
Public Retirement Funds – Permissible Investments. The House Retirement Committee reported SB 335 by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta). The bill would add as eligible public retirement system investments comingled funds and collected investment funds managed by state-chartered banks and state-chartered trust companies. GBA supports.
Savings Accounts for the Disabled. The Senate Finance Committee reported HB 768 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville). The bill establishes a qualified ABLE program in Georgia so people can contribute to accounts to pay for qualified expenses such as education, housing and transportation, of eligible individuals with disabilities. The state program will be structured in compliance with federal rules so that contributions to the account may be eligible for a federal tax deduction. GBA is monitoring.
Animal Liens. The House Judiciary Committee reported SB 356 by Sen. Michael Williams. (R-Cumming), The bill revises the lien statute applying to impounded animals and establishes a procedure for foreclosing on such liens. GBA is monitoring.
Purchasing Cards. The Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee reported HB 949 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell). The bill would prohibit certain county officials from issuing purchasing cards without enacting regulations regarding their use. 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 one bill:
Ordinance Violation Notification. HB 1115 by Rep. Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain) provides a notice of an ordinance violation related to property may be left at the property, mailed to the owner address of record and recorded with the magistrate court in order to perfect an in rem judgment for fines. The bill is pending in the House Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee. 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.