March 17, 2016

General Assembly Down to Final Two Days

The Legislature was in session Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week completing day 38 of the 40-day session. They will go back in session Tuesday, and Thursday is slated for adjournment day.

Update on GBA’s Priority Bills

GBA is involved with over 75 bills this session. Take a look at the State Issues page on our website to see them all. One of our “must pass” bills saw action this week:
Banking Department Housekeeping Bill. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) handled the Department’s annual housekeeping bill, HB 811, on the Senate floor this week where it was amended with an unrelated title pawn issue and then overwhelmingly passed. The bill now goes back to the House to consider the Senate amendment. Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) will manage the House decision. 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.

Other GBA-monitored Bills Saw Action this Week

Banks Serving Firearms Dealers. SB 282 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), the Georgia Firearms Industry Nondiscrimination Act that GBA opposes, was amended onto another firearms bill, HB 1060, at Sen. Stone’s request by the Senate Judiciary Committee. New parity language in the amendment will cause the bill to not be applicable to state chartered banks if the OCC or federal courts rule it inapplicable to federally chartered banks. 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 even further with the parity language, 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. The bill was reported out of committee and next goes to the Senate Rules Committee chaired by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chicamauga) where they will decide whether to schedule the bill for a floor vote.
Garnishment. The House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) amended and reported 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. The committee amendments change the period to consider whether funds are in an account from 24 hours to five days. The 10-day response time (after days one through five) remains the same. The bill is scheduled for a House vote Tuesday. GBA supports.
Water Liens. The House passed an amended 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. The bill now goes back to the Senate for their consideration of the House amendments.
License and Surety Requirements of Livestock Dealers and Market Operators. The Senate amended and passed HB 876 by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn). The bill would update license and surety requirements of livestock dealers and livestock market operators. The bill adds letters of credit, certificates of deposit, or other written instruments issued or executed by lending institutions as acceptable surety instruments required for a license. The House must now decide whether to accept the Senate amendments. GBA supports.
Personal Income Tax Rate/Mortgage Interest Deduction. HB 238 from the 2015 session was amended to replace the content with another bill, HB 260, by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta). The bill reduces personal income tax rates and caps the mortgage interest deduction. GBA is monitoring.
Benefit Cards. The House Health and Human Services Committee amended and reported 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 amendment removed troublesome language related to ATMs and restricted the bill’s applicability to SNAP benefits. GBA is monitoring.
Public Retirement Funds – Permissible Investments. The House passed SB 335 by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta). The bill would add as eligible public retirement system investments comingled funds and collective investment funds managed by state-chartered banks and state-chartered trust companies. The House action clears the bill for the Governor’s signature. GBA supports.
Savings Accounts for the Disabled. The Senate passed 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. The Senate action cleared the bill for the Governor’s signature. GBA is monitoring.
J. Hill
H. Hill

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.