March 24, 2017 

Georgia General Assembly Down to Two Legislative Days

The Legislature completed Day 38 of its 40-day session Friday. Earlier in the week, legislators passed the fiscal 2018 budget, which clears the way for them to deal with dozens of bills reported by committees and awaiting scheduling for floor action by the House or Senate Rules Committees. It was a busy week for legislation affecting bankers with one of our priority bills receiving final action and another we’ve expressed concerns about being held over for next session. Legislators will return Tuesday for what is traditionally the last day to consider bills for the first time on the floor and then go back into session Thursday to deal primarily with conference reports on bills that passed each body in differing forms with the conference reports presented as compromises between the two versions.
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Rep. Beth Beskin and
Sen. John Kennedy

Directors and Officers Liability Bill Headed to Governor’s Desk

Our thanks to Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) who ably explained GBA’s priority bill of the session and got it passed overwhelmingly in the Senate. HB 192 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) was introduced in response to a Georgia Supreme Court decision and a subsequent federal jury trial that both involved certain directors and officers of the former Buckhead Community Bank. Commonly referred to as the Loudermilk decision, the court bifurcated the standard of care by which directors and officers will be held accountable for their decision making process and the decisions themselves. Prior to the court’s ruling, the presumption was that a gross negligence standard of care applied to both the process and decisions. However, the court ruled the decision making process could be reviewed under an ordinary negligence standard. The bill removes the bifurcation and is intended to restore the gross negligence standard to both the process and decisions.
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Ligon Morris

State House and Senate Salute GBA’s 125th Year

On Sept. 14 GBA will mark its 125th anniversary of serving Georgia’s banks and our state. Our thanks go out to Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) and Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) for being the lead sponsors of SR 455 and HR 648, companion resolutions in their respective chambers honoring GBA and recognizing the contributions of our state’s banks to the benefit of all Georgians. “Whereas, because of the inseparable link between the success of the banking industry in Georgia and the success of Georgia's communities, businesses, and families, it is fitting and proper to recognize the contributions of the Georgia Bankers Association and its member banks and bankers,” says one clause of the resolutions.
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Shafer Meadows

Save, Earn, Win Act Cleared by Committee

The House Banks and Banking Committee chaired by Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) met this week and reported SB 134 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth). The bill authorizes banks and credit unions to offer a deposit account with a raffle component to encourage savings. Such accounts were authorized by Congress in 2014 with the passage of The American Savings Promotion Act. A number of other states have passed similar authorizing legislation and GBA participated in a news conference with Sen. Shafer discussing the benefits of such a program for Georgia. The Committee’s vote clears the bill for consideration by the House Rules Committee chaired by Rep. John Meadows (R-Chatsworth).

Self-settled Trust Bill Held for Next Session

The Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee chaired by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) held a hearing on HB 441 by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem). The bill creates a new trust instrument in Georgia that allows the creator of the trust to also be the beneficiary of the trust. The bill has been considered in each of the last three sessions and GBA has suggested changes to the legislation over the years. We cautioned legislators that the creation of such a trust is a significant departure from more traditional trust instruments and suggested they make sure they were comfortable with the policy change. And that’s what mostly came up in the hearing this week. The proponents of the bill explained that it was intended to shield assets of wealthy individuals from creditors while increasing trust business for banks. Senators on the committee asked pointed questions that raised a number of policy implications that heretofore had not been addressed. The Fiduciary Law Section of the State Bar has not taken a position on the bill, but several members of the section attended the meeting as individual attorneys and agreed with many of the same concerns raised by the Senators. Representatives from both Synovus Bank and SunTrust Bank testified against the bill saying they understood from their teammates in some of the other 17 states that have adopted somewhat similar legislation that the result was not an increase in trust business as was being suggested by the advocates, but that a few wealthy individuals were creating such trusts to shield assets making it more difficult to satisfy judgments. Chairman Ligon decided that the bill needs much more work and announced it would be held until next session to give both sides time to get together to perfect the legislation.

Stone Hopes to Create Foreclosure Study Committee

Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) introduced SR 481 which if approved, will create a study committee to determine if Sen. Stone’s bill, SB 86 introduced earlier this year, is needed to prevent lenders from having borrowers waive confirmation following a foreclosure. As we’ve reported, Sen. Stone’s original legislation goes much further than waiving confirmation. His bill also adds judgments and levys to the real estate sales subject to a mandatory confirmation process in order to pursue a deficiency. While his resolution says the intent is to deal with unscrupulous lenders, we all know the statutes apply to all lenders and our members tell us they will see an adverse effect if his original bill is passed. Sen. Stone and the Senate President Pro Tem will serve as co-chairs of the study committee. The other members of the study committee will be comprised of the Lt. Governor who will also appoint three senators to the committee; two senators appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem; the Senate majority leader who will also appoint two senators; two senators appointed by the Senate minority leader; and two practicing attorneys appointed by Sen. Stone who are not members of the Senate.

In Other Action this Week

Power of Attorney. The Senate passed HB 221 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula). The bill is essentially a rewrite of the current power of attorney statute. Our thanks to Rep. Efstration for making a number of changes we recommended in the legislation. The bill needs to go back to the House for further consideration. GBA supports.
Statewide Tax Lien Registry. HB 337 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) was unanimously passed by the Senate this week clearing the bill for the Governor’s signature. The bill creates a new process by which state tax liens will be registered at the state level. The bill is a priority of the Department of Revenue. GBA has been monitoring.
Fair Business Practices – Solicitation of Real Estate Conveyance Instruments. HB 197 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. The bill requires any mail solicitations for services to obtain a copy of an instrument conveying real estate to be in large type and contain specific language indicating the mailing is a solicitation, not a bill. GBA is monitoring.
Home Owners Association Governance. HB 203 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. The bill establishes new procedures for how home owners associations may expand their scope and changes certain related governance restrictions. GBA is monitoring.
Eminent Domain. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported HB 434 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs). The bill would revise the current statute to include provisions related to blighted property. GBA is monitoring.
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Efstration Williamson Teasley Strickland Willard

New Bills Added to our Tracking List This Week

We add bills almost daily to our tracking list that can be found on the State Issues Page of our website. Bookmark that page if you're interested in following all the goings on at the State Capitol. Here are the bills we added this week:
School Resource Officers. SB 149 by Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) was originally introduced to add certain requirements for school resource officers. We just learned the bill was amended by the House Public Safety Committee to add a number of provisions related to inmates. Of interest to our industry is language that makes it a criminal act for anyone to give an inmate a stored value card, the account number of a stored value card, or the personal identification number of a stored value card. There is certainly no intent for that provision to include financial institutions, although it appears the language could be interpreted to do that. GBA has alerted the appropriate legislators of our concerns.
Senate Study Committee on Cyber Security Education. SR 454 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) creates a study committee to consider the importance of high school curriculum studies in the area of cyber security. GBA is monitoring.
Senate Information Technology Corridor Study Committee. SR 410 by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville) would create a study committee to look at the idea of establishing specific corridors in Georgia that would directly foster the growth of information technology. GBA is monitoring.

The Capitol Family

Please excuse this personal note from the GBA advocacy team, but we wanted to share it with you. If you’ve ever been to the State Capitol when the General Assembly is in session, you’ve probably scratched your head wondering how anything gets done. You see legislators vigorously debating issues on the floor or in committees, crowds of citizens visiting either as individuals or as part of an organization’s “Day at the Capitol,” a big herd of lobbyists talking to anyone who will listen about their issue of the moment, the always professional Capitol law enforcement officers who keep us all safe, and the calm year-round staff that has the tough job of making the process function smoothly. What you don’t see are the personal relationships that develop over the years between those of us that have been thrown together in this caldron of government under the Gold Dome. We get to know each other on a personal level. We celebrate weddings, births, anniversaries and promotions and we give lots of hugs when we learn of sorrows. It’s truly an amazing thing that the Capitol “family” can put aside differences on issues, differences on political views and differences on just about everything else that tends to divide us and come together on a personal level when a member of our family is hurting. We saw that today when a huge crowd of the lobbyist branch of the Capitol family gathered with the Speaker for the picture shown here that is being sent as a reminder that we’re all thinking of one of the most beloved and longest serving House staff members, Elaine Myers. Elaine is home struggling with a dire health diagnosis. In a joint statement, GBA’s advocacy team, Elizabeth, Steve and Joe said, “Elaine exemplifies all that’s good in a person. She’s never been too busy to help anyone who crossed her path. She’s touched more lives in her years at the Capitol than most. She’s given us great counsel. And she’s been a true friend.” The whole Capitol family is keeping Elaine in our thoughts and prayers.

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. 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.