March 31, 2017 

Georgia General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die

“Without Day” is the translation of the Latin term Sine Die, and in the context of how the term is used with the General Assembly, it means the legislators have finished their annual 40-day session. From our perspective, the session went smoothly and our priority legislation was dealt with fairly and efficiently. There will be no shortage of legislative activity between now and next Jan. 8 when legislators return for the second year of their two-year biennial. We’ll be involved with a number of study committees looking at things like the fintech industry and cyber security. Legislators are busy throughout the year, and we’ll be covering any news of note in our weekly GBA Bulletin. This is the final edition of our Legislative Update for the session. All the bills we monitored can be found on the State Issues Page of our website.

GBA Priority Bills Awaiting Governor Deal’s Signature

We monitored 45 bills this session working with legislators to gain support for our priorities, amend bills to address concerns, or ask that bills be held that would have been detrimental to our members’ efforts to serve the needs of their communities. The Governor will spend the next four weeks reviewing the legislation passed by the General Assembly and is expected to sign most, including our two priority bills. Here’s more information about those:
Modernizing Georgia Business Judgment Rule. H.B. 192 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) will enhance the liability protection for board members and bank officers in their decision-making process. In FDIC v. Loudermilk, the Georgia Supreme Court bifurcated the decision-making process from the decision. In simple terms, the results of the case were that directors and officers would be held accountable for their decisions under a gross negligence standard of care, while being held accountable for their decision-making process under an ordinary negligence standard of care. The bill removes the bifurcation and both the decision-making process and the decision will be judged under a gross negligence standard. The bill passed the House on a vote of 128 to 40. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) handled the bill in the Senate where it passed on a vote of 41 to 10.
Georgia Department of Banking and Finance Housekeeping Bill. H.B. 143 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) includes important provisions that the GBA Code Review Task Force recommended as the culmination of their three-year project to update Georgia’s banking laws. Of note, the bill includes a streamlined calculation for legal lending limits, the ability of the Department to directly examine third party service providers, gives state chartered institutions the ability to conduct business on Sundays to give them parity with national banks, adds the option of providing minors electronic access to accounts, streamlines the Department’s subpoena process, authorizes pay-by-phone fees, expands the circumstances for board member removal by the financial institution and modernizes the process for the issuance of subordinated debt. The bill passed the House on a vote of 166 to 1. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) and passed the Senate on a vote of 44 to 8. Our thanks go out to the task force chair, Brad Miller, General Counsel at United Community Banks, Inc., Blairsville, and DBF’s Bo Fears, Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs, who served as scrivener, for their hard work with the task force to ensure the Georgia banking code is among the best in the nation.

Other Bills GBA Monitored Passed This Session

Here’s a list of the major bills we were involved with this session that passed and are awaiting the Governor’s signature:
Power of Attorney. HB 221 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) 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. GBA supports.
Livestock Dealers and Auctions – Surety Requirement. HB 49 by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) adds letters of credit, certificates of deposit and other instruments issued by lending institutions to the surety bond options for livestock dealers and licensed auction houses to use as bond to cover losses resulting from the failure to pay the purchase price for animals being sold. GBA supports.
Tax Credits – Rural Georgia Revitalization. HB 73 by Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville) provides tax credit incentives to promote the revitalization of vacant rural Georgia downtowns by encouraging investment, job creation, and economic growth in long-established business districts. GBA supports.
Fair Business Practices – Solicitation of Real Estate Conveyance Instruments. HB 197 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) would require 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 supports.
Corporate Registrations. HB 87 by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) makes the current annual corporate registration requirement good for three years. GBA monitored.
Maps, Plats, Plan Filings. HB 76 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) makes several changes to legislation passed in the 2016 session creating a more user-friendly system for the filing of maps, plats and plans for real estate. This bill mostly deals with condominium projects and land surveyors. GBA monitored.
Eminent Domain. HB 434 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) would revise the current statute to include provisions related to blighted property. GBA monitored.
Electronic Lien and Title – Commercial Vehicles. HB 412 by Rep. Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville) expands the current electronic lien and title program to certain commercial motor vehicles. GBA supported.
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 monitored.
Appraisers, Real Estate Agents, Salespersons – Disciplinary Action. HB 39 by Rep. Alan Powell gives a 10-day period for any of the affected licensees to notify the licensing board of convictions of certain offences and replaces the requirement for automatic revocation of a license to a permissive process. GBA monitored.
Firearms Licensees Right to Financial Services. HB 292 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) was introduced to update several provisions of the Georgia code related to firearms. The bill was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) to include a provision he requested that establishes for the first time in Georgia law, a protected class for anyone having a federal firearms license. The bill, if signed by the Governor, will require any individual or business to provide financial services to a licensee unless there is a reason not to, other than the fact they are holding a firearms license. Sen. Stone included language we requested last year removing a private right of action and having the Attorney General enforce the statute. He also included preemption language requested by the Banking Department should the provision be ruled inapplicable to nationally-chartered banks by the OCC. GBA monitored.
Bankruptcy – Extinguish Liens/HSAs, MSAs. SB 87 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) creates a new process to extinguish certain liens against property after the debtor has been discharged from his debts in a bankruptcy proceeding. Sen. Stone was able to get the House to amend onto this bill, language from another of his bills, SB 71 that adds Health Savings Accounts and Medical Savings Accounts to the list of property that is exempt from bankruptcy. GBA monitored.
GBA’s 125th Anniversary. Our thanks 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 on the occasion of GBA’s upcoming 125th anniversary.

Issues Held Over to 2018 Session

All legislation that did not receive final action will automatically carry over to the 2018 legislative session. Among the major bills we expect to be involved with are:
Foreclosure – Confirmation Waiver Prohibition. SB 86 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) creates a mandatory confirmation process when pursuing any deficiency on real estate collateral and adds levys and judgments to the types of liens subject to this mandatory process. The bill also prohibits contracts from including language to waive the requirement. You may recall reading in an earlier Legislative Update that Sen. Stone introduced separate legislation to create a study committee to review the need for this bill. The Senate did not agree to create that study committee. However, Sen. Stone was successful in having the Senate vote to move the bill from the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee where no hearing was scheduled and put it in the Senate Judiciary Committee that he chairs for consideration next session. GBA is opposed to the bill as introduced.
Self-settled Trusts. HB 441 by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) creates a new trust instrument in Georgia that allows the creator of the trust to also be the beneficiary of the trust. The bill passed the House and a hearing was held by the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee where no action was taken after bankers testified against the bill in its current form. We anticipate those advocating for the bill to sit down with bank lawyers during the interim to see if common ground can be reached.
FAST Act: Fairness, Accountability, Simplification and Transparency. SB 2 by Sen. Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) sets a process in place for local and state governmental bodies to establish time lines for an application approval process and penalties mostly in the form of reduced fees for not adhering to the timeline. The bill is intended to help businesses navigate a sometimes complex and time consuming maze of state and local permitting, licensing, zoning and other requirements in order to do business. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is among those behind the legislation and it passed the Senate, but not the House. GBA supports.
Trust Code Revisions. HB 121 and HB 122 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) are the result of the work of the Trust Code Revision Committee of the State Bar’s Fiduciary Law Section and we appreciate David Miraldi of SunTrust Bank who represented GBA in their deliberations. H.B. 121 deals with minor or unborn beneficiaries; changes provisions relating to nonjudicial settlement agreements, the modification and termination of noncharitable trusts, and distribution to another trust; and changes provisions relating to modification or termination of uneconomic trusts. H.B. 122 deals with the Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities, so as to change provisions relating to the validity of nonvested property interest or power of appointment; and changes provisions relating to reform of disposition by court to approximate transferor's plan of distribution among other things. The bills were reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, but did not advance further. GBA supports.
Boat Titling. HB 357 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Garden City bill creates a process by which boats and other watercraft will be titled. The bill passed the House and was reported out of the Senate Finance Committee, but did not receive a final vote. GBA supports.
Save, Earn, Win Act. SB 134 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) authorizes banks and credit unions to offer a deposit account with a raffle component to encourage savings. GBA supports.
Abandoned Mobile Homes. HB 381 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) would establish a new procedure for the disposal of abandoned mobile homes. We met several times with Rep. Corbett and he heard from others as well about various provisions in the bill. We expect the bill may be brought up again in the 2017. GBA will monitor.
Property Tax Bills. HB 204 by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) would prohibit any non-tax fees to be included on an ad valorem tax bill. The bill passed the House and was reported out of the Senate Finance Committee but did not receive a final vote. GBA monitored.
Wire Transfer Fee. HB 66 by Rep. Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) would mandate a $10 fee for certain wire transfers and allow those paying the fee to recoup the fee when filing their next annual tax return. GBA has serious concerns with the bill and we appreciate Rep. Jones listening and making changes to the bill.

GBA’s Advocacy Team at the Capitol

Led by GBA’s Senior Vice President, Government Relations, Elizabeth Chandler, GBA was at the Capitol every day advocating on behalf of our members. Also at the Capitol were 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.