February 23, 2018 

General Assembly Has Busy Week
The Georgia General Assembly was in session Tuesday through Friday this week, completing the 26th day of their 40-day session. This was one of the busiest weeks so far this legislative session as committees continued to report lots of bills and the House and Senate daily floor calendars became lengthy. The General Assembly will convene again Monday and will also be in session Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday, the 28th legislative day, is designated as Crossover Day which means that legislation not having passed its body of origination is unlikely to be considered further this session. Crossover Day usually runs late into the evening as legislators scramble to get their priority legislation passed.
Both GBA Priority Bills Receive Action This Week – One We Support/One We Oppose
Department Housekeeping Bill. The House unanimously passed HB 780 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) which is the Banking Department’s housekeeping bill. The legislation continues to build on the good work done by the GBA Code Review Task Force in two primary areas: allowing shareholders to give boards of directors additional liability protection and expanding the existing parity provisions to ensure state chartered banks remain in a competitively equal position with nationally chartered banks. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee chaired by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) and we expect a hearing soon. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) will be handling the bill in the Senate.
Foreclosure – Confirmation Waiver Prohibition. Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) held a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee which he chairs on SB 86. This is his legislation that would change the way real estate is handled following foreclosure. After meeting with his constituent bankers, us and others, Sen. Stone has made several positive changes to his original bill. The bill has been narrowed to prevent guarantors from contracting to waive their right to a confirmation following a foreclosure sale; however, we oppose the legislation because of the significant change this would make to underwriting decisions. In a joint statement to the Committee, GBA’s Joe Brannen and CBA’s Lori Godfrey reminded the Committee that by not making significant changes to the foreclosure statutes during the downturn, as some had proposed, that actually helped Georgia come out of the downturn faster than many other states. They said SB 86 would be a step in the wrong direction. Our thanks to Rick Drews, Century Bank of Georgia, Cartersville;Clark Hungerford, Vinings Bank, Smyrna; Bret Thrasher, Thompson, O'Brien, Kemp & Nasuti, P.C., Peachtree Corners; and John Sillay, James Bates Brannan Groover, LLP, for also testifying on behalf of the industry. Several other witnesses testified in support of the bill and almost all encouraged Sen. Stone to greatly expand his bill and require all foreclosure sales to be confirmed if the sale does not extinguish the debt. No vote was taken and we will continue to engage with Sen. Stone as he determines his next steps.
Floor Action This Week
The House and Senate both had long calendars this week and the following bills were passed on the floor:
Bank Alarm Companies. The House passed HB 826 by Rep. Geoff Cauble (R-Locust Grove) that allows alarm companies to auto-dispatch law enforcement without verification when an alarm is triggered as long as the company’s contract with the alarm company provides such a provision. The bill also applies to firearms and pharmaceutical companies.
Statewide Lien Registry. The House took action to send to the Governor HB 661 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). The bill reworks the statewide tax lien registry passed last year to correct some unintended consequences. The bill essentially retains local county filing requirements and eliminates a problematic certification process related to outstanding tax liens that would have complicated the closing of real estate transactions.
Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets. The Senate passed SB 301 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). The bill is recommended by the Uniform Law Commissioners and relates to the fiduciary access to digital assets. The bill is the result of several years of work by the Commissioners and has been adopted by most other states including all those that surround Georgia. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Higher Education Savings Accounts. The House passed HB 664 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) mostly along party lines. The bill doubles the income tax deduction for contributions to higher education savings trust accounts for individual filers to $4,000 per beneficiary and to $8,000 per beneficiary for joint filers.
Waste Management Fees. The House passed HB 693 by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) that removes the authorization for local governments to collect unpaid waste management fees in the same manner as if these fees were taxes or other assessments. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Natural and Resources Environment Committee.
Motor Vehicle Fair Market Value. The House passed HB 327 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) changing the method by which the fair market value of certain motor vehicles is determined. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee.
Four bills were passed coming from recommendations made by special committees charged with focusing on rural Georgia:
  1. Broadband Access. The Senate passed SB 402 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dawsonville) that authorizes the state Department of Transportation to deploy broadband technology along interstate highway right-of-way.

  2. Rural Hospital Tax Credit. The House passed HB 827 by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Rockmart) that raises the limitation of an individual’s, couple’s or corporation’s (including Sub S corp’s) qualified rural hospital contribution allowable for deduction from individual, joint or corporate tax returns from 90 to 100 percent and removes the sunset date of the tax. Existing total limits of the deduction remain in place ($5,000 individual, $10,000 couple and 75 percent of corporate tax due). The bill has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee.

  3. Short-line Railroad Tax Credit. The House passed HB 735 by Rep. Patty Bentley (D-Butler) that creates a state tax credit for short-line railroads similar to a federal tax credit.
  4. Rural Healthcare Initiatives. The House passed HB 769 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) that contains the healthcare recommendations from the House Rural Development Council. Among those are the elimination of the requirement for a pharmacist to be present at all times in a hospital pharmacy; expediting the credentialing process for access to state medical plans; the establishment of the Rural Center for Healthcare Innovation and Sustainability; and the creation of a new entity called a micro hospital. 
Committees Considered Bills of Interest
It was another busy week for committees as they were holding the last meetings to perfect and report bills to the Rules Committees of their respective bodies. The GBA Capitol team was busy helping answer questions and making formal presentations to several committees. Here are the highlights:
Foreclosure – Military Service Members. The House Banks and Banking Committee adopted several amendments we suggested to HB 676 by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Hiram). The bill is intended to create a state-level protection for military service members on active duty facing foreclosure action.Our thanks to Rep. Rakestraw for working with us on the new language so as to not create uncertainty for service members or their mortgage companies. The committee reported the revised bill.
Healthcare Provider Choice of Payment. The House Insurance Committee reported HB 818 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville). The bill was amended in committee to remove language outside the intent of the bill and our thanks to Rep. Hawkins for working with us on the issue. As passed, health care providers will continue to be able to decide the type of payments they receive for services. A minor procedural issue arose and the Rules Committee sent the bill back to the Insurance Committee to be reported again. We expect that to be done next week.
Funeral Expenses. The House Judiciary Committee amended and reported HB 689 by Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville). As originally introduced, the bill would have removed the 90-day waiting period for a financial institution to pay up to $10,000 out of an intestate depositor’s account for funeral expenses and required funeral expenses to be paid before any other expenses. GBA’s Elizabeth Chandler testified asking that most of the language be restored and the committee agreed. As reported, the only change in current procedures is that the 90 day timeframe for beneficiaries to claim money in a bank account is reduced to 45 days before the bank can pay out money for funeral expenses. Our thanks to Rep. Williams for working with us on the changes.
Letters of Credit. SB 465 by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) was introduced this week and was intended to clarify that certain fees for letters of credit would be considered fees and not interest for usury purposes. The Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee met to consider the legislation. However, after listening to some questions GBA raised with Sen. Black about how the bill might be interpreted in ways not intended, he chose to remove the bill from the committee’s calendar. Our thanks to Sen. Black for his consideration.
Financial Institution Tax Credit. The Senate Finance Committee amended and reported SB 432 by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell). As introduced, the bill would have abolished the financial institution tax credit as of Dec. 31, 2019. The credit was part of a comprehensive rewrite of the bank taxation laws in the early 1980s due to the Supreme Court ruling the method in place at the time was unconstitutional. The tax credit was included to prevent a huge windfall to the state. As amended, instead of abolishing the credit, the state auditor will conduct an economic analysis including the change in state revenue, the cost to the state to administer the credit, the net changes in economic activity and net change in public benefit resulting from the credit. The report is due Dec. 1, 2022.
Business Court. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on but took no further action on HR 993 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Duluth). The resolution proposes an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that would establish a business court with state-wide jurisdiction. A state-wide business court would provide specialized resolution of complex business litigation matters. The concept was developed from years of work by interested business interests who felt establishing a business court would create a reliable and effective forum for litigants throughout the state. By removing complex, time-consuming business cases from the general docket, non-business cases should be resolved more efficiently. A companion bill needed to enable the court should the constitutional amendment pass, HB 998 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), was introduced this week.
Industrial Loan Act/Small Consumer Loans. The House Banks and Banking Committee held a hearing but took no further action on HB 902 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs). The bill transfers the licensing, examination and enforcement of what has heretofore been called the Georgia Industrial Loan Act governing non-bank loans of $3,000 or less from the Insurance Department to the Department of Banking and Finance. While GBA did not testify as we have no position on the issue, we were asked by members about any concerns. Our response was that if the Department were given additional responsibility to regulate other entities, the General Assembly should ensure a funding mechanism was also in place so that other fees like those paid by banks would not pay for the licensing and regulation of non-bank entities.
Motor Vehicle Titles. The House Motor Vehicles Committee reported HB 761 by Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth). The bill removes the requirement that motor vehicle titles transferred to and from dealers must be handled electronically.
Consumer Credit Reporting Bureau Fees. The House Banks and Banking Committee reported HB 866 by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) that removes the statutory authorization for a consumer credit reporting agency to charge a fee to a consumer who chooses to place or remove a security freeze on the consumer’s account. The Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee reported SB 376 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) that contains similar provisions. The bill is scheduled for a full Senate vote on Monday.
Banking Improvement Zone. The Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee reported SB 358 by Sen. Michael "Doc" Rhett (D-Marietta) that would provide an incentive for financial institutions to operate in an underserved area designated as a Banking Improvement Zone by the Department of Community Affairs by allowing the local governmental entity to place deposits with such financial institution at a favorable rate.
Homeowner Community and Condo and Associations. The House Regulated Industries Committee held a hearing but took no further action on HB 748 by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point) creating the Community Association Transparency and Protection Act requiring certain documentation be provided as projects are completed and turned over to homeowner-run associations and ongoing requirements for those entities.
Georgia Personal Data Security Act. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on but took no further action on HB 499 by Rep. Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming). The bill would require certain entities after having experienced a data breach to notify individuals whose personally identifying information has been compromised. Entities such as banks with notification procedures in place would be exempt.
Limited Credit Insurance Agency. The House Insurance Committee reported HB 938 by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville). The bill authorizes the creation of a new entity called a Limited Credit Insurance Agency designed to provide a licensing alternative to covered entities such as banks so that the agency will be licensed negating the need for individuals to hold a limited credit insurance license from the Insurance Department.
Insurance Information Sharing Notices. The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee amended and reported SB 350 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry). The bill removes the requirement of an insurance company or agent to send an annual privacy notice to consumers if no information has changed relative to the company’s information sharing policy of personal non-public information. The bill is scheduled for a full Senate vote on Monday.
R. Williams
New Bills Added to our Tracking List
We added the following bills to our tracking list this week:
Business Court. HB 998 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) is the enabling legislation that would be needed should the Business Court constitutional amendment mentioned above is passed by the voters.
Civil Rights. HB 987 by Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) amends current and proposes new protections in the Georgia code dealing with housing, public accommodation and employment mostly by adding sexual orientation, gender identity and age to the existing protected classes.
Crypto currencies. SB 464 by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming) would require the Department of Revenue to accept crypto currencies in payment of taxes and fees.
M. Williams
Stay Current on Banking Issues This Year
We publish the Legislative Update each week the General Assembly is in session, so be on the lookout for that email. You can always see a list of bills we’re monitoring on the
State Issues Page of our website that we update daily.

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.