March 30, 2018    

Sine Die for 2018 Legislative Session
After two marathon days meeting late into the evening Tuesday and Thursday, the Georgia General Assembly adjourned Sine Die, meaning the 2018 40-day session is over. “It was a busy session for banking issues and we appreciate the hard work our elected officials put into making this a productive session. Hats off also to the GBA Capitol team for being the trusted resource for legislators. We were well represented,” said GBA Chairman Palmer Proctor, president and CEO of Fidelity Bank, Atlanta.
Williamson and Kennedy
GBA Priority Bill Passed on Final Day
Dozens of bills were passed the last few days of the session including our priority bill, a joint effort between the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance and industry stakeholders. The bill, HB 780, was introduced by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) and he ably shepherded the legislation through the process, including a rare unanimous vote on final passage. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) handled the bill on the Senate floor. The legislation builds 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 existing statutory parity provisions to ensure state chartered banks remain in a competitively equal position with nationally chartered banks. Special recognition goes to Bo Fears, the Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs, as he worked tirelessly to address concerns raised throughout the process and developed workable solutions.
GBA-monitored Legislation that Passed This Session
Each year we monitor, help legislators perfect and support or oppose dozens of bills. This year was the second year of the biennial which means that any bill not receiving final approval will need to be reintroduced in 2019 if the author chooses to pursue the underlying goal. Following is a list of bills we monitored on behalf of the industry and that passed this year. They are available for consideration by Governor Nathan Deal to sign.
Power of Attorney. HB 897 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) continues the significant work accomplished last session revising the state’s Power of Attorney statute which GBA supported. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon).

Limited Credit Insurance Agency.
HB 938 by Information and Audits Committee chairman Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) 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. The bill was handled in the Senate by Insurance Committee chairman Burt Jones (R-Jackson).

Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets.
SB 301 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) was 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 was handled in the House by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem).

Trust Code Revisions.
HB 121 was amended to include the provisions of HB 122 both by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula). The legislation is the result of the work of the Trust Code Revision Committee of the State Bar’s Fiduciary Law Section. The legislation 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; changes provisions relating to modification or termination of uneconomic trusts and adopts provisions of 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. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) handled the bill in the Senate.

Self-settled Trusts.
HB 441 by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) creates a new type of trust in Georgia that allows the creator of the trust to also be the beneficiary of the trust. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens).

Real Estate Recordings.
HB 1036 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) was a local bill that allows the Fulton County Clerk of Superior Court to adopt a requirement that recordings related to certain real estate filings contain tax parcel identifying numbers. The bill was amended in the Senate to make clear that an incorrect identifying number would not invalidate or create additional unintended consequences with the recording of the new requirement.

Consumer Credit Reporting Bureau Fees.
SB 376 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) 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 bill also contains a provision related to banks headquartered in U.S. Territories and clarifies that they may issue letters of credit in Georgia. The bill was handled in the House by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) who had introduced a similar bill.

Agriculture Machinery/Equipment Sales and Use Tax Exemption.
HB 886 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) doubles the sales and use tax exemption from $2,500 to $5,000 for machinery and equipment used in the production of certain agriculture products and livestock. The bill was handled in the Senate by Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa).

Business Court.
HR 993 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Duluth) proposes an amendment to the Georgia Constitution so as to establish a business court with state-wide jurisdiction to provide specialized resolution of complex business litigation matters. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough).

Rural Development Initiatives.
A number of bills passed this year resulting from recommendations of committees appointed in the House and Senate to specifically focus on rural Georgia. GBA and member bankers testified at hearings in Toccoa and Claxton supporting the initiatives.

  • Rural Healthcare.HB 769 by Higher Education Committee chairman Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) that, among other things, calls for 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; establishes the Rural Center for Healthcare Innovation and Sustainability; and creates a new entity called a micro hospital. The bill was handled in the Senate by Ethics Committee chairman Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge).

  • Broadband Access.HB 887 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla), House Ways and Means Committee chairman, would simplify state and local taxes and local franchise fees to make it easier to finance broadband projects. The bill is one of the recommendations from the House Rural Development Council following statewide meetings in 2017. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega). Also, SB 402 by Sen. Gooch is similar to HB 887 and includes language authorizing the state Department of Transportation to deploy broadband technology along interstate highway right-of-way. Rep. Powell handled the bill in the House.

  • Short-line Railroad Tax Credit.HB 735 by Rep. Patty Bentley (D-Butler) creates a state tax credit for short-line railroads similar to a federal tax credit. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega).
Unauthorized Computer Access. SB 315 by Science and Technology Committee chairman Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) creates a new crime of Unauthorized Computer Access to apply to those instances when someone gains access to a computer or network without authority. The bill was handled in the House by Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville).
Healthcare Provider Choice of Payment. HB 818 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) allows health care providers to choose the form of payment for services paid by health insurers. The bill was handled in the Senate by Rules Committee chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga).
Homeowner/Condo Association – Fees. HB 410 by Public Safety and Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) outlines the procedures to be followed and limits the fees a homeowner or condo association may charge to provide documentation related to amounts owed to the association. The bill was handled in the Senate by Banking and Financial Institutions Chairman Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick).

Abandoned Mobile Homes.
HB 381 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) establishes a new procedure for the disposal of abandoned mobile homes. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon).

SB 194 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) makes several changes to the garnishment code among which are the earnings subject to garnishment, service of garnishments, the time a garnishment may be outstanding and the evidence that may be presented to the court. The bill was handled in the House by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem).

Administrative Procedures.
SB 338 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) amends the Administrative Procedures Act to include a mechanism for the General Assembly to object and potentially stop rules promulgated by agencies covered by the Act. The bill was handled in the House by House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs).

Motor Vehicle Titles.
HB 761 by Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth) removes the requirement that certain motor vehicle titles transferred to and from dealers must be handled electronically. The bill was handled in the Senate by Rules Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga).

Statewide Lien Registry.
HB 661 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) reworks the statewide tax lien registry passed last year to correct some unintended consequences. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick).

Real Property Taxation.
HR 1317 by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) creates a study committee on reforming real property taxation.

Insurance Information Sharing Notices.
SB 350 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) 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. The bill was handled in the House by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire).
J. Powell
A. Powell
Major Bills We Monitored that Did Not Pass
We had concerns about a number of bills this session that could have had a negative effect on our members and they were all either amended or did not pass. Since we covered two of these bills in depth throughout the session this year, we thought you’d like to know more about the outcome for those.
Foreclosure – Confirmation Waiver Prohibition. SB 86 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) would change the way real estate is handled following foreclosure. We and a contingent of his local bankers met with Sen. Stone and testified with other bankers opposing the legislation. Sen. Stone substantially amended his original bill to address some of our concerns, but unfortunately we had to remain opposed. Sen. Stone chose not to move the bill out of his committee following the hearing.
Financial Institution Tax Credit. SB 432 by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) as introduced, would have abolished the financial institution tax credit as of Dec. 31, 2019. The bill was amended in the Senate to have the state auditor conduct a study on the credit and report findings to the legislature. Sen. Albers made several unsuccessful attempts to get the bill passed including attaching various provisions to other bills moving through the legislature. GBA was concerned because the financial institution tax credit was being considered the same as other credits that had incentive features, like those afforded the film industry. The financial institutions tax credit was put in place in the early 1980’s when the method of taxing financial institutions was ruled unconstitutional and the current gross receipts tax structure was enacted. The financial institutions tax credit prevented a windfall of millions of dollars that would have gone to the state while ensuring tax revenues that had been going to local governments would continue to flow to the cities and counties.
Check Out Everything We Monitored
The State Issues Page of our website includes all the bills we monitored throughout the 2017-2018 biennial. Let us know if you have questions.
The Session is Over, Now What?
Elections, that’s what! Qualifying was held earlier this month for the upcoming elections for each of our House and Senate members, all of our statewide office holders and members of the U.S. House of Representatives. We are getting ready for a busy primary, runoff and general election season and will be depending on our members statewide to help us support the best candidates for those seats. Our friends at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce did an analysis of those who qualified for statewide offices and we thought you’d like to see the extent of contested elections and how much turnover there will be from retirements or new members being elected to fill seats left vacant by the incumbent to seek another office. Check it out here.
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.