Committee Hearings of Note this Week
Committees were also active this week holding hearings on specific legislation as well as holding hearings on issues of general interest to banking.
The House Banks and Banking Committee chaired by Rep. Greg Morris
(R-Vidalia) held a hearing on HB 111
by Rep. Bruce Williamson
(R-Monroe). This is the annual housekeeping bill introduced at the request of the Department of Banking and Finance. GBA’s Bank Counsel Section worked with the Department in an advisory role developing the legislation. Rep. Williamson and Department Commissioner for Legal Affairs Bo Fears
informed the committee that the legislation builds off the Department’s legislation passed in 2020 related to various application processes, and this year’s bill makes similar improvements related to mergers and conversions. Another significant provision permits bank boards of directors to meet remotely as well as for shareholder meetings to be conducted remotely in whole or in part. There are other provisions, such as extending name reservations from one to six months, that can be reviewed in the section-by-section summary
provided by the Department. The bill is expected to be voted out of Committee next week. GBA supports.
Tort Liability Immunity.
The House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System held a hearing and reported HB 112
by Rep. Trey Kelley
(R-Cedartown). The bill extends to July 14, 2022, immunity from liability to certain claims related to COVID-19. GBA supports.
The Senate Committee on Science & Technology held a hearing on SB 52
by Sen. Bruce Thompson
(R-White). The bill provides standards for cybersecurity programs to protect businesses from liability while providing for affirmative defenses for data breaches of private information. GBA is monitoring.
Small Business. The House Small Business Development Committee chaired by Rep. Mike Cheokas
(R-Americus) held a hearing on the state of small business in Georgia. Nathan Humphrey, Executive Director of the Georgia Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, had several members on Zoom discussing the challenges and opportunities they were facing. PPP lending was mentioned as being helpful, and most expressed optimism because of Georgia’s favorable business climate. The litigious legal climate was mentioned as hurting some businesses. Scott Hilton, Executive Director of Gov. Kemp’s Georgians First Commission, outlined significant findings from the Commission’s work. He suggested more could be done to open government procurement to small businesses, and access to capital is always a top-of-mind issue for many. GBA was represented on the Commission’s Access to Capital Committee by Chuck Copeland, First National Bank of Griffin and GBA’s Joe Brannen.
Broadband. GBA has been supporting efforts in past legislative sessions to bring broadband to parts of Georgia that are falling behind in part due to lack of high-speed internet access. The Senate Regulated Industry Committee chaired by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) held a hearing this week discussing the role of various providers such as telecom, cable, satellite and will hear later from electric membership corporations. We expect to see legislation introduced soon addressing fees, right of way and connectivity.
Remote Online Notary. We’ve been part of a coalition working on a remote online notary bill as so many of our members reported how helpful having that temporary authority has been during the pandemic. Also, our members in the mortgage business, especially, have told us how important such authority would be for those transactions. All sides are close to an agreement around most issues, and we expect the bill to be dropped shortly.