Feb. 21, 2020  

General Assembly Returns from Budget Recess

Legislators returned to full session Monday of this week after a 10-day recess to consider state revenues and set budget priorities. The House passed the amended 2020 fiscal year budget clearing it for consideration by the Senate. Work has already begun on the fiscal year 2021 budget. Our interest in the budget process is mostly related to how legislators allocate money collected by the Department of Banking and Finance back to the agency to conduct their mandated supervisory and licensing duties. Commissioner Kevin Hagler and his staff have done an excellent job presenting their needs while recognizing that money will be tight. Friday marked the completion of the 16th day of the legislators’ 40-day session. They will return next Monday and plan to be in session each day through Friday.

GBA Priority Bill Passes House

This week the House unanimously passed the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance’s annual housekeeping bill, HB 781 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). Among the major provisions are those that would allow a de novo bank to pay a dividend before becoming cumulatively profitable in certain circumstances; allow the Department to waive director residency requirements; revise the requirements to acquire a trust company; clarify that representative offices may exercise the same powers as other bank offices; and add night depositories as an extension of a bank location. The bill was developed in concert with GBA’s Bank Counsel Section Board of Directors. Next up is a hearing in the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee that we expect to be held shortly.

Other Bills We’re Monitoring Receive Floor Votes

The pace of the General Assembly has noticeably quickened as committees are completing their work perfecting bills and reporting them for floor votes. Two other bills we’re monitoring were scheduled for floor consideration this week:
Lien Waivers. The Senate unanimously passed SB 315 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta). The bill addresses Court of Appeals decisions involving waivers of liens and notices of nonpayment in contractor-subcontractor relationships. The bill reverses the Court of Appeals decisions and codifies the industry’s prior understanding that not perfecting a lien waiver waived a contractor’s lien rights, but did not affect the contractor’s right to bring a subsequent breach of contract action. If passed, contractors may bring a breach of contract action (usually for non-payment) even if they do not perfect their lien rights. The bill also adds an additional 30 days for the contractor to perfect their lien to bring the time to 90 days from the current 60 days. GBA has met with the affected parties and is monitoring the legislation.
Right to Farm. The Senate was scheduled to consider HB 545 by Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton). The bill seeks to strengthen and protect farmers from loopholes in the existing Right to Farm statute. However, the bill was tabled on the floor but is eligible for action during a future session.

Committees Consider Bills of Interest

Several bills we’ve been following were the subject of hearings this week:
Local Government Authorities. The Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee chaired by Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) held a hearing and reported SB 309 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). Based on feedback we received from some of our members who responded to our request for thoughts or concerns about the bill, GBA’s Elizabeth Chandler testified at the hearing as the only witness other than the sponsor and the representatives from the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia for whom the bill was introduced. The bill would create new authorities that would consolidate the public financing of various types of loan and lease transactions, some of which are currently being facilitated by our members. Chandler told the Committee that local banks were already competing for these facilities providing attractive rates and terms and urged caution if they decided to move forward with the concept. It was obvious from their questions that several members of the committee had reservations, but the committee decided to move the bill forward so other legislators may weigh in. Although we continue to have good working relationships with the local government associations behind the legislation, GBA is unable to support the bill.
Hemp. The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing and reported HB 847 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park). The legislation builds off a bill passed in 2019 setting up a regulatory structure for growing and processing hemp so the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s policies and procedures will comply with federal law and regulations. GBA supports.
Director and Officer Liability. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported SB 373 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). The bill is patterned after GBA’s legislation from 2018 that gave directors and officers of banks and other business corporations gross negligence protections under the state’s Business Judgment Rule. This bill applies to directors and officers of not-for-profit corporations like those who serve on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Bankers Association. GBA supports.
Chandler testifying

Legislation Introduced This Week

Four bills were introduced this week that we’ve added to our monitoring list. We update the State Issues Page on our website daily, so be sure to check that page to follow issues of interest to you. Here is more information about the bills we added this week:
Elder Abuse Reporting. HB 978 by Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta) amends the current statute related to mandated reporters including employees of financial institutions to prohibit retaliation against a person relating to a report that a disabled adult or elder person is in need of protective services or has been the victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation. The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Human Relations & Aging. GBA is monitoring.
Rural Capital Investment. HB 930 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) amends the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act to add $100 million of additional credits to be available for eligible capital investment purposes in counties having population less than 75,000. The bill has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Timber Harvesting. HB 897 by Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross) requires the State Forestry Commission to develop a website to provide a state-wide notification platform for persons or firms harvesting standing timber to utilize as a uniform system of notification to local governing authorities. The bill has been assigned to the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Timber Loss Tax Deduction. HB 919 by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) provides for a deduction from Georgia taxable income for casualty losses of timber in an amount based on the diminution of value. The bill has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. GBA monitoring.
Tort Reform. SB 390 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) is a comprehensive bill to streamline the process of litigation and reduce costs for Georgia's industries, small businesses and citizens. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. GBA supports.
Individual Recognition. SR 746 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) recognizes Ron Quinn, president and CEO of Peach State Bank & Trust, Gainesville, for his years of community service and recently being recognized with the prestigious 2020 Gainesville Rotary W. Lee Arrendale Vocational Excellence Award. Congratulations, Ron!

GBA’s Advocacy Team at the Capitol

Led by GBA’s Senior Vice President, Government Relations, Elizabeth Chandler, GBA will be 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.