Feb. 28, 2020

General Assembly Passes Halfway Point

The Georgia General Assembly was in session Monday through Friday this week with Friday marking the completion of the 21st day of the legislators’ 40-day session. Legislators will return Monday and plan to be in session through Thursday. Also, next week will be the week when candidates declare their candidacy for state and federal offices. A number of incumbents have announced they will not be seeking re-election including Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee Chairman, Sen. William Ligon  (R-Brunswick).
Ligon and GBA's Elizabeth Chandler at the 2020 Legislative/Economic Forum and Reception

GBA Priority Bill Gets Committee Hearing

This week the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee held a hearing on the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance’s annual housekeeping bill, HB 781 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). Rep. Williamson explained the bill in detail and had the Department’s counsel Bo Fears by his side, who answered questions on the regulatory process. 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. The committee is scheduled to meet next week to consider the bill further.

Two Bills We’re Monitoring Received Floor Votes

Committees continue to be where much of the activity is taking place as the committees complete their work perfecting bills and reporting them for floor votes. Two bills we’re monitoring received floor action this week:
Elder Abuse Reporting. The House Health and Human Services Committee amended HB 978 by Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta) to remove private right of action language and merged the bill into HB 987 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta). Rep. Cooper’s legislation is a comprehensive bill that increases the oversight of elder care facilities The language incorporated from Rep. Nguyen’s bill amends the current statute related to mandatory 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. Rep. Cooper’s bill was subsequently passed by the House. GBA is monitoring.
Tax Credits, Deductions and Exemptions. The Senate passed SB 302 by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) which provides for independent economic analyses to be procured by the Office of Planning and Budget for certain tax benefits upon request by the chairpersons of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee. As most of the conversation in committee has been around various state tax credits, GBA has provided Sen. Albers an analysis of the Bank Tax Credit developed by GBA’s Tax Advisory Committee explaining the background of the credit and that it is neither an incentive nor transferable credit.

Committees Consider Bills of Interest

In addition to the Banking Department’s housekeeping bill mentioned above, several bills we’ve been following were the subject of hearings this week:
Electronic and Remote Online Notarization. A House Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing on HB 785 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas) that creates additional ways to notarize documents by electronic means. The Georgia Superior Courts Clerks Authority would be empowered to develop and maintain rules and standards. The bill is a unanimous recommendation of the Georgians First Commission and GBA supports the concept. At the hearing, closing attorneys opposed the legislation and title attorneys recommended significant changes to the bill. As this was the first hearing on the bill, subcommittee chairman Andy Welch (R-McDonough) asked the parties to try and work out a compromise, and the author is continuing to work on options.
Timber Harvesting. The House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee held a hearing and reported HB 897 by Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross). The bill 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. GBA is monitoring.
Income Tax - Hurricane Michael Relief. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing and reported HB 105 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie). The bill exempts certain federal disaster relief payments to victims of Hurricane Michael from state income taxes. GBA is monitoring.
Cannabis. The House Special Rules Committee held a hearing but took no further action on HR 875 by Rep. Dar’Shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia). The resolution would create the House Study Committee on Financing Options for Cannabis-based Businesses. GBA is monitoring
Title Pawn. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on SB 329 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula). The bill provides for the regulation of the title pawn industry and places oversight in the Department of Banking and Finance. The lenders are being authorized to make loans up to $3,000 for three years or less with an APR not to exceed 36%. The Department is authorized to charge fees to cover the cost of supervision. Banks are specifically exempted. The committee has scheduled another hearing on the bill this coming Monday. GBA is monitoring.
Homeowner Association Study Committee. The House Special Rules Committee held a hearing and reported HR 933 by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point). The resolution creates a committee to study how homeowners’, condominium owners’ and similar community associations could be better organized to implement requirements and procedures for turnover and transition from declarants, developers or management companies. GBA is monitoring.
Stored Value Cards. The House Judiciary Non-civil Subcommittee held a hearing and reported to the full committee HB 488 by Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas). The bill establishes a process intended to prevent the use of stored value cards to commit organized retail crime. GBA is monitoring.
Cybersecurity Study Committee. The House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee held a hearing and reported HR 1093 by Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), a resolution to create a committee to better understand whether additional security requirements for privacy protection and increased investments in better internet-of-things related security measures should be considered. GBA is monitoring.
Infrastructure Financing. The Senate Rules Committee reported SR 793 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) that creates a joint House-Senate Study Committee on private financing of infrastructure projects.
Tort Reform. A subcommittee of the Senate Insurance Committee held a hearing on SB 415 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), and in a subsequent meeting reported the bill to the full committee. This is a comprehensive bill to streamline the process of litigation and reduce costs for Georgia's industries, small businesses and citizens. Bill Custer, a partner with our associate member law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, testified giving the committee examples of litigation that the bill is intended to address. GBA supports.

Legislation Introduced This Week

Six 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 Exploitation Reporting. HB 955 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) raises the penalty on mandatory reporters including bankers for willfully failing to report instances of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation to a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. We have met with Rep. Efstration to express our concern with the approach. The bill is pending in the House Government Affairs Committee.
Garnishment. SB 443 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) is a substantial revision to the current garnishment statute with one of the more significant provisions being to extend Georgia’s continuing garnishments from six months to three years. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Factory Built Buildings and Residential Units. HB 1008 by Rep. Joe Campbell (R-Camilla) removes the requirement that factory-built buildings be permanently attached to a metal chassis. The bill has been assigned to the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Dispossessory Proceedings. HB 1022 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) revises procedures for the initiation of dispossessory actions to require a demand by the owner and a tenant's opportunity to cure. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Homeowner Association. HB 904 by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) changes “lot owner” to “declarant” as a party that may request exemption from assessments. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Fair Housing Discrimination. HB 1010 by Rep. Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) among other things, prohibits lenders from discriminating in the making of loans secured by residential real property on the basis of hairstyles historically associated with race. The bill has been assigned to the House Industry and Labor Committee. GBA is monitoring.

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.