Feb. 6, 2020

General Assembly Adjusts Meeting Schedule

Legislators had planned to be in session Monday through Thursday this week as well as Monday next week. However, in order to give House members more time to consider the state’s budget, they voted to be in recess until Tuesday, Feb.18. In adopting a resolution setting their calendar for the next few weeks, we noted that Crossover Day is set for March 12, their planned 28th legislative day. That would be the day most bills would have had to pass their body of origin in order to be considered by the other body. Wednesday marked the 12th day of their 40-day session.

Need Your Feedback on Public Financing Authorities

In last week’s Legislative Update, we reported that Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) introduced SB 309, a bill that would create new authorities that seem to be intended to consolidate the public financing of various types of transactions, some of which are currently being facilitated by our members. The bill was introduced at the request of the associations representing the cities and counties and we’ve had some preliminary discussions with their representatives at the Capitol. The Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) has this to say about the bill to give you an idea of the kinds of transactions they hope to consolidate:
This legislation amends the Georgia Revenue Bond Law to authorize local governments to fund broadband network projects. This legislation would also authorize the creation of two authorities to issue tax-exempt bonds for pooled financing of local governments to acquire goods, materials, real and personal property, structures and supplies eligible for revenue bond financing pursuant to an intergovernmental contract. The intent is to lower costs to taxpayers by providing a less expensive alternative to finance the same types of projects and equipment currently authorized for multiyear lease, purchase or lease purchase contracts.
We have reached out to our Credit Committee, Public Affairs Committee and Board of Directors, and some members tell us their bank is involved in these types of transactions while others say their bank is not. It would be helpful for us to learn more from our membership at large, so please take a moment to review the legislation and GMA’s description of their intent and let us know if your bank would be one of those that could potentially lose relationships with your local governmental entities. We’re also looking for examples of recent transactions. We expect a hearing will be held on the bill shortly, so time is of the essence. The bill has been assigned to the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee, and the chairman, Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) is a cosponsor of Sen. Stone’s bill. Other principal cosponsors are Sen. Horacena Tate
(D-Atlanta), Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) and Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), among others. The online version of the bill linked above will show Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) as a co-sponsor, but we understand he has removed his name from the bill. If you would email or call Elizabeth Chandler, 404.420.2027, Steve Bridges, 404.420.2037, or Joe Brannen, 404.420.2026, with your thoughts, we would appreciate hearing from you.
Smith and Williamson

GBA Priority Bill Scheduled for Floor Vote

The House Rules Committee chaired by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) has scheduled for a floor vote on Feb. 18 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. GBA supports as a priority bill of the session.

Committees Consider Bills of Interest

This early in the session, committees of the House and Senate are where most of the action is occurring and several bills we’ve been following received attention this week:
Lien Waivers. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing and unanimously reported 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.
Hemp. The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing and will be working on slight revisions to 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 is monitoring.
Stored Value Cards. A subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing but took no further action on HB 488 by Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas).The bill would establish a process intended to prevent the use of stored value cards to commit organized retail crime. The bill was introduced at the request of the retail association and we are in conversation with their representatives about clarifying language that the legislation is not intended to cover bank-issued cards.
Tax Credits. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing and unanimously reported SB 302 by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell). The bill creates a process to review 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. At this point, no mention has been made that the Bank Tax Credit is being reviewed. However, GBA is monitoring the legislation as a priority bill of the session and we will continue to serve as a resource to legislators who have questions.
Gross Receipts. A subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing but took no further action on HB 715 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire). The bill removes certain references to gross receipts in several areas of the tax code. Because the current method of taxing banks in based on gross receipts, we’ve been monitoring the bill. However, the sections of the code relating to bank gross receipts are not currently covered by this legislation.

Right to Farm. HB 545 by Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) seeks to strengthen and protect farmers from loopholes in the existing right to farm statute. The Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee held a hearing and favorably reported the bill.


Legislation Introduced This Week

Three 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:
Probate Code. HB 865 by Rep. Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville) is a substantial rewrite of the Probate Code that was last revised in 1999. Rep. Scoggins is a retired probate judge so has firsthand knowledge of the need for the code to be modernized. GBA is monitoring.
Subpoenas, GBI. HB 641 by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee) authorizes subpoena powers for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, upon the approval of the Attorney General, to investigate alleged violations of the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act. Ransomware attacks would be among the likely types of crimes covered by the new subpoena powers. GBA is monitoring.
Restroom Accessibility. HB 828 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would require retail establishments to allow access to employee restrooms if public restrooms are not available for customers that have written documentation from health professionals of certain illnesses. Exemptions are included for locations where sensitive or federally protected information is stored. 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.