June 19, 2020  

General Assembly Reconvenes Suspended Session

The General Assembly resumed the COVID-19 interrupted session this past Monday for Day 30 of their 40-day session. The building authority had prepared the Capitol to incorporate CDC guidelines allowing the important work to continue. Legislators met each day this week, with Friday marking Day 34 of their session. One of GBA’s priority bills passed the Senate, and several others we’re monitoring received floor action or were reported out of committees. We also saw new helpful legislation introduced resulting from the pandemic, and we report on all the week’s activity below.

Senate Passes Priority Bill

One of the first bills to pass the Senate this week was HB 781, the Department of Banking and Finance annual housekeeping bill that was originally introduced in the House by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) sponsored the bill in the Senate. GBA’s Bank Counsel Section worked with the Department giving input into the provisions affecting our members. 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. A technical correction was made in the Senate which will require the House to vote again before the bill goes to the Governor for his signature.

Several Bills We’re Monitoring Received Committee or Floor Votes This Week

Committees are quickly completing work on bills moving through the process for the legislation to be scheduled for consideration by the full House or Senate. Several bills we’re monitoring received action this week.
Industrial Loan Supervision. The House Banks and Banking Committee held hearings and reported SB 462 by Sen. John Kennedy. The bill transfers duties, powers, responsibilities and other authority relative to industrial loans from the Industrial Loan Commissioner (who is also the State Insurance Commissioner) to the Department of Banking and Finance. The name of industrial loans is also being changed to installment loans. The bill passed the House Rules Committee and the full House today. It will need one more agreement in the Senate and then will be cleared for the Governor’s signature.
Lien Waivers. The House passed SB 315 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), a bill that intends to address Court of Appeals decisions involving waivers of liens and notices of nonpayment in contractor-subcontractor relationships. As background, the Courts reversed the customary belief 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. The proposed bill reverses the Court of Appeals decisions and codifies the industry’s prior understanding. 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. The House vote clears the bill for the Governor’s signature.
COVID Immunity. The Senate Insurance Committee used a House-passed bill, HB 167 by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Bainbridge), to substitute language providing businesses a range of protections as they reopen. Sen. John Kennedy is handling the bill in the Senate and GBA supports this effort. The bill was reported out of committee and is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. The Senate Public Safety Committee also used a House-passed bill to add COVID immunity language. That bill, HB 216 by Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) as now amended, is being sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) and is also pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
Garnishment. The House Judiciary Committee held hearings and reported SB 443 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). The bill 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 is pending in the House Rules Committee.
Income Tax - Hurricane Michael Relief. The Senate agreed to a House amendment to 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. The Senate vote clears the bill for the Governor’s signature. The bill now goes back to the House to consider an amendment made in the Senate.
Timber Harvesting. The Senate 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.
Hemp. The Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs 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. The legislation is necessary so that the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s policies and procedures will comply with federal law and regulations.
Right to Farm. The Senate passed HB 545 by Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton), a bill that seeks to strengthen and protect farmers from loopholes in the existing right to farm statute. Prior to passage, the Sen. Jesse Stone successfully offered an amendment that removed the two-year window from the farm’s establishment date for nuisance suits to be brought. The amendment significantly weakened the bill from the farmer’s perspective and those advocating for the bill are considering their options going forward. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa).
Criminal Record Restriction. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing and reported SB 288 by Sen. Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia), a bill that allows certain criminal history to be restricted in limited circumstances. Commonly called the “second chances act, the bill contains provisions allowing financial institutions to retain the ability to access records as authorized by federal laws. The bill is pending in the House Rules Committee.
Property Owners’ Association. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing, amended and reported SB 442 by Rep. William Ligon (R-Brunswick). The bill prohibits amendments to property owners' association instruments and covenants that restrict rental of residential lots and plots. The bill is pending in the House Rules Committee.
Probate Code. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing and reported HB 865 by Rep. Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville). The bill is a substantial rewrite of the Probate Code that was last revised in 1999. The House had previously added the language from HB 1047 by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) related to modifying or terminating a noncharitable irrevocable trust. The bill is now pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
Warranties. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing and reported HB 968 by Sen. John Kennedy. The bill would overturn Court of Appeals decisions that ensure existing warranties in contracts would remain in effect. The bill is now pending in the House Rules Committee.
Factory Built Buildings and Residential Units. The Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee held a hearing and reported HB 1008 by Rep. Joe Campbell (R-Camilla). The bill removes the requirement that factory-built buildings be permanently attached to a metal chassis. The bill is now pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
Tax Credits, Deductions and Exemptions. A subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee considered but took no further action on SB 302 by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell). The bill 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. We also added to our tracking list this week, HB 1035 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) that related to certain tax exemptions for food banks and other credits. The Senate Finance Committee used that bill to substitute a range of tax credits for possible elimination. While the Bank Tax Credit was not among the list of the credits affected, we will follow the bill closely. The committee reported the bill which is now pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
Cyberbreach Safe Harbor. The House Judiciary Committee considered but took no action on SB 493 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R- White). The bill establishes a legal safe harbor which may be pled as an affirmative defense to a cause of action sounding in tort that alleges or relates to the failure to implement reasonable cybersecurity controls, resulting in a data breach of private information covering entities that implement a cybersecurity program that substantially complies with requirements outlined in the bill or that implement a cybersecurity program through the use of an appropriately credentialed independent security professional.

Legislation Introduced This Week

Two bills were introduced this week that we’ve added to our monitoring list. We frequently update the State Issues Page on our website, 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:
Remote Notary Study Committee. HR 1525 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas) creates the House Study Committee on Remote Online Notarization. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill and reported it for further action in the House. Rep. Gullett is the author of HB 785 that also addresses remote online notarization; but after several hearings in committee, a consensus was not reached on an approach. GBA supports the concept and looks forward to working with Rep. Gullett and other interested stakeholders going forward. We also appreciate Gov. Kemp’s order as well as the Georgia Supreme Court’s actions earlier this year to allow temporary online notarization.
Dispossessory Proceedings. HB 1184 by Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) provides for certain notices to tenants for dispossessory proceedings and includes language related to the sufficiency of notices for termination of tenancies, responses to dispossessory proceedings and stays of writs of possession under certain circumstances. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Death Takes Two Well-known Legislators

Members of the State Senate took a moment to remember Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) who died unexpectedly April 6, 2020. Senator Hill was first elected to the Georgia State Senate in 1990 and was the long-serving Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Hill also served as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and was a member of the Natural Resources and the Environment and Regulated Industries and Utilities Committees. Sen. Hill represented Georgia's 4th Senatorial District which includes Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Emanuel (pt.), Evans and Tattnall (pt.) counties.
Former Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) died June 2, 2020. Kidd represented the 145th district, which includes Baldwin County and a small portion of Putnam County. During his tenure in the Georgia House of Representatives, Kidd was the sole elected independent. Kidd was a lobbyist and represented the Medical Association of Georgia and the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, among others. Kidd was a Democrat for 40 years before becoming an independent.

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.
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