March 5, 2020

General Assembly Preparing for Crossover Day

The Georgia General Assembly was in session Monday through Thursday this week with Thursday marking the completion of the 25th day of the legislators’ 40-day session. Legislators will return next week and be in session Monday and Tuesday and then take off Wednesday to prepare for Crossover Day on Thursday. Crossover Day is traditionally one of the longest days each session as that’s the day bills theoretically must pass their body of origin in order to be considered by the other body. Also this week, the Capitol was filled with candidates declaring their candidacy for state and federal offices. The qualifying period ends at noon Friday. And early voting began for Georgia’s Presidential Preference Primary. Check the MyVoterPage on the Secretary of State’s website for details about your voting status and options for voting.

GBA Priority Bill Reported From Committee

This week the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee voted unanimously to report 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. Also reported was SB 462 introduced this week by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). The bill moves the regulation of lenders operating under the industrial loan act from the Insurance Department to the Department of Banking and Finance. Next stop for both bills is the Senate Rules Committee.

Two Bills We’re Supporting, Others Received 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. Two bills we’re supporting received floor action this week:
Director and Officer Liability. The Senate passed 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. The bill has been assigned to the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee.
Income Tax - Hurricane Michael Relief. The Senate passed 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. As the bill was amended in the Senate, it must return to the House for further action. GBA is monitoring.
Four other bills we’re monitoring also received floor votes this week:
Hemp. The House passed HB 847 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), a bill that builds off legislation 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.
Timber Harvesting. The House passed 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.
Elder Abuse Reporting. The House passed HB 987 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), a comprehensive bill that increases the oversight of elder care facilities. We are monitoring the bill because of language contained in HB 978 by Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta) was merged into bill. That language 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 needs protective services or has been the victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation. The bill is pending in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Warranties. The House passed HB 968 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), a bill that would overturn Court of Appeals decisions that ensure existing warranties in contracts would remain in effect. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Committees Consider Bills of Interest

Several bills we’ve been following were the subject of hearings this week and received votes to move forward:
Garnishment. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing 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. GBA is monitoring.
Title Pawn. The Senate Finance Committee slightly amended and reported by a 5-4 vote 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. GBA is monitoring.
Tort Reform. The Senate Insurance Committee reported SB 415 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega). This is a comprehensive bill to streamline the process of litigation and reduce costs for Georgia's industries, small businesses and citizens. GBA supports. In related news, Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) appointed a special study committee on tort reform to be chaired by Rep. Trey Kelley (Cedartown).
Probate Code. The House Judiciary Committee reported HB 865 by Rep. Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville) is a substantial rewrite of the Probate Code that was last revised in 1999. GBA is monitoring.

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:
Cyber breach Safe Harbor. SB 493 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R- White) 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; GBA is monitoring.
Elder Financial Exploitation. HB 1097 by Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) would create the Elder Financial Exploitation Task Force to assess the current status of elder and vulnerable adults as related to financial exploitation, examine the existing services and resources available to elder and vulnerable adults and any barriers to such services and resources; and develop recommendations to address problems associated with the financial exploitation of elder and vulnerable adults. GBA is monitoring.
Regional Development Authorities. HB 1073 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) creates regional development authorities, authorizes the One Georgia Authority to establish a grant program subject to available funding and authorize the new regional development authorities to apply for grants to support primary care health facilities. The bill has been assigned to the House Government Affairs 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.