Feb. 11, 2021

General Assembly Completes Day 16 of 40 Days

The Georgia General Assembly met Monday through Thursday this week, completing the 16th day of the 40 days the state constitution allows the legislature to meet. The brisk pace of committee and floor action is expected to continue throughout the session. Legislators are slated to be in session Tuesday through Thursday next week.

Floor Action this Week

The House passed two bills important to the industry Tuesday of this week.
COVID-19 Liability Protection. HB 112 by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) was passed on a vote of 99 to 68. Support came mostly from Republican members. The bill extends to July 14, 2022, immunity from liability to certain claims related to COVID-19. GBA was among the supporters of the legislation that passed in the 2020 session; and with the ongoing pandemic, it is appropriate to extend those protections another year. The protection does not apply if the defendant in an action is found to be grossly negligent. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. GBA supports.
Tax Conformity. HB 265 by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) was adopted unanimously in the House. The bill is the annual legislation that conforms the Georgia tax code to recent changes in the federal tax code. This year’s bill includes language exempting forgiveness payments from income and allowing the deductibility of certain PPP expenses. The bill is pending in the Senate Finance Committee. GBA supports.

Committees Took Action on Several Banking-related Bills

Committees were also active this week holding hearings on specific legislation as well as holding hearings on issues of general interest to banking.
DBF Housekeeping. The House Banks and Banking Committee chaired by Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) reported HB 111 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). This is the annual housekeeping bill introduced at the request of the Department of Banking and Finance. GBA’s Bank Counsel Section worked with the Department in an advisory role developing the legislation. Rep. Williamson and Department Commissioner for Legal Affairs Bo Fears informed the committee that the legislation builds off the Department’s legislation passed in 2020 related to various application processes, and this year’s bill makes similar improvements related to mergers and conversions. Another significant provision permits bank boards of directors to meet remotely as well as for shareholder meetings to be conducted remotely in whole or in part. There are other provisions, such as extending name reservations from one to six months, that can be reviewed in the section-by-section summary provided by the Department. The bill is pending in the House Rules Committee and should be scheduled for a floor vote soon. GBA supports as a priority bill of the session.
Forestry Torts. The House Judiciary Committee reported HB 90 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). The bill limits damages for certain causes of action brought for conversion of timber and is intended to align the tort statute with the UCC and protect good faith buyers in the ordinary course of business. Our thanks to several bankers involved in timber financing and some members of our Bank Counsel Section for engaging with the Georgia Forestry Association to help perfect the bill, which was introduced at their request. GBA’s Elizabeth Chandler testified in subcommittee as well as before the full committee explaining our concerns had been addressed. The bill is pending in the House Rules Committee and GBA will continue to monitor.
Timberland Taxation. The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing and reported HB 282 by Rep. Steven Meeks (R-Screven). The bill addresses the ad valorem taxation of qualified timberland property by defining parameters for “contiguous” property, specifying how the appraised value of timberland property is calculated, and clarifies the required documentation landowners must submit to the Commissioner of Revenue for certification. The bill is pending in the House Rules Committee and GBA will continue to monitor.
Sub S / Partnership Taxation. A subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing but took no further action on HB 149 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). The bill amends the Georgia tax code to provide S corporations and partnerships an election to pay their Georgia state business income taxes at the entity level, thereby restoring the full federal tax deduction for Georgia business income taxes as described in IRS Notice 2020-75. GBA supports.
Broadband. The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee held a hearing but took no further action on SB 65 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega). The bill allows the Public Service Commission and Department of Community Affairs to utilize a portion of the Universal Access Fund to pay for installation of broadband in unserved areas. GBA supports.
Cybersecurity. The Senate Committee on Science & Technology reported SB 52 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White). The bill provides standards for cybersecurity programs to protect businesses from liability while providing for affirmative defenses for data breaches of private information. The bill is pending in the Senate Rules Committee and GBA will continue to monitor.
Credit Bureaus. The House Banks and Banking Committee held a hearing but took no further action on HR 53 by Rep. Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta). The resolution urges Congress to place a moratorium on the three main credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax; suspend credit downgrades; and remove other negative impacts on personal or business credit reports during the COVID-19 pandemic. GBA is monitoring.
Chandler testifies

New Legislation We Are Following

Each week we publish a list of new bills of interest to the banking industry we will be following. We add these bills daily to the State Issues page on the GBA website, so bookmark that if you’re interested in staying in the know. Following are the bills added to our tracking list this week:
Remote Online Notary. HB 334 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas) creates additional ways to notarize documents by electronic means. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and the first hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday in subcommittee. GBA has joined a number of other stakeholders endorsing the bill as noted in the news release linked here.
Remote Shareholder Meetings. HB 306 by Rep. Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville) provides that a corporation may hold annual shareholders' meetings and special shareholders' meetings by means of remote communication. The bill would apply to bank holding companies and contains permissive language like that included in the DBF housekeeping bill mentioned above that applies to the bank. The bill is pending in the House Banks and Banking Committee. GBA supports.
Hemp. HB 336 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) revises the Georgia code to conform with recent changes at the federal level so that the rules promulgated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture related to hemp farming remain in compliance with federal laws and regulations. The bill is pending in the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. GBA supports.
Mechanics and Materialmen Liens. SB 143 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) was introduced to correct legislation passed in 2020 related to lien waivers to correct an error in legislation passed last session so that the statutory form matches legislative language. GBA is monitoring.
Stored Value Cards. HB 327 by Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas) would establish a process intended to prevent the use of stored value cards to commit organized retail crime. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Non-civil Committee. Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) introduced similar legislation, SB 151. GBA is monitoring.
Homeowner Association Study Committee. HR 117 by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point) 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. The bill has been assigned to the House Special Rules Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Dispossessory Proceedings. HB 408 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) revises procedures for the initiation of dispossessory actions and, among other things, requires a demand by the owner and provides a tenant's opportunity to cure. GBA is monitoring.
Dispossessory Proceedings. HB 301 by Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) provides for certain notices to tenants involved in dispossessory proceedings such as sufficiency of notices for termination of tenancies, responses to dispossessory proceedings, and stays of writs of possession under certain circumstances. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Veterans Bill of Rights. HB 298 by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) requires various state agencies to review policies and procedures related to veterans. The Department of Banking and Finance would review all state licenses for which military members may have relevant training or experience and produce a report recommending steps that can be taken to increase recognition of military training and experience toward licensing. The bill is pending in the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Military Fair Housing Act. HB 299 by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) would prohibit discriminatory housing practices. While directed toward current and former members of the military, the bill significantly expands protected classes for all persons. The bill is pending in the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Class Action Litigation. HB 183 by Rep. Marvin Lim (D-Norcross) amends the Fair Business Practice Act to allow class actions in certain instances. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Charles Lusk Recognition. SR 96 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (Chickamauga) recognizes the contributions of longtime banker Charles Lusk and calls for the naming of an intersection in his honor. Lusk was president of GBA member banks in Fort Oglethorpe and Rossville during his career. Lusk died in 2015.

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.