Feb. 26, 2021   

General Assembly Completes Day 24 of 40 Days

The Georgia General Assembly was in session Monday through Friday this week passing the halfway point of their 40-day session. Legislators will return next week and will be in session Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Crossover Day will be the following Monday, March 8. That’s always a busy day as theoretically bills must pass their body of origin through Crossover Day to be considered by the other body. The last day of the session is slated for Wednesday, March 31. Below is more information about all the goings on at the Capitol this week related to bills we’re monitoring for the industry.

Floor Action in Both Bodies this Week

This week the House and Senate passed several bills of interest to our members.
Tax Conformity. The Senate passed and the House agreed to a slight change to HB 265 by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), thereby clearing the bill for Gov. Kemp’s consideration. 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. GBA supported.
Sub S / Partnership Taxation. The House unanimously passed HB 149 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). The bill amends the Georgia tax code to give 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. The bill is pending in the Senate Finance Committee. GBA supports.
Remote Shareholder Meetings. The House unanimously passed HB 306 by Rep. Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville). The bill 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 that applies to the bank and is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. A hearing was held by the Senate Finance Committee on similar legislation, SB 168 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry). The committee favorably reported the bill, and it is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. GBA supports both bills.
Financial Institution Data Match. The Senate passed SB 201, a bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) at the request of the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR). The bill requires financial institutions to provide certain information related to delinquent taxpayers to the Department of Revenue. A data match program would be set up like the child support payments recovery system currently used by financial institutions to report on those accounts. We have been working with DOR recommending modifications to the bill and some were included in the version reported out of the Senate Finance Committee that Sen. Hufstetler chairs. We will continue to address other needed changes as the bill is considered in the House.
Hemp. The House passed HB 336 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park). The bill 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. We expect the bill will be assigned to the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee next week. GBA supports.
Mechanics and Materialmen Liens. The Senate unanimously passed SB 143 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta). The bill 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. The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Downtown Development Authorities. The House unanimously passed HB 161 by Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Statesboro). The bill removes a provision in the current statute providing perpetual existence to downtown development authorities. The bill is pending in the Senate Government Oversight Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Tax Reform. The Senate passed SB 148 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome). The bill authorizes the creation of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. GBA is monitoring.

Committees Acted on Several Bills of Interest This Week

Several bills we’re monitoring were either subject to hearings or received favorable votes in committees to move forward
DBF Housekeeping. The Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee chaired by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan) held a hearing and unanimously 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. 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 will next be considered by the Senate Rules Committee. GBA supports as a priority bill of the session.
Forestry Torts. At this same committee hearing, the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee unanimously reported HB 90 also 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. A group of bankers knowledgeable about timber financing and Bank Counsel Section attorneys experienced with lien perfection and the UCC worked with representatives from the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA) to help perfect the bill, which was introduced at GFA’s request. The bill will next be considered by the Senate Rules Committee. GBA will continue to monitor.
Remote Online Notary. The House Judiciary Committee held several meetings and reported HB 334 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas). The bill creates additional ways to notarize documents by electronic means. The bill is pending before the House Rules Committee. GBA supports.
Interior Design Liens. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing and reported HB 480 by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon). The bill adds to the mechanics and materialman lien statute a new category of liens for labor, services, or materials performed or furnished by registered interior designers. The bill is pending in the House Rules Committee. GBA is monitoring.

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:
Rural Development Council. HR 185 by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) reauthorizes the House Rural Development Council through 2022. The resolution has been assigned to the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee. GBA supports.
Tort Liability Immunity. HB 559 by Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Atlanta) is similar to HB 112 by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) related to immunity from liability to certain claims related to COVID-19. However, HB 559 limits protection to only health care providers, so we support the broader bill, HB 112. Rep. Wilson’s bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Landlord / Tennant. SB 206 by Sen. Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson) provides that a prospective tenant shall not be refused a rental based on previous eviction during COVID-19 public health emergency. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Real Property. HB 554 by Rep. Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville) revises when an action related to a dispute involving real property may operate as a lis pendens. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Unlawful Assembly. SB 171 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) is entitled the Safe Communities Act which, among other things, provides for enhanced penalties for certain offenses committed during an unlawful assembly. A bank is listed among those businesses defined as providing public accommodations that would be covered by the proposal. The bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Sales & Use Tax – Digital Goods. HB 594 by Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) expands sales and use taxation to encompass certain transactions of digital goods and services. Stored monetary products are specifically excluded. The bill is pending in the House Ways and Means Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Border Region Retail Tourism. SB 255 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) establishes the Border Region Retail Tourism Development Program that would award grants to induce businesses to locate in Georgia if the business is currently within 10 miles of the Georgia border. The bill is pending in the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Workforce Development. SR 154 by Rep. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) creates the Joint Study Committee for Strengthening Georgia's Future Workforce to study how a needs-based scholarship program could aid in improving workforce development. The bill is pending in the Senate Higher Education 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.