March 19, 2021

General Assembly Completes Day 35 of 40 Days

Legislators met in session each day Monday through Thursday this week. With only five days remaining for the 2021 biennial, the pace of activity has quickened. Next week, the General Assembly reconvenes for legislative days Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Legislators will be using Wednesday and Friday for committee work days. The legislators are still on track to complete their work March 31. This was a busy week for the GBA advocacy team at the Capitol as our priority bill and several others important to the industry were receiving floor and committee votes. More information about those follows below.

Priority Bill Awaiting Governor’s Signature

Monday, the Senate unanimously passed HB 111 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) handled the bill in the Senate. This is the bill introduced at the request of the Department of Banking and Finance that GBA’s Bank Counsel Section served as a resource in an advisory role to develop the legislation. The legislation builds off their legislation passed in 2020 related the application process, 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 the shareholder meeting to be conducted remotely in whole or in part. There are other provisions, like extending name reservations from one to six months, which can be reviewed in the section-by-section summary provided by the Department and may be accessed here. The Senate vote clears the bill for the Governor’s signature, which is expected once the session adjourns.

Department of Revenue Data Match Initiative

Last week we reminded you about our work on SB 201, a bill that was introduced by Senate Finance Committee chairman, Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), at the request of the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR). The bill requires financial institutions to provide upon request certain information related to delinquent taxpayers to the Department of Revenue. A data match program would be set up similar to the child support payments recovery system currently used by financial institutions to report on those accounts. We continued engagement this week with DOR, Sen. Hufstetler, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) and Subcommittee Chair Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah). We’ve made a number of recommendations for improvement to the bill and almost all have now been incorporated. The Ways and Means Committee held hearings and reported the amended bill, which is pending in the House Rules Committee awaiting scheduling for a House floor vote. The bill sets up a system like a dozen or so other states have.

Remote Online Notary Bill Set for Committee Hearing

Many GBA members have been closely following HB 334 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas), a bill that creates additional ways to notarize documents by electronic means. Gov. Kemp and the Georgia Supreme Court issued orders during the pandemic temporarily giving parties the authority to remotely notarize documents, but that authority needs to be incorporated into the Georgia code. GBA has been working for over a year with Rep. Gullett and other stakeholders supporting the concept. We just got word that the Georgia Real Estate Closing Attorneys Association has announced they will oppose the bill unless residential real estate transactions involving 1-4 family units are not exempted from the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the current version next week. It would be helpful if you have a member on the Committee if you would reach out and let them know you support the concept. The Committee members with links to contact information are: Brian Strickland, Chairman, Bill Cowsert, Vice Chairman, John Kennedy, Secretary, Bo Hatchett, Harold Jones II, Kay Kirkpatrick, Elena Parent, Michael 'Doc' Rhett, Blake Tillery, and Ben Watson. Contact GBA’s Elizabeth Chandler with questions and to report on your outreach.

Floor Action in Both Chambers this Week

This week the House and Senate passed several bills of interest to our members.
Tort Liability Immunity. The Senate passed HB 112 by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown). The bill extends to July 14, 2022, immunity from liability to certain claims related to COVID-19. This was another important bill GBA supported along with others in the business community. The Senate vote clears the bill for the Governor’s consideration.
Remote Shareholder Meetings. The House Banks and Banking Committee held a hearing and reported SB 168 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry). The House subsequently passed the measure clearing it for the Governor’s consideration. 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 mentioned above that applies to the bank. GBA supported the bill.
Hemp. The Senate 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. The House will need to vote on a slight change made in the Senate. A similar bill, SB 195 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) was reported out of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. That bill is pending in the House Rules Committee. GBA supports.
Downtown Development Authorities. The Senate was set to consider HB 161 by Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Statesboro), but tabled the bill along with several others that will likely receive floor votes soon. The bill removes a provision providing perpetual existence to downtown development authorities. GBA has been monitoring.
Tax Reform. The House defeated by a vote of 20-139 SB 148 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome). The bill would have authorized the creation of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. GBA has been monitoring.
Mechanics and Materialmen Liens. The House passed SB 143 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta). The bill relates to lien waiver legislation passed in 2020 and corrects an error in that bill so that the statutory form matches legislative language. The House vote clears the bill for the Governor’s consideration. GBA has been monitoring.
Solicitations. The Senate was set to consider HB 153 by Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), but tabled the bill along with several others and all remain eligible for floor votes later. The bill amends the "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975" to require those soliciting services for corporate filings required by the Secretary of State who are other than government officials to clearly show there is no relationship to the governmental entity on the solicitation. 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 this week.
Homeowner Association Study Committee. The House Special Rules Committee held a hearing, amended and reported HR 117 by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point). The bill 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 is pending before the House Rules Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Specialized Land Transactions. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing and reported HB 470 by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon). The bill relates to the regulation of specialized land transactions to provide that no plans are required when units are not designated by physical structures. GBA is monitoring.
Timberland Taxation. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing, amended 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. GBA is monitoring.
Ad Valorem Tax Exemption – Agriculture. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing and reported HB 498 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie). The bill expands an exemption for agricultural equipment and certain farm products to include entities comprising two or more family-owned farm entities and adds dairy products and unfertilized eggs of poultry as qualified farm products with respect to such exemption. The bill is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Unlawful Assembly. At the request of Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), the Senate Public Safety Committee amended a bill related to driver’s licenses, SB 289, to incorporate Sen. Robertson’s legislation, SB 171, the Safe Communities Act. Among other things, that bill 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. GBA is monitoring.
Solicitations. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing, amended and reported SB 86 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry). The bill is similar to HB 153 above and amends the "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975" to require those soliciting services for corporate filings required by the Secretary of State who are other than government officials to clearly show there is no relationship to the governmental entity on the solicitation. 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 want to stay in the know. Bills introduced this late in the session are usually not expected to pass but will carry over to next year’s session of the biennial. Following is one bill we added to our tracking list this week:
National Infrastructure Bank. SR 267 by Sen. Shekh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville) calls on Congress to pass legislation creating a national infrastructure bank. The resolution has been assigned to the Senate Rules 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.