March 26, 2021

2021 General Assembly to Adjourn March 31

The Georgia General Assembly was in session three days this week and is scheduled to complete the work of the 2021 session March 31. House and Senate committees were busy reporting the last of the bills expected to be considered this session. Legislators will return to session Monday, will take Tuesday as a committee work day, and are expected to meet late into the evening on Wednesday before they adjourn sine die. We’ll publish a wrap up edition covering all the important issues affecting banking next week.

Remote Online Notary Bill Amended

For more than a year, GBA has been part of a coalition of lenders, title insurers, attorneys, county clerks and technology companies providing input into the legislation authorizing remote online notarization for most documents. As with any legislation this comprehensive, and with as many stakeholders involved, not every suggestion was incorporated. But overall, the bill had become something positive for bankers. On a vote of 167 to 2, the House passed HB 334 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas), the bill creating the additional and optional process for remote online notarization. Overall, the bill was extremely positive and needed because emergency orders by Gov. Brian Kemp and the Supreme Court of Georgia allowing remote notarization are temporary. During a hearing on the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, on a 5-4 vote, Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) successfully offered an amendment at the request of a small group of real estate closing attorneys that exempted real estate transactions from the optional remote notarization process. That change makes the bill much less useful, but that’s the version expected to be considered by the full Senate. If it passes the Senate, the House will likely disagree with the change and request a conference committee to work on a compromise. It’s too early to predict an outcome, but this is just one example of many such bills that will dominate the remaining two days of the session as the House and Senate members reach consensus on the bills still in play.

Floor Action in Both Chambers this Week

This week the House and Senate passed several bills of interest to our members.
Sub S / Partnership Taxation. The Senate passed 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. The Senate vote clears the bill for the Governor’s consideration. GBA has supported the bill throughout the process.
Formerly Hemp / Now Medical Cannabis. The House passed SB 195 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga). The bill originally contained language to sync the state and federal rules governing the growing and processing of hemp. However, as similar hemp language is included in another bill that’s almost through the process, HB 336 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee removed the hemp language from SB 195 and replaced it with language updating the rules around the growing and processing of medical marijuana. That language came from HB 645 by Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) that was unfavorably reported earlier in the week from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. SB 195 now goes back to the Senate for either a vote to accept the House amendment or for a conference committee to be appointed. GBA is monitoring.
Tax Credits. The House passed but the Senate has disagreed with changes made by the House Ways and Means Committee to SB 6 by Sen. John Albers (R-Albers). 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. Among the changes added to the version that passed the House was language from SB 148 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) that authorizes the creation of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. Because the Bank Tax Credit is not well understood by many members, we track legislation like this should legislators choose to review that credit. The Senate will determine the next step for the bill; a conference committee may be appointed. GBA is monitoring.
Small Business Innovation. The Senate passed HB 611 by Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus). The bill originally added three tiers to the definition of small businesses in Georgia based on number of employees. The Senate Finance Committee amended and reported the bill this week with language requiring state agencies to provide small businesses with non-confidential data upon request. Additional language added charges the Department of Economic Development to provide services to new businesses with promising innovations in products and services including technology. Next up is House consideration of the Senate changes. GBA is monitoring.
Downtown Development Authorities. The Senate passed HB 161 by Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Statesboro). The bill removes a provision providing perpetual existence to downtown development authorities. The Senate vote clears the bill for the Governor’s consideration. GBA has been 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.

Unlawful Assembly. At the request of Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), the Senate Public Safety Committee amended and reported a bill related to driver’s licenses, HB 289 by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), 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. The bill is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. GBA is monitoring.

Financial Literacy. The Senate Committee on Education and Youth held a hearing and replaced the language from HB 681 by Rep. Bill Yearta (R-Sylvester) that requires the Department of Education to develop a comprehensive financial literacy course to be taught to 10th or 11th grade students. The Committee-substituted language relates to home school curriculum. However, the House Rules Committee added Rep. Yearta’s language to another education bill, SB 220 by Rep. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), which is slated for consideration by the House Monday. GBA is monitoring.

Stored Value Cards. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, amended and reported HB 327 by Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas). The bill would establish a process intended to prevent the use of stored value cards to commit organized retail crime. The bill is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. GBA is monitoring.

Border Region Retail Tourism. The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee reported SB 255 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga). The bill 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 House Rules Committee. GBA is monitoring.

Interior Design Liens. The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities 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 Senate 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 are two bills we added to our tracking list this week:
Residential Eviction Diversion. HB 818 by Rep. Marvin Lim (D-Norcross) would allow courts overseeing dispossessory proceedings to establish a residential eviction diversion program to include mediation between landlords and tenants, with mandatory participation by landlords in any scheduled mediation proceedings. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.
Foreclosure Resolution. HB 819 by Rep. Marvin Lim (D-Norcross) creates within the Department of Community Affairs a foreclosure diversion program where a neutral party would be appointed to attempt to come to a foreclosure diversion agreement between a lender and a borrower. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. GBA is monitoring.

Morris Elected to DOT Board

House Banks and Banking Committee chairman Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) has been elected by his peers in the Legislature to serve on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board. His election will result in his leaving the legislature and a special election called to name his successor. During his tenure as chairman, Georgia's banking laws have continued to evolve and are among the best in the country. Please join us in thanking Chairman Morris for his service and wishing him well in his new role continuing to serve our state.

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.