March 31, 2021

General Assembly Adjourns

The 156th session of the Georgia General Assembly adjourned sine die late in the evening of March 31. The year’s session was the first of two in this cycle. Bills that did not pass carry over to the 2022 session. Kudos to the leadership for their extensive planning and implementation of health and safety protocols. Their advance work and strict adherence to the protocols allowed legislators and advocates alike access to the process with minimal disruption from pandemic-related outbreaks. GBA’s lobbying team, led by Senior Vice President Elizabeth Chandler, engaged actively through virtual and one-on-one interactions and testified in-person before committees. “The 2021 session was remarkably successful from our standpoint as almost all the banking-related issues were resolved. The session was certainly filled with many other highly charged issues, but that didn’t stop the work on other important bills such as those our members supported to ensure our banking laws remain among the best in the nation,” said Chandler. Legislators will return for a special reapportionment session this fall once the decennial census numbers are released.

GBA’s Advocacy Team at the Capitol

"Our lobbying team put in another extraordinary effort in fighting for our industry during this session. All the social distancing and pandemic protection measures once again made it challenging, but the team was creative, persistent, and present in every way possible to take the lead for the industry on bills of importance. Elizabeth Chandler, with support from Steve Bridges and Joe Brannen, led the way, and the team’s experience, integrity and professionalism were on full display," said GBA Chairman Spence Mullis, president and CEO, Morris Bank, Dublin. With questions about the legislation below, other legislative 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.

New Chairman for House Banks and Banking Committee / Brass Remains Senate Chairman

As we’ve reported, 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. Our thanks go out to Chairman Morris for his leadership. Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) will appoint a new committee chairman in due time. On the Senate side, we enjoyed working with the new Chairman of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan). He ran efficient meetings giving all sides the opportunity for input into legislation as bills were moving through his committee.

Banking-related Bills that Passed

Each session we focus almost exclusively on bills having a direct connection to the business of banking. This year was no exception, and the bills below received final action. Gov. Brian Kemp has 40 calendar days from April 1 to decide whether to sign, veto or let the legislation go into effect without his signature.
Department of Banking and Finance Housekeeping Bill (Priority). HB 111 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) is the annual 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. 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, that can be reviewed in the section-by-section summary provided by the Department and may be accessed here. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) handled the bill in the Senate. GBA supported.
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 applies to bank holding companies and contains permissive language similar to what is included in the DBF housekeeping bill mentioned above that applies to the bank. Similar legislation also passed, SB 168 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry). GBA supported.
Sub S / Partnership Taxation. HB 149 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) 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 supported.
Financial Institution Data Match. SB 201 was introduced at the request of the Georgia Department of Revenue by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome). The bill requires financial institutions to provide certain information related to delinquent taxpayers to the Department of Revenue. A data match program will be set up similar to the child support payments recovery system currently used by financial institutions to report on those accounts. However, this legislation differed in several ways. At GBA’s request, several amendments were made to the bill and we will work with DOR to keep the membership informed of the process as it develops. GBA monitored with concerns.
Forestry Torts. HB 90 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) 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. The bill was introduced at the request of the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA). Our thanks to several bankers experienced in timber financing and several members of GBA’s Bank Counsel Section experienced in lien perfection and the UCC for their help in working with GFA to perfect the bill. GBA monitored with concern.
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. GBA supported.
Medical Cannabis. SB 195 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) 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 the bill above, HB 336 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), the hemp language in SB 195 was replaced with language updating the rules for growing and processing medical marijuana. That language came from HB 645 by Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) that had failed to move forward in the Senate. Language authorizing credit unions to open bank accounts for proposed medical cannabis applicants was included in the bill that passed. GBA monitored.
Tax Conformity. HB 265 by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) 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. Gov. Kemp signed the bill
Feb. 24. GBA supported.
Tort Liability Immunity. H.B. 112 by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) extends to July 14, 2022, immunity from liability to certain claims related to COVID-19. GBA supported.
Rural Development Council. HR 185 by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) reauthorizes the House Rural Development Council through 2022. The resolution does not require the Governor’s signature. GBA supported.
Ad Valorem Tax Exemption – Agriculture. HB 498 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) 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. GBA monitored.
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 25 miles of the Georgia border. GBA monitored.
Downtown Development Authorities. HB 161 by Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Statesboro) will remove a provision providing perpetual existence to downtown development authorities. GBA monitored.
Tax Credits. SB 6 by Sen. John Albers (R-Albers), originally provided 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. Because the Bank Tax Credit is not well understood by many members, we track legislation like this should legislators choose to review that credit. His language survived, and several other bills we’ve been monitoring were folded into SB 6 prior to its passage. Among those were portions of SB 148 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) related to a study of the state’s tax structure; HB 500 by Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross) extending the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act providing for a second round of funding; HB 504 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) that also extended the Agribusiness Jobs Act and additionally authorized tax credits for medical equipment and supplies manufacturers, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers, and other tax credit programs dealing with high-impact aerospace defense projects and Georgia ports; HB 888 also by Rep. Williamson that provides for sales and use tax exemptions for certain eligible expenditures for the Georgia Freight Railroad Program; and HB 503 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) related to sales and use tax exemptions for projects of regional significance.
Small Business Innovation. HB 611 by Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) requires state agencies to provide small businesses with non-confidential data upon request and charges the Department of Economic Development to provide services to new businesses with promising innovations in products and services including technology. GBA monitored.
Financial Literacy. Rep. Bill Yearta (R-Sylvester) introduced HB 681 to require the Department of Education to develop a comprehensive financial literacy course to be taught to 10th or 11th grade students. Language from that bill was inserted into SB 220 by Rep. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton). GBA monitored.
Georgia Uniform Mediation Act. SB 234 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) provides for uniform laws governing mediation and participants in mediation. GBA monitored.
Stored Value Cards. HB 327 by Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas) will establish a process intended to prevent the use of stored value cards to commit organized retail crime. GBA monitored.
Specialized Land Transactions. HB 470 by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon) relates to the regulation of specialized land transactions to provide that no plans are required when units are not designated by physical structures. GBA monitored.
Timberland Taxation. HB 282 by Rep. Steven Meeks (R-Screven) 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 monitored.
Utility Service. HB 150 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) will prohibit government entities from banning the connection of any utility service based on the type or source of fuel. GBA monitored.
Solicitations. HB 153 by Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) 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 monitored.
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 monitored.
Interior Design Liens. HB 480 by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon) 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. GBA monitored.

Remote Online Notary Carried Over to 2022 Session

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 HB 334 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas). The bill would allow an additional and optional process for remote online notarization of most documents except for some, such as wills. As with any legislation this comprehensive, and with as many stakeholders involved, not every suggestion was incorporated. But overall, the bill was positive as well as needed because emergency orders by Gov. Brian Kemp and the Supreme Court of Georgia allowing remote notarization are temporary. The House passed the bill overwhelmingly. During a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) successfully amended the bill to exempt real estate transactions from the optional remote notarization process. That change made the bill much less useful, but that version was called up and it passed the Senate on the last day of the session. That gave the House another chance to consider their position, and they insisted on their original language that included real estate transactions. They again overwhelmingly passed an amended version to include real estate transactions sending the bill back to the Senate. After some debate on the procedures by which the bill was called up for consideration in the Senate late in the evening, Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) successfully moved to table the bill, so no vote was taken in the Senate on the House version. The bill will be sent back to the Senate Judiciary Committee and it will be up to them to decide the bill’s fate next session. It was on a 5-4 vote in that committee that removed the real estate language, so there are some members who support the coalition’s position. We will continue to work with all the stakeholders during the interim and provide updates through our regular E-Bulletins.

Other Bills We Monitored Carrying Over to 2022

Bills and resolutions that did not pass this session will automatically carry over to the 2022 session. In the interim, advocates will work to reach compromises or gain enough support for bills to move forward during the current session. Following are most of the bills we’ve been monitoring that saw some action but did not pass in 2021. The committee where the bill is assigned is listed after each description. Here are links to the House and Senate Committees if you have interest in any of these bills and want to have a conversation with your representative or senator who may be on the committee of jurisdiction.
Broadband. SB 65 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) 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. A hearing was held in the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee where the bill is pending.
Cybersecurity. SB 52 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) provides standards for cybersecurity programs to protect businesses from liability while providing for affirmative defenses for data breaches of private information. The bill passed the Senate and is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.
Earned Wage Access. HB 674 by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville) requires companies providing earned wage access services to employers to register with the Department of Banking and Finance. A hearing was held by the House Committee on Industry and Labor where the bill is pending.

GAP Insurance. HB 733 by Rep. Tyler Smith (R-Bremen) revises the definition of a guaranteed asset protection waiver to allow a waiver contract to be issued with or without a fee. The waiver may also provide, with or without a separate charge, a benefit that waives an amount, or provides a borrower with a credit, toward the purchase of a replacement vehicle. A hearing was held by the House Insurance Committee where the bill is pending.
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 was reported from the House Special Rules Committee, but no further action was taken and the bill has been returned to that committee.

Small Business Loans. HR 129 by Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-Jonesboro) is a proposed constitutional amendment to set aside lottery funds to support economic development and fund loan programs for small businesses located in Georgia which are independently owned and operated by Georgia residents. The House Economic Development & Tourism Committee held a hearing, and the bill is pending in that committee.
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 passed the Senate and is pending in the House Higher Education Committee.

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 passed the House and is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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 text of this legislation has been added to HB 289 that was reported out of the Senate Public Safety Committee but tabled in the full Senate. The bill returns to the Committee.
Credit Bureaus. HR 53 by Rep. Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) is a resolution urging 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. The House Banks and Banking Committee held a hearing on the bill where it is pending.
Wills - Elder Abuse. HB 618 by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) relates to execution and attestation so as to allow a determination if there has been undue influence on an elder in regard to the signing of the will. A creditor is listed as an interested party and is one of those that could bring such petition to the court. A hearing was held in the House Judiciary Committee where it is pending.

State Issues Page

Many other bills saw no action during the session and will also carry over to the 2022 session. You’ll want to bookmark the State Issues page on our website as that’s a good resource to follow all the bills and resolutions we’re monitoring on your behalf.