April 5, 2022

General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die

The 2021-2022 biennial of the Georgia General Assembly adjourned late in the evening Monday, April 4. GBA’s advocacy team has been following more than 100 bills this session that had a potential effect on the industry. This year’s session was another productive one for banking as most bills we supported passed, and those with which we had concerns were either amended or failed to pass. A big shoutout to House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming) for their leadership ensuring every member’s voice was heard and the Legislature operated smoothly. Gov. Brian Kemp’s legislative package he covered with us at GBA’s Economic and Legislative Forum was passed almost in total. And, special thanks to so many legislative committee chairs and individual members who spent countless hours listening to our concerns and perfecting legislation before it reached the floor.

Banking Committee Chairs Shine in Their First Biennial

It’s seldom that both the chairs of the House and Senate banking committees change during the biennial, but we saw that in 2021-2022. In 2021, Matt Brass (R-Newnan) was named chairman of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. This year, Noel Williams (R-Cordele) was named chairman of the House Banks and Banking Committee. Congratulations to both for doing a fine job in these positions and ably handling legislation assigned to their committees.
GBA's advocacy team

GBA Priority Bills and Others We Monitored Passed

Hundreds of bills get introduced each biennial of the Legislature and most don’t pass. But many do, and a number of those affect banking. GBA was represented at the Capitol by an experienced advocacy team led by Senior Vice President, Government Relations, Elizabeth Chandler. Also, on the advocacy team are GBA’s government relations consultant Steve Bridges and GBA President and CEO Joe Brannen. “We’ve got a talented, well-respected group of lobbyists representing our interests at the Capitol. They have decades of experience working together and are the ‘go-to’ source for legislators and those in the administration when questions arise about banking issues. We are fortunate to have them,” said GBA Chairman Luke Flatt, Chairman, AB&T, Albany. 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. Following are bills that received final passage this session.
GBA Priority Bill. Our thanks to Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) and Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) who ably shepherded GBA’s priority bill of the session through the Legislature with unanimous votes in committee and on the floor. HB 891 was developed in conjunction with GBA’s Bank Counsel Section and other stakeholders. The Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs, Bo Fears, took that input and crafted the bill that was introduced at the request of the Department. The bill contains provisions for streamlining or simplifying existing statutes to make the Department’s regulations more efficient and ease the regulatory burden on financial institutions. The bill contains several provisions related to acquisitions and change in control involving banks and bank holding companies and the related application processes.
Time-share Foreclosures. SB 493 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) provides for a nonjudicial foreclosure process of time-share estates. A similar bill, HB 1088 by Rep. Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville), also passed the House and Senate. Both bills are awaiting the Governor’s consideration to determine which will be signed as the bills are identical. Our thanks to the authors for incorporating GBA recommended language in both bills to recognize the position of the lienholder.
Apportionment of Damages. HB 961 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) addresses a recent Georgia Supreme Court decision that held that apportionment of damages does not apply when there is only one named defendant. The legislation tracks the solution the Court suggested to fix the original Act adopted in 2005 by the Georgia Legislature that replaced the state’s joint and several liability rules with a fairer, more just comparative fault rule where damages were apportioned amongst all responsible parties.
Freedom to Farm. HB 1150 by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella) seeks to provide protection to farmers from frivolous and nuisance lawsuits.
Deed Filing. HB 974 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Acworth) would have required the electronic filing of deeds, states that the inclusion of an incorrect tax parcel I.D. number or the absence of such number does not invalidate a deed, if otherwise properly filed, and requires certain information to be included on the first page of security deed. The bill as introduced was amended and makes it mandatory that Clerks offer e-filing for deeds, but e-filing of deeds is not mandatory.
Tax Credits – Rural Hospitals. HB 1041 by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) increases the limit on the amount of state tax credits for contributions to rural hospitals.
Development Authority Governance. HB 923 by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) caps the per diem allowance for development authority board members at no more than the per diem allowed for the General Assembly members and adds the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to those who may enforce an existing prohibition against a director of a development authority providing legal services to the authority.
Financial Literacy. HB 681 by Rep. Bill Yearta (R-Sylvester) requires the Department of Education to develop a comprehensive financial literacy course to be taught to 10th or 11th grade students. Language from the bill was merged into SB 220 by Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton).
Timber Ad Valorem Taxation. HB 997 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) creates a statewide referendum that if passed would exempt timber equipment and timber products held by timber producers from ad valorem taxes.
Trusts & Estates – Forfeiture of Interest. SB 543 by Sen. Sonya Halpern (R-Atlanta) relates to wills, trusts and administration of estates and among other things, provides for the forfeiture of an intestate share of an estate under certain circumstances.
Tax Credits for Individual Taxpayers. HB 1302 by Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) provides for a one-time tax credit for individual taxpayers who filed income tax returns for the 2020 and 2021 taxable years. Rep. Bonner is one of Gov. Kemp’s floor leaders and introduced the bill at the Governor’s request.
Annual IRS Update. HB 1320 by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) is the annual update to sync the state’s tax codes with tax changes made at the federal level.
Corporate Income Tax Filings. HB 1058 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) removes the requirement that affiliated corporations file separate state income tax returns unless the Department of Revenue has requested or preapproved the filing of consolidated returns.
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.
Sales Tax Exemption – Computer Equipment. HB 1291 by Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) extends the sunset date and increases the spending limit on equipment to $18 million to be eligible for the sales and use tax exemption on the sale or lease of computer equipment by high technology companies. Two other bills relating to similar sales tax exemptions were amended onto the bill in the Senate: HB 428 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) and HB 1187 by Rep. Noel Williams (R-Cordele).
Mortgage Broker/Lender Licensing. SB 470 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) relates to the licensing of mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers to, among other things, provide for different categories of felony convictions for purposes of investigations of mortgage loan originator applicants.
Veterans Health ID Card. SB 96 by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) provides that the identification of persons for whom notaries perform notarial acts shall be evidenced satisfactorily by a valid Veterans Health Identification Card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
Regional Development Authorities. HB 1044 by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) provides for the creation of regional development authorities and provides an enhancement for the jobs tax credit for such authorities.
Solicitations. SB 363 by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) amends the Code relating to written solicitations for corporate filings to add “employment or labor posters or notices” to the items that must be identified as solicitations and specifically allows class action lawsuits for a violation of these provisions.
Manufactured Housing. SB 445 by Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) revises civil penalties that may be assessed for violations of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 by removing a cap on the civil penalties.

Several Bills of Interest to Banking Didn’t Pass

Each session there are always bills that are of interest to the industry that do not get final action. Following are several bills we’ve discussed in previous Legislative Updates that did not get to the Governor’s desk this year. Legislators will need to reintroduce their bills in the 2023 session as none carry forward automatically.
Remote Online Notary. HB 334 by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas) would have created additional ways to notarize documents by electronic means, and GBA was part of a coalition of interested parties that helped Rep. Gullet craft a workable bill. The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill in the 2021 session and the coalition used the time between the two sessions to meet with those opposed to try and address their concerns. Conferees from the House and Senate met, but opposition led by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) kept the Senate conferees from agreeing to a compromise.
C-PACER Loans. HB 1413 by Rep. Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) would have authorized local governments to establish and adopt commercial property assessed clean energy and storm resiliency (C-PACER) programs. Because these loans would be given priority over existing loans in a foreclosure, GBA has opposed similar legislation in previous sessions. The advocates for the bill could not adequately address concerns raised by several legislators. We expect to see a version of the bill to be reintroduced in the 2023 session.
Telephone Solicitations. SB 364 by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) would have allowed class action lawsuits for damages against certain persons violating Georgia code provisions relating to telephone solicitations. GBA testified requesting several helpful changes to the bill and some concerns were addressed. However, legislators could not get comfortable with the final version, and we expect to see the bill resurface in 2023.
Probate. HB 1350 by Rep. Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) requires personal representatives to send notices to beneficiaries regarding the issuance of letters testamentary or letters of administration. The bill was amended to include GBA-requested language to revise a definition to include financial institutions within the Uniform Transfer on Death Security Registration. Different versions of the bill passed the House and Senate, but the bill did not get final passage.
Ad Valorem Tax – Timber. HR 686 by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) proposed a constitutional amendment to reduce the rate of ad valorem tax assessment of timber sales or harvest and required the Georgia General Assembly to appropriate monies, per a formula, to each county, municipality, and school district that experienced an ad valorem tax reduction in the preceding year due to the change in the manner of assessment for timber. Language from this resolution was incorporated into SR 135 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) that would have provided for a Constitutional Amendment authorizing sports betting. Final action was not taken on either bill.
Political Subdivision Loans. HR 732 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) was a proposed constitutional amendment to provide that temporary loans for counties, municipalities and other political subdivisions shall come due within 12 months of the initial funding date of the loan. The bill passed the House but not the Senate.
Unclaimed Property. HB 1352 by Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain) related to the disposition of unclaimed property making significant additions and rewriting existing unclaimed property laws, including how wills found in safe deposit boxes are to be handled. The bill passed the House but not the Senate.
Real Property. HB 554 by Rep. Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville) would have revised when an action related to a dispute involving real property may operate as a lis pendens. Different versions of the bill passed the House and Senate, but final action was not taken.
Ungraded Lumber. HB 1384 by Rep. David Jenkins (R-Grantville) would have allowed for the use of ungraded lumber in the construction or repair of any uninhabited structure on property zoned for residential or agricultural use. Different versions of the bill passed the House and Senate, but final action was not taken.
Down Payment Assistance Savings Plan. The Senate passed SB 491 by Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Atlanta) that called upon the Department of Revenue to create a down payment savings program to be administered by banks and credit unions. A hearing was held by a House Ways and Means Subcommittee, but due to lack of a fiscal note from the state auditor outlining the cost of the program, the subcommittee did not move forward with the bill.
Georgia Agribusiness & Rural Jobs Act. HB 500 by Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross) would have extended the Georgia Agribusiness & Rural Jobs Act and provided for a second round of funding. The bill passed the House and hearings were held by the Senate Finance Committee. However, the committee did not move the bill forward.
Legal Notices. HB 1388 by Rep. James Burchett (R-Waycross) would have provided an alternative procedure for the designation of the official legal organ for various notices. The bill passed the House and was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the bill was not scheduled for floor action by the Senate Rules Committee.
Mobile Homes – Derelict Notices. HB 1294 by John Corbett (R-Lake Park) would have provided for the timing of sending the notice by a landowner when a mobile home has been determined to be derelict. The bill passed the House and was reported from the Senate Special Judiciary Committee but was not scheduled for a floor vote by the Senate Rules Committee.
Motor Vehicle Titling. HB 1478 by Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth) makes voluntary the current mandatory requirement that motor vehicle titles be handled electronically. The bill affects the Electronic Title Registration (ETR) program. ETR is the system dealers use to apply for registration and titling. The bill does not affect the Electronic Lien and Title (ELT) program. The bill passed the House but was not reported from the Senate Science and Technology Committee.
Unlawful Assembly. SB 171 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) is entitled the Safe Communities Act which, among other things, provided 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 passed the Senate, but the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee did not move the bill forward.
Residential Rentals. HB 1093 by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon) would have prohibited local governments from restricting residential dwellings from being rented. The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the bill, but the bill did not move forward.
Rural Healthcare. HB 1371 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R) would have established the Rural Health Advancement Commission to address healthcare workforce shortages in rural areas of Georgia. The bill passed the House but was not moved forward by the Senate Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare.
Utility Bonds. SB 421 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) would have created the Georgia Utility Rate Reduction Act (GURRA) that, among other things, allowed utility companies to issue GURRA bonds that would be repaid by a charge added to utility customers’ bills. The bill authorized such bonds as legal investments for banks and trust companies. Hearings were held and the bill was reported from the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee but was not scheduled for a floor vote by the Senate Rules Committee.
Legal Tender. HB 1152 by Rep. Mesha Mainor (D-Atlanta) would have required a merchant to accept cash as legal tender for payment for goods and services and prohibits discrimination against a cash buyer by requiring the buyer to use credit to make a purchase. Hearings were held by the House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee, but the bill did not move forward.
Lottery Game for Small Business Loans. HR 581 by Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-Jonesboro) proposed a Constitutional Amendment to authorize the General Assembly to provide the net proceeds of one or more lottery games to support economic development by providing loans to support small businesses located in Georgia. The bill was favorably reported by the House Regulated Industries Committee, but did not move forward from that point.
State CRA. HB 522 by Rep. Marvin Lim (D-Norcross) would have required the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance to conduct community reinvestment evaluations on state-chartered banks and savings institutions. The bill did not generate sufficient support to move forward to hearings in the House Banks and Banking Committee.
Development Impact Fees. HB 1130 by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) would have authorized development impact fees for education to be imposed by local school boards in high growth local school systems. The bill did not generate sufficient support to move forward to hearings in the House Government Affairs Committee.

Study Committees Formed

Several committees were created by the House and Senate to meet prior to the 2023 session. Oftentimes these study committees are the result of legislation that raised concerns during the process and legislators wanted more time to consider the concept and gather more information. We’ll be monitoring at least two of those study committees:
Taxation. The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Committee on Finance were directed to undertake a thorough review of any and all state tax credits, deductions, and exemptions.
Housing Study Committee. HR 1149 by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon) creates the House Study Committee on Regulation, Affordability, and Access to Housing. The seven-member committee will be appointed by the Speaker of the House and comprised of four House members, a real estate professional, a mayor or county commissioner and one other person. Among the topics to be studied are the residential rental issues in HB 1093 mentioned above which did not pass this session.
HOA Study Committee. SR 615 by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) creates the Senate Property Owners' Associations, Homeowners' Associations, and Condominium Associations Study Committee. The committee will be comprised of five senators appointed by President of the Senate.

Many Legislators Not Returning

After each biennial, we see many members choosing to retire, seek another office, or pursue other interests. This is not an exhaustive list, but we wanted to especially recognize a few that we’ve worked closely with over the years.
  • Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming), retiring
  • Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), running for Agriculture Commissioner
  • Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson,) running for Lt. Gov.
  • Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), running for Lt. Gov.
  • Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), retiring
  • Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), running for Labor Commissioner
  • Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), retiring
  • Rep. Susan Holmes (R-Monticello), retiring
  • Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), pending confirmation as Ambassador to the Dominican Republic

Elections Next Up for Legislators

Legislators choosing to run for re-election will not have much time for campaigning before the May 24 primary. We will soon be kicking off our biannual Georgia Bankers Democracy Days project to highlight the importance of the upcoming elections and highlighting key dates. You’ll also begin hearing about Georgia BankPAC and the 2022 campaign to raise funds to participate in state and federal elections. The Georgia Secretary of State maintains a public page showing all candidates qualifying for various offices. Click here to find those running in your area.