JANUARY 15, 2016
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Gold Dome Georgia Begins State Legislative Session (Issue 1 of 6)
The Georgia Legislature's 40-day session began this week, with lawmakers working all five days in what promises to be a fast-paced second half to the 2015-2016 legislative term.

  Two Bills to Help Credit Unions Introduced Early (Issue 2 of 6)
Early in the legislative session, two bills that could help credit unions have already been introduced, one dealing with the state's garnishment process and the other with including credit unions along with other institutions in legislation.

  State Session in Week One: Fast, With Multiple Issues of Interest to CUs (Issue 3 of 6)
Indicators of the expected fast pace of the legislative session include multiple hearings during the first week and plans to hold legislative sessions three days of the second week, a time typically reserved for budget hearings.

  NCUA Board Member McWatters Nominated for Ex-Im Bank Board (Issue 4 of 6)
The President nominated J. Mark McWatters, a member of the National Credit Union Administration Board since 2014, for a seat on the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank.

  2016 CU Political Involvement Kicks Off with Eggs and Issues Breakfast (Issue 5 of 6)
Georgia credit union leaders were among the 2,000 business people, state legislators and local officials at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast, the unofficial kickoff of the legislative session.

  Credit Unions in the News (Issue 6 of 6)
The credit union message is getting out, as evidenced by coverage of the industry in a wide range of media outlets, from newspapers to magazines to the broadcast media.

Georgia CapitolGeorgia Begins State Legislative Session (Issue 1 of 6)

This week marked the start of the state legislative session when they began the second half of the two-year cycle on January 11th, and already the Legislature is at a high pace. The Legislature had worked through more than four days of the 40-day schedule as of press time, and leadership has shared that it will be one of the quickest sessions in recent history, with a potential end date slated for mid- to late March.

This new session will address issues that can affect credit unions over the coming weeks, likely in rapid fashion, and we will keep you informed in Creating Influence as these develop. While transportation, education and medical issues (as well as the budget) will dominate much of the media’s coverage of the state Legislature, the issues of importance to credit unions often happen quietly in the halls of the Capitol through the constant interaction of legislators, lobbyists and coalition groups. Stay tuned for updates, monitor the GCUAGov Twitter feed for activity, and you can view the bills being lobbied on behalf of credit unions here. If your team does not receive Creating Influence, sign them up today as their awareness and insight on the issues is an asset not just to the industry’s efforts, but also to the operations of your credit union.

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Two Bills to Help Credit Unions Introduced Early (Issue 2 of 6)

Prior to the onset of the state legislative session, GCUA has been working with various legislators to help address two issues of importance to credit unions, and these were two of the early bills introduced in the first week! Much work continues to help move these issues forward, and time is not an ally due to the pace of the session. However, having these pro-credit union bills introduced early aids in the likelihood of passage:

State Sen. Jesse Stone

Georgia Garnishment Process Legislation
Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) introduced the first draft of the bill aimed at correcting Georgia’s garnishment process (SB 255). This legislation is the byproduct of a working group that met during the off session to correct the issue that derailed the garnishment process in this state. And what derailed it was the 2015 Northern District judge’s ruling that the state’s garnishment statute is unconstitutional due to its not requiring creditors to tell debtors that some money (such as Social Security, workers’ compensation and welfare) is not eligible to be garnisheed, and not providing an avenue to get back funds that were taken in error.

After the ruling, the clerk of court for Gwinnett County immediately halted garnishments and this action has had ripple effects across Georgia’s courts, impacting credit unions in its wake. As such, GCUA has been in regular dialogue with legislators, illustrating that it is imperative for credit unions to have a garnishment process that works. Please note, however: Any correction in law sought will bring changes to the garnishment process, and how credit unions (and others) respond to garnishments, as the court case centered on lack of notice. Much of the 55 pages of legislative changes is on the operations, filing, timing and notice provisions that will now be required, but GCUA continues work on this issue to ensure that a correction is passed and that the correction is not burdensome to credit unions, and does not force them to use an attorney to respond to garnishments!

State Rep. Wendell Willard

Credit Union Clarification for Lending/Operation Procedures
In more cases than not, the most negative potential consequences of legislation are by mere accident - often when bills are drafted that reference a financial institution or financial transaction, the words “bank” and/or “FDIC” are used. If left unaltered these bills could have detrimental effects on the manner in which credit unions lend, serve members or operate. One of these issues researched in the off session is that credit unions have not been explicitly included in the unauthorized practice of law exemption provided to allow normal operations since its creation years ago (the exemption that allows credit unions to lend, initiate HELOCs, discuss issues with members, or address compliance issues without an attorney present). GCUA has been engaged with Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in the off session to proactively improve these definitions in existing law. He has introduced HB 759 specifically to help clarify the law to protect credit unions in their operations, and our thanks to Rep. Willard for his regular dialogue through the past three months to introduce a bill on behalf of credit unions.

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State Session in Week One: Fast, With Multiple Issues of Interest to CUs (Issue 3 of 6)

Georgia CapitolWhile the first week is full of the formalities, the Legislature is poised to move quickly with multiple hearings in the first week on bills and for the first time in legislators’ memory they will be in session three days next week (typically reserved for budget hearings only). This week there were multiple bills introduced in addition to the above two pro-credit union bills that will require active monitoring for the industry through the committee process, and the lobbying team was engaged with two hearings already at the onset:

Hearing on Boat Titling/TAVT
On Thursday, January 14th the House Ways and Means subcommittee held a hearing to address potential changes to the TAVT auto tax, as well as possibly bringing boats under the same TAVT and titling process with HB 356 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah). TAVT issues are monitored closely for any lending operational changes, and the bill on boat titling actually has more to do with creating a TAVT process for boats (and debate on where funds would be sent between area of purchase, residence or locale of use). GCUA was on hand to field questions from legislators, and will continue to monitor the issue to ensure that if boat titling does pass, lending operations are not impacted.

Hearing on Tax Executions
HB 653 by Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta) was debated on Thursday, January 14th in a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing. In the past few years, the state legislature has tackled bills that touch how delinquent property taxes are paid, how tax liens are sold, and various bills that attempted to set safeguards from having delinquent taxpayers lose their property. From a credit union perspective, it is paramount to watch these issues closely to protect the collateral – and while this bill seeks to provide the ability to transfer the collection of that debt to other entities, it will be watched closely for any unwanted changes.

New Bills Introduced
There are bills introduced continually throughout the session that are reviewed for potential impact to credit unions. Some of the new bills of interest to credit unions introduced this week include:

In addition, while it is not new: SB 242 by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming) seeks to require companies with sick leave policies to permit employees' use for immediate family members. This bill was introduced in 2015, but did not move forward and was shifted to another committee in the Senate for potential movement. Remember, all bills that did not pass in 2015 are still "live"!

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McWattersNCUA Board Member McWatters Nominated for Ex-Im Bank Board
(Issue 4 of 6)

President Barack Obama announced on January 11th that he has nominated current NCUA board member J. Mark McWatters to a position on the Export-Import Bank board of directors. McWatters, who has served on the NCUA board since August 2014, will continue to serve on the board through the confirmation process. McWatters has been an advocate for greater regulatory flexibility for credit unions; it will be of interest to credit unions to see who will be nominated to fill his post with NCUA after his (most likely) pending departure. Stay tuned!

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Breakfast2016 CU Political Involvement Kicks Off with Eggs and Issues Breakfast (Issue 5 of 6)

On January 12th, the second day of the state legislative session, credit union representatives and GCUA joined 2,000 business leaders, state legislators and local officials at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast. This event is the unofficial kickoff to the legislative session, and at the credit union table were Chuck Head (Atlanta Postal CU)Sherry Saxon and Sidney Saxon (Augusta Metro FCU) and Renia Short (Delta Community CU) as well as Rep. Brian Prince (D-Augusta). Rep. Prince is one of four state legislators who also serve on credit union boards, and as such is a valuable ally during the legislative session.

Attendees were treated to insight from U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), Governor Nathan Deal (R), Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), and Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). Their presentations highlighted the priorities and initiatives of their offices for the upcoming session, ranging from education, homeland security, health care, and enhancing the overall economy in Georgia. Of note for credit unions: Sen. Isakson mentioned in his prepared remarks that he wants to lessen the regulatory burden placed on financial institutions. While nothing specific was mentioned, it illustrates the importance of communicating with legislators as an industry at local meetings and Hike the Hills, as the message carried up to D.C. by credit union leaders is resonating!

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NewsCredit Unions in the News (Issue 6 of 6)

Credit unions continue to earn media coverage statewide and beyond. Whether it is in a local newspaper, niche magazine or radio show, the credit union message is shared through a multitude of outlets across Georgia. Click here to see recent coverage of Georgia’s credit unions "In the News."

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