JANUARY 29, 2016
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Rotunda Priority State Bill for Credit Unions Moves Forward (Issue 1 of 6)
A bill of importance to credit unions passed a couple of legislative hurdles this week. The bill would specifically include credit unions among the kinds of organizations listed in a law governing certain financial institution operations.

  Anticipated Legislation from DBF Introduced (Issue 2 of 6)
The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance’s Housekeeping legislation has been introduced in the Legislature; the bill includes several provisions with potential impact on credit unions and is being closely monitored.

  State Session: 28 Days Remaining, No End of Issues in Sight (Issue 3 of 6)
Twelve of the legislative session's 40 days are in the books, and with 28 legislative days remaining, there is still plenty of work to be done on bills that could affect the credit union industry for better or worse.

  State GAC Day for Georgia Credit Unions (Issue 4 of 6)
Representatives of credit unions across Georgia took part in the Affiliates' eighth annual state-level governmental affairs conference, learning about issues facing the industry and how to address them with lawmakers.

  NCUA's Field of Membership Proposal (Issue 5 of 6)
February 8 is the deadline for comment on the National Credit Union Administration's proposed new rules on field of membership, meaning there's still time to make your views known.

  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.

Priority State Bill for Credit Unions Moves Forward (Issue 1 of 6)

Capitol interiorOne of the priority bills being pursued for credit unions in this year’s legislative session was addressed in committee hearings: The Credit Union Clarification for Lending/Operation Procedures bill,  HB 759  by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), passed the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Friday, January 22nd, and the full House Judiciary Committee on Thursday the 28th. GCUA testified in favor of the bill at both hearings to help continue the forward momentum, and continues to lobby for its passage. This bill was introduced specifically to clarify that credit unions are included by definition in the unauthorized practice of law exemption for financial institution operations (this is the exemption that allows credit unions to lend, initiate HELOCs, discuss issues with members, or address compliance issues without an attorney present).

From an operational standpoint, credit unions have been treated as though they were included in the exemption – however, by the letter of the law, they are not. This bill was introduced by Rep. Willard at the request of GCUA to proactively improve the definition in existing law, and help clarify it to protect credit unions in their operations. Next step brings it to the House Rules Committee, with many more legislative steps and votes still left to go and time depleting fast.

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Capitol exteriorAnticipated Legislation from DBF Introduced (Issue 2 of 6)

The Department of Banking and Finance’s Housekeeping legislation, HB 811 sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), has been introduced and seeks to make multiple revisions to Title 7 of Georgia law, the section that applies predominantly to credit unions, banks and other financial entities in the marketplace. Readers of Creating Influence will recall that back in August, GCUA sat down with leadership from the Department of Banking and Finance to discuss potential changes to state law, and what could be considered for 2016, 2017 and beyond. Some of the changes that the Department is pursuing in this year’s legislation include:

  • Remove references to entities that no longer exist (building and loan associations),
  • Streamline the federal parity section for credit unions that was successfully procured in 2015,
  • Outline a set process in which a credit union could remove or suspend a director,
  • Create a basis for the department’s purview over virtual currency,
  • Outline a procedure for a credit union to hold real estate in specific instances subject to a majority vote of its directors without prior approval of the department, and
  • Remove prohibitions for state-chartered institutions against a fee for checks drawn on that institution.

The bill contains several other provisions, including creation of regulations for limited special purpose banks, clarification of the requirement of federal deposit insurance, and others. This bill will be monitored and addressed with legislators through the process for its successful passage (and prevention of unwanted amendments).

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State Session: 28 Days Remaining, No End of Issues in Sight (Issue 3 of 6)

This week the state session worked through 12 of the 40 session days, so time is moving quickly. From a credit union perspective, this is not a "quiet" session by any stretch, with multiple bills introduced daily requiring research and lobbying efforts, and hearings on issues. Activity of interest (in addition to the above highlighted bills) includes:

Capitol interiorAdditional Hearings of Interest

  • SB 255 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) was heard on Tuesday, January 26th in the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill seeks to correct Georgia’s garnishment process, and is a priority for Georgia credit unions to pass. In 2015 a federal judge ruled the garnishment statute unconstitutional in the state, thereby halting ALL garnishments altogether in some counties, and spreading to more areas of Georgia. This is an overhaul of the garnishment process in Georgia, so please note that changes are to be expected in how your credit union processes them (as the case centered on the lack of notice to consumers). However, throughout the session GCUA continues to work to ensure what is being sought by the Legislature is not burdensome, and does not change the law to suddenly require that only attorneys to be utilized in responding to garnishments. This bill was scheduled for another hearing for the 28th, but was postponed for another time.
  • HB 51 by Rep. Tommie Benton (R-Jefferson) passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with no changes on Tuesday, January 26th. This bill, introduced last year, seeks to prevent individuals from being forced to pay homeowner association fees (with no means of recourse) if purchasing a tax lien on a property. This legislation was monitored closely as it is a vehicle for homeowner associations’ superseding lien language to try to require foreclosing parties to pay past-due fees. Next stop is Senate Rules, and then potentially onto the full Senate for a vote. This will continue to be monitored to protect against any unwanted changes.
  • HB 768 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) was heard in a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Monday, January 25th. This bill seeks to allow Georgia to participate in the new federal program designed to help disabled individuals save for qualified expenses (ABLE accounts). This bill was held over for another hearing, with no vote taken yet.
  • HB 737 by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomaston) passed out of the House Code Revision Committee on Wednesday, January 27th. This bill makes several minor language changes across multiple titles of law, including Title 7 that houses the credit union and banking law. It is monitored to ensure no inadvertent changes are included that impact credit union operations.

Additional New Bills Introduced

  • SB 282 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) seeks to create a private cause of action against any financial institution that discriminates against a gun retail establishment by refusing to serve it (or by stopping stops serving it). Similar legislation is being pursued by the gun industry in states around the country to send a message to the federal government and regulators against "operation choke point" actions. GCUA has addressed concerns with the bill sponsor, and will continue to educate legislators, many of whom who support gun rights and some of whom are angry with federal government in general. This bill places the burden on the credit union (and all financial institutions) to prove that they weren't discriminating, even if the reason for refusal to serve had to do with field of membership (or MBL) constraints. The bill is backed by Senate leadership, so stay tuned.
  • SB 293 by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) on raising Georgia’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.
  • SR 736 by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) which seeks to create a study committee to analyze the number of Georgia employers who offer retirement/savings programs for employees, and to develop a public/private partnership to provide savings programs to those that do not.
  • HB 812 by Rep. Brian Prince (D-Augusta) seeks to ensure that violations of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 (protections for service members that prohibit and/or limit payday lending, title loans and similar high-interest lending) are investigated, and cease-and-desist orders for violations enacted.
  • HB 824 by Rep. Kimberly Alexander (D-Hiram) seeks to require all employers to allow employees to earn paid sick leave, outlining rules on notification of time available and on employer record retention.
HB 847 by Rep. David Clark (R-Buford) on expanding the penalties to those who commit public assistance fraud. This is being monitored to ensure that credit unions are not inadvertently impacted (previous bills on this topic would put additional compliance burdens on all financial institutions with EBT cards).
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State GAC Day for Georgia Credit Unions (Issue 4 of 6)
Georgia CU members
Georgia CU members at the Capitol

In January each year the Georgia Legislature convenes for an intense 40-day legislative session, and for the eighth consecutive January credit unions traveled to the Capitol in Atlanta for GCUA’s state governmental affairs conference to gain insight into the the multiple legislative issues facing the industry, hear from legislative leaders and political opinion makers on their insight, and what they can to do help shape the bills before they become law. This year’s event, held on January 26th, provided the opportunity for credit unions to grow understanding of the legislative issues, gain the tools to expand one’s grassroots strength, and widen the scope of influence credit unions have with legislators. To see the day as it unfolded, visit GCUAGov on Twitter or with the hashtag #CUGrassroots.

Over the years credit unions in Georgia attending the event have heard from all the major statewide elected officials in the state, political operatives, key legislators, and other Leagues on their election strategy. This year Georgia credit unions gained insight from:

The credit unions also were presented an overview of the key players and factors in this year’s Legislature, had an unexpected meeting with Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R-Gainesville), who heard credit unions were in the Capitol and wanted to meet the group, and an overview of the legislative issues of interest to credit unions, presented by GCUA.

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emailNCUA's Field of Membership Proposal (Issue 5 of 6)

CUNA highlighted its efforts this week to counteract the banking lobby and interests that have been voicing concern to NCUA as well as to Congress on NCUA’s field of membership proposal. If your credit union has not yet sent a message in support, please do so today here. As highlighted in multiple editions of Creating Influence, NCUA proposed wide changes to field of membership (FOM) rules. The proposal was published in the Federal Register, and the comment deadline is approaching quickly: February 8, 2016. Please don’t sit this one out; reach out to the NCUA today.

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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’s 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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