February 5, 2016
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Rotunda Lobbying for Credit Unions in the State Session: 24 Days Remaining (Issue 1 of 6)
With 24 days remaining in the state session, there are continual lobbying efforts to advance positive bills for credit unions, and efforts to mitigate legislation that could have negative impacts on the industry.

 
     
  Bill to Correct Georgia's Garnishment Law Passes Committee (Issue 2 of 6)
One of the priority bills for Georgia credit unions, legislation to correct the state's garnishment law, passed a Senate committee after multiple changes … with more amendments expected.

 
  DBF Housekeeping Bill Moves Forward (Issue 3 of 6)
The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance's Housekeeping legislation passed the House Banking Committee after two hearings this week; the bill includes provisions of interest to credit unions and is closely monitored.

 
  State Session Activity of Interest (Issue 4 of 6)
There are 236 state legislators that introduce a wide number of bills, and 68 committees that hold hearings on a regular basis in the state legislature...many of which of interest to credit unions.

 
  US House Passes Bill to Curb Operation Choke Point (Issue 5 of 6)
The US House this week passed the credit union supported bill to end Operation Choke Point.

 
  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.

 
 
 
Lobbying for Credit Unions in the State Session: 24 Days Remaining (Issue 1 of 6)

Capitol interiorThis week the state session worked through 16 of their 40 session days...time is moving quickly. Yet even though it is a fast session, there are no shortage of bills and issues. As of press time there are now over 3,400 separate pieces of legislation that have been introduced in this two-year cycle, with many more to come. All of the bills are reviewed for potential impact, and during the course of each legislative day much time and effort is spent lobbying legislators on behalf of credit unions to advance positive bills, mitigate concerns in other bills, and work to stop legislation that would have negative ramifications on the industry. Here are just two examples in the past 16 legislative days:

 

  • GCUA continues to educate legislators on one of the priority bills being pursued for credit unions in this year's legislative session, the Credit Union Clarification for Lending/Operation Procedures bill HB 759  by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs). 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).

    If Georgia passes this state legislation, it would protect credit unions and the manner in which they serve their members today. 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. The bill is presently in the House Rules Committee awaiting selection for a full vote on the House floor.

  • GCUA also is reaching out to legislators on concerns with SB 282 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). This bill seeks to create a private cause of action against any financial institution that discriminates against a gun retail establishment by refusing to serve (or stops serving). This bill is 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 (see below article on the CUNA supported bill in Congress to curb Operation Choke Point).

    If Georgia passes this state legislation, it would impair a credit union's ability to make a business decision, and would place financial burdens on credit unions to prove that they were not discriminating, even if the reason for refusal to serve had to do with field of membership (or MBL) constraints. GCUA has addressed concerns with the bill sponsor, and will continue to educate legislators (many who avidly support gun rights and are angry with federal government in general).
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Capitol exteriorBill to Correct Georgia's Garnishment Law Passes Committee (Issue 2 of 6)

On Tuesday, February 2nd the Senate Judiciary Committee amended and passed SB 255 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). This bill, a priority for Georgia credit union interests, seeks to correct Georgia’s garnishment process. 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 bill will rewrite the entire garnishment process in Georgia, so please note changes are to be expected in how your credit union processes them (as the case centered around the lack of notice to consumers when their accounts are frozen, and when garnishments are received). However, the language of the bill changes continually in the process. If and when it passes the full Senate and travels to the House, it is anticipated the bill will have more amendments. GCUA continues to work to ensure that a correction passes, and that it is not burdensome nor change the law to suddenly require that only attorneys to be utilized in responding to garnishments.

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DBF Housekeeping Bill Moves Forward (Issue 3 of 6)

The Department of Banking and Finance's Housekeeping legislation HB 811 sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) was heard in two separate House Banking hearings this week on Monday, February 1st and again on Thursday, February 4th. This bill seeks to make multiple revisions to Title 7 of Georgia law, the section that applies to credit unions, banks and other financial entities in the marketplace. Some of the changes that the Department is pursuing in this year's legislation include:

Additional Hearings of Interest

  • 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 basis for the department's purview over virtual currency,
  • Outline a procedure for credit unions 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.

This bill passed the full committee on Thursday the 5th and moves forward now to House Rules for consideration. It will continue to be monitored and addressed with legislators through the process for its successful passage (and prevention of unwanted amendments).

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State Session Activity of Interest (Issue 4 of 6)

There are 236 state legislators, each of which can and does introduce legislation on varying topics. In addition, there are 68 stand-alone committees (not including sub committees and special study committees) that hold hearings on a regular basis on any number of bills in the state legislature. The bulk of the hearings and bills happen in and around the 40 session days; activity of interest this week (in addition to the above highlighted bills) include:

Additional Hearings of Interest

  • SR 360 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) will create a study committee to meet during the off session to analyze what the state should do to help curb data breaches and strengthen Georgia’s protections of consumers' personal information. It passed the Senate Science and Technology Committee on Monday, February 1st, and meetings of the study committee will be monitored closely.
  • HB 768 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) seeks to allow Georgia to participate in the new federal program designed to help disabled individuals save for qualified expenses (ABLE accounts). This bill passed a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Monday, February 1st, but only after the tax credit language for depositors was removed from the bill.
  • SB 283 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) concerning the State Treasury, which seeks to make a technical adjustment to the formula for large dollar pools of public funds (such as UGA’s deposits) due to Basel III changes. It passed the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, February 2nd.
  • HB 356 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would bring boats under the same TAVT and titling process as the state has with autos. All of the debate on the bill has centered on TAVT issues and concerns of where TAVT funds would be sent between area of purchase, residence or locale of use. This bill narrowly passed a Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, February 2nd, with GCUA covering questions in the Capitol on it prior. This issue will continue to be monitored to ensure that if boat titling does pass, lending operations are not impacted.

Additional New Bills of Interest Introduced

  • SB 306 by Sen. PK Martin (R-Lawrenceville) would remove notice of consumers by phone for identity theft notification, and prohibits a consumer reporting agency from charging for a credit freeze in the event of a data breach on the consumer.  
  • SB 321 by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) seeks to increase protections against public disclosure of consumer information held at the state level.
  • SR 883 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) seeks to create a study committee to analyze the payments processing industry in Georgia, and what the state can do to invest in the market and continue its growth.
  • HB 869 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) seeks to remove a provision in state law that requires real estate agents to deliver closing statements to sellers and maintain the documents in their files. In discussions with the industry, this bill has been introduced to bring Georgia in line with federal laws with the various changes with mortgage disclosures and privacy requirements. This bill is monitored closely to ensure there are no amendments by others alter the mortgage lending process in the state.
  • HB 871 by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella) seeks to alter Georgia's "Lemon Law", changing where the $3.00 fee paid by consumers after purchasing a new auto from a dealer is sent. This bill is monitored however to protect against unwanted amendments that could apply to auto lending in general.
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emailUS House Passes Bill to Curb Operation Choke Point (Issue 5 of 6)

Of keen interest to Georgia's state legislative lobbying efforts (see lead article on SB 282), this week the full US House passed the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 766) by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO).  This is the credit union supported legislation to end Operation Choke Point, a Department of Justice program aimed at encouraging banks and credit unions to terminate accounts of gun dealers, adult shops and other similar businesses. 

Tactics used to enforce the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Operation Choke Point can create unnecessary risks to consumers and the economy, CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle told all 435 representatives in a letter sent on February 2nd. Operation Choke Point allows investigations into whether financial institutions and payment-processing companies have enabled fraudulent activity. CUNA has joined critics of the plan, saying while it supports the government's role in eliminating fraud, Operation Choke Point has caused consumers to be separated from the mainstream financial services marketplace. "Credit unions are committed to maintaining the ability to serve their members while strictly following all laws and governing regulations," Nussle wrote. "H.R. 766 is a reasonable approach to preventing fraud and maintaining financial integrity without overreaching." In addition, we might add for here in Georgia...help illustrate why the state legislation on this issue is not needed!


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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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