FEBRUARY 26, 2016
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GAC Georgia Credit Union Leaders Hike the Hill in Washington, D.C., During GAC
(Issue 1 of 5)

More than 100 credit union leaders from Georgia attended CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., meeting with legislators and helping build influence for the industry.

 
     
  DBF Housekeeping Bill Moves One Step Closer! (Issue 2 of 5)
The Georgia Senate Banking Committee passed the Department of Banking and Finance's housekeeping bill, which includes several provisions with potential benefits for credit unions.

 
  And Then There Were 11 – State Session Moving FAST
(Issue 3 of 5)

The state Legislature was in session all week, leaving it with 11 more days in the 40-day session and only one day until "crossover day," the deadline for a bill to pass its originating chamber and be eligible to move forward this year.

 
  No Surprises Here: Merchants, not Consumers, Benefit from Infamous Durbin Amendment (Issue 4 of 5)
CUNA and other trade associations said in an op-ed piece that retailers have kept most of the revenue from price controls resulting from debit-card fee restrictions, instead of passing on savings to consumers.

 
  Credit Unions in the News (Issue 5 of 5)
The credit union message continues to spread, as evidenced by coverage of the industry in a wide range of media outlets, from newspapers to magazines to the broadcast media.

 
 
 
Georgia Credit Union Leaders Hike the Hill in Washington, D.C., During GAC (Issue 1 of 5)
GAC
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (sixth from left) with Georgia credit union leaders during Hike the Hill

Over 100 Georgia credit union leaders from 26 credit unions and support organizations joined the crowds of 5,000 people in Washington, D.C., for CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). The GAC is a whirlwind of meetings, educational sessions, and events – and time in the halls of Congress where these Georgia leaders met with the members of the U.S. Senate and House to address issues of concern for credit unions.

These discussions are meaningful in growing relationships with the industry, and are vital in shaping legislative issues. The meetings between legislators and Georgia credit unions addressed the protection of the income tax exemption and the need for comprehensive credit union regulatory relief measures, emphasized Congressional action needed to tide the growing number of merchant data breaches, and sought support of increasing the member business lending limits. These "Hill visits" were also the second time the GCUA legislative micro site was utilized to help educate members of Congress on the key points for credit unions – a format for sharing information easily that both legislators and credit union hikers enjoy!

In the midst of the GAC, credit unions were also instrumental in procuring members of Georgia's Congressional delegation to sign onto a letter to encourage the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to utilize its discretion and exempt credit unions and community banks from some of their rulemaking process. Special thank you to Representatives Hank Johnson (D-4), Rob Woodall (R-7), David Scott (D-13) and Tom Graves (R-14) for signing onto this "dear colleague" letter this week, and thank you to everyone who traveled up to D.C. to lobby members of Congress on issues that matter to all credit unions! 

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Georgia CapitolDBF Housekeeping Bill Moves One Step Closer! (Issue 2 of 5)

On Tuesday, February 23rd the Department of Banking and Finance's Housekeeping legislation, HB 811 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), passed the Senate Banking Committee and now awaits selection in the Rules Committee. 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. GCUA is pleased at how quickly the bill moved in the Senate as it contains several positive provisions for credit unions, some of which include:

  • 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 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.
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11And Then There Were 11 – State Session Moving FAST
(Issue 3 of 5)

This week, the state Legislature was in session Monday through Friday, bringing us to day 29 as of press time – one day away from the deadline of day 30 (which is the day by which a bill must pass its originating chamber to be able to move forward) and 11 days until the end of the session. Being this close to the day 30 cutoff equates to even longer days, and packed hearing schedules for both the Senate and House. This is due to legislators working frantically to get their bills through the committee process and onto the floors of the respective chambers for a full vote before deadline. Some of the deluge of activity from the week:

  • On Monday, February 22nd the Senate Science and Technology Committee heard debate on SB 306 by Sen. PK Martin (R-Lawrenceville), which seeks to 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. No vote was taken. 
  • On Monday, February 22nd HB 685 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) was addressed in a House Judiciary Subcommittee meeting. This bill, from last year actually, pertains to how condo/homeowner associations can reinstitute their board so as to maintain common areas of the real property, and is being monitored to ensure that there are no backdoor attempts to force credit unions and other financial institutions to be on the hook for back fees/fines. It passed in a second subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, February 24th and will continue to be monitored.
  • On Monday, February 22nd a House Judiciary subcommittee amended and passed HB 938 by Rep. Brian Prince (D-Augusta). This bill seeks to address blighted properties by providing the purchaser of a tax lien the ability to recoup the reasonable cost of upkeep of the property, and give them permission to access unoccupied homes and property. The bill awaits consideration by the full House Judiciary Committee.
  • On Tuesday, February 23rd the full House passed HB 768 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville); this bill seeks to allow Georgia to participate in the new federal program designed to help disabled individuals save for qualified expenses (ABLE accounts). In the hearing process prior, the tax credit language for depositors was removed from the bill and will just allow Georgia the opportunity to participate in the federal program.
  • On Tuesday, February 23rd and Thursday February 25th the Senate Judiciary Committee met to debate SB 206 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick). This bill originally contained a problematic provision that would automatically provide public and private water facilities the ability to supersede the priority lien status of credit unions and other financial institutions, putting a credit union on the hook for unpaid water bills of any residential or commercial property in foreclosure. After GCUA addressed this concern with Sen. Ligon, he recognized the issue and removed the onerous language from the bill prior to this hearing, as it was not his intent to supersede the priority status of credit unions and other financial institutions. The bill passed committee after being amended several times to ensure that cities and counties can still place a lien on commercial property (as they do today), but will be monitored through the process.
  • On Tuesday, February 23rd HB 914 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) was heard in a House Judiciary subcommittee. This bill seeks to go after entities that prey upon individuals that have purchased a new home. These entities try to coerce the public into paying money for a copy of the instrument conveying real estate, and this bill would require them to state that the notice is a solicitation. It was moved forward, and then passed full committee on Thursday, February 25th.
  • On Tuesday, February 23rd HB 1004 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) passed a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing; this bill seeks to modernize the way in which clerks of court process information. It pertains to the records filed at the court and opens provisions that apply to condo associations as well as normal mortgage lending. It passed the full House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, February 25th and will continue to be monitored.
  • On Tuesday, February 23rd a Special Subcommittee of the House Regulated Industries Committee met to hear debate on HB 1001 by Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) but did not move it forward. This bill seeks to make changes to pawnbroker provisions and allow for an installment loan that can be paid monthly as opposed to a one-time payment.
  • On Wednesday, February 24th the full House was primed to vote on HB 381 by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) - however, it was recommitted for further work. This bill seeks to overhaul the process by which one becomes a notary public, and would require training and background checks as well as detailed (10 years) record-keeping by the notary, phased in over a period of time. It has been amended multiple times in the hearing processes to make it less burdensome on notaries public, and to ensure that regular business operations at financial institutions are not impacted.
  • On Wednesday, February 24th the Ways and Means Committee met to address multiple tax- related bills, including one that opened the section of code pertaining to the real estate transfer tax: HB 364 by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin). This bill was monitored throughout 2015 and the 2016 committee process to ensure that it did not change any provisions for credit unions, and is being utilized instead to address incorrect taxation on airport vendors.
  • On Thursday, February 25th the full House voted in support of HB 802 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), which seeks to increase the tax deduction on contributions to 529 savings accounts.

Georgia CapitolEven with all the committee and floor votes, and countless hearings, legislators still find time to introduce new bills every day. New ones of interest to credit unions include:

  • SB 422 by Sen. JaNice VanNess (R-Conyers), on forced upkeep of neglected properties, outlines prescriptive requirements for the owner and directs county to pay for any noncompliance upkeep, and then place a lien and/or foreclose on the property. In an atypical move, Sen. VanNess requested a hearing the day the bill was introduced on Wednesday, February 25th, and was hoping to move it out immediately. It did not receive action but is being monitored closely.
  • SB 398 by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) creates banking improvement zones to be designated by the Department of Community Affairs to encourage the opening of physical financial institution branches in areas were there are little to no options available to the community. It would direct cities/counties to utilize public funds as a “carrot.”
  • SB 403 also by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), would set up sweepstakes savings accounts (otherwise known as lottery-based savings), and outlines that they are permissible.

GCUA sought out Sen. McKoon to discuss the bills and his intentions. He shared that he introduced both measures to get a dialogue started, and said they are more likely to see possible traction in 2017.

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No Surprises Here: Merchants, not Consumers, Benefit from Infamous Durbin Amendment (Issue 4 of 5)

SurpriseMultiple financial trade associations on the national level are bringing attention to the point that retailers have kept most of the revenue – an estimated $32 billion – from price controls implemented by debit card restrictions. This is a direct hit on consumer pocketbooks, CUNA and the trade association partners said in op-ed piece published on February 24th in American Banker. "Retailers who claim that restrictions on debit card fees benefit credit unions and community banks miss the point: these price controls are bad for consumers," said the op-ed, signed by CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle; Camden Fine, president/CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America; and B. Dan Berger, president/CEO of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

"After Congress passed the Durbin amendment – which was authored by Sen. Dick Durbin as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act – merchants promised to pass the savings on to consumers in the form of lower prices," the article continues. "The price controls lawmakers were able to impose on those providing electronic payment options have resulted in an $8 billion annual handout to retailers that they have not passed on to consumers. Five years after the Federal Reserve issued a rule to implement the amendment, retailers have kept most of this revenue – an estimated $32 billion – for themselves."

The op-ed cites a recent Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond study, which indicates that the amendment is not benefiting consumers as Congress intended. The report found that "few merchants are found to reduce prices or debit restrictions as debit costs decrease." "Unlike merchants, financial institutions do not simply pocket interchange revenues," the trade associations continue. "Rather, financial institutions support a global payments network and invest in developing the latest security technologies, such as real-time predictive analytics, EMV, tokenization, biometrics and end-to-end encryption, to help keep consumers' data safe."

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NewsCredit Unions in the News (Issue 5 of 5)

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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