MARCH 11, 2016
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Calendar Credit Union Bill Moves One More Step Closer in Legislative Process! (Issue 1 of 6)
A bill that would specifically include credit unions among the kinds of organizations listed in a law governing certain financial institution operations advanced in the legislative process this week.

  Lobbying Efforts Continue on Firearms Discrimination Bill
(Issue 2 of 6)

GCUA continues to lobby hard on a bill aimed at preventing discrimination against the firearms industry, seeking an amendment to ensure that credit unions are not disadvantaged by membership restrictions or regulatory prohibitions.

  State Legislative Session Intensifies with the End in Sight (Issue 3 of 6)
With only five legislative days remaining in this year's session, numerous bills with potential impact on the credit union industry remain in play. Hearings on many of those bills were held this week.

  NCUA Chairman to Step Down (Issue 4 of 6)
National Credit Union Administration Chairman Debbie Matz, a veteran of 11 years at the agency and its head since 2009, announced that she plans to step down as chairman and board member at the end of April.

  U.S. Congressman Austin Scott Connects with South Georgia Credit Unions (Issue 5 of 6)
During a visit to his district, U.S. Rep. Austin Scott addressed a meeting of the South Georgia Credit Union Chapter and visited Southeastern Credit Union's student advisory board to talk about financial literacy.

  Credit Unions in the News (Issue 6 of 6)
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 CapitolCredit Union Bill Moves One More Step Closer in Legislative Process! (Issue 1 of 6)

The Credit Union Clarification for Lending/Operation Procedures bill, HB 759 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), moved one more step closer in the legislative process on Tuesday, March 8th when it passed in a Senate Banking and Finance hearing. It now travels to Senate Rules for their possible selection, and given the contentious nature of the session as well as the short window of time remaining, much work continues to keep it moving forward.

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. It has taken hours of lobbying to get the bill to this point, and much more to come to keep it moving in these final days of the session. But this would not be possible without the help and initiative of the credit union bill sponsor; our thanks to Rep. Willard for his work on the bill, as well as Sen. PK Martin (R-Lawrenceville) who has offered to present the bill on the Senate floor if and when it is selected out of Senate Rules. Stay tuned!

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Lobbying Efforts Continue on Firearms Discrimination Bill (Issue 2 of 6)

Georgia CapitolOn Thursday, March 10th the House Banking Committee heard testimony on the Firearms Dealer and Manufacturer Discrimination Act (SB 282) by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). Readers of Creating Influence will recall that this bill 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 testified and lobbied heavily against the bill in the Senate, and it was amended to remove language of concern to credit unions that would have created a special class of lawsuit against any financial institution that discriminates against a gun retail establishment by refusing or ceasing to serve. The bill now directs the Attorney General’s office to investigate acts of financial services discrimination against the firearms industry.

Even with the previous lawsuit language (private cause of action) removed from the bill, GCUA has not stopped the lobbying efforts on the issue so as to gain an amendment that would ensure that credit unions are not disadvantaged by membership restrictions or regulatory prohibitions. Put simply, if a firearms dealer is not in the field of membership, or if the credit union is subject to a regulatory prohibition, the bill would not apply. GCUA testified before the committee on the bill to help obtain the amendment if the legislation moves forward. There was no action taken in the committee; however, a vote (and any amendments) are anticipated in another hearing soon.

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State Legislative Session Intensifies with the End in Sight (Issue 3 of 6)

The state legislative session is in the final days, with only five days remaining as of press time. The legislature was in session four of the five days this week, utilizing the one “off” day for a marathon schedule of hearings to move bills forward. The atmosphere in the state Capitol is tense and frantic with legislators’ focus fraying fast (which makes lobbying even more challenging!). While the media focuses on campus carry, religious liberties/freedom, medical marijuana and other headline-grabbing bills, the number of hearings and bills addressed for credit unions is constant. Some of the additional activity of interest to credit unions from this week included:

  • Georgia CapitolOn Monday, March 7th the Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed HB 869 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), which 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 being monitored closely to ensure that there are no amendments by others alter the mortgage lending process in the state, and passed without unwanted amendments – but will continue to be watched closely to protect credit union lending operations.
  • On Monday, March 7th the Senate Finance Committee passed SR 988 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), which is a measure that urges the federal and state government to shift their income tax structure to the Fair Tax structure.
  • On Monday, March 7th the full House passed SB 283 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). This bill, concerning the state Treasury, 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.
  • On Tuesday, March 8th the Senate Judiciary Noncivil Committee heard hours of debate on HB 205 by Rep. Tom Rice (R-Norcross), a bill that addresses ignition interlock devices. While the bill was directed at DUIs, GCUA was on hand to monitor to ensure that there would be no overreaching restrictions that would be enacted that could impact the second-chance auto lending programs in place at credit unions around the state that use these devices.
  • On Tuesday, March 8th and Wednesday March 9th a House Judiciary subcommittee debated SB 206 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick). This bill addresses water liens, specifically on commercial property that are unknown to the new owner/tenant. The bill has seen more amendments than most bills, and has been monitored to protect credit union lending operations. The bill now provides an avenue for a purchaser to uncover whether there are any liens on the property, and an avenue to extinguish those liens if they are not shared at the onset. The bill later passed the full Judiciary Committee in another hearing on Thursday, March 10th.
  • On Monday, March 7th the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on 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. The committee passed the legislation in another hearing on Wednesday, March 9th.
  • On Wednesday, March 9th the Senate Special Judiciary Committee passed HB 381 by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough). 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, but was amended to institute the record-keeping requirement only for instances of electronic signature notarizations. Throughout the process the bill has been amended multiple times to make it less burdensome, and to ensure that regular business operations at financial institutions are safe.
  • On Wednesday, March 9th the Senate Special Judiciary Committee passed HB 1004 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper); 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 will continue to be monitored to protect against anything that would impact credit unions.
  • On Wednesday, March 9th the Senate Finance Committee held two hearings in tandem on the various tax-related bills ranging from income tax to sales tax and sales tax exemptions. GCUA continues to monitor all tax-related bills that have been monitored in the legislative process to protect against a last-minute attempt to alter the tax status of credit unions.
  • On Tuesday, March 8th and Thursday, March 10th the House Health and Human Services Committee held hearings on SB 389 by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), a bill directed at ensuring that individuals do not abuse welfare benefits. GCUA has spoken with Sen. Hill on multiple occasions to address a late amendment the bill that referenced not permitting EBT cards to be used at ATMs. Sen. Hill amended the bill further to ensure that credit unions and others with ATMs are not forced to police the issue, and clarified that the bill is only referencing food stamp benefits, which are not “cash value” cards or accessible at ATMs regardless.
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MatzNCUA Chairman to Step Down (Issue 4 of 6)

NCUA Board Chairman Debbie Matz announced on March 9th that she will step down from her role and the board at the end of April. Matz has led the agency since August 2009, and has served a total of 11 years at NCUA. She is the eighth NCUA Board Chairman and the only NCUA board member ever confirmed for a second term. Credit unions around the country will be interested to see what happens now, and who will lead NCUA in the future.

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ScottU.S. Congressman Austin Scott Connects with South Georgia Credit Unions (Issue 5 of 6)

Unlike the state Legislature that’s been counting down the days, Congress is in session throughout the year. However, federal legislators travel back home to Georgia regularly – holding town halls, attending events and working in their in-district offices before heading back to Washington, D.C. Credit unions are encouraged to connect with these legislators in the home districts, and on Tuesday, March 8th the South Georgia Credit Union Chapter did so with U.S. Congressman Austin Scott (R-8) by hosting him at their meeting. Rep. Scott shared his thoughts with the group on the value credit unions provide to communities and their members, and illustrated some of the issues being addressed by Congress. Representative Scott’s involvement with the Chapter is a great example of connecting legislators with the credit union industry to grow a positive relationship. Thank you to all the credit unions in the chapter for engaging him!

Earlier that day, Congressman Scott visited Southeastern Credit Union’s student advisory board to discuss the importance of financial literacy. Great job in not just connecting with the Congressman, but helping illustrate how credit unions help people afford life. We encourage everyone to seek out opportunities to engage your chapter, your credit union or just you personally with your legislators. It grows the ability of credit unions to shape legislation before it becomes regulation, thereby helping all credit unions across the state succeed. If you connect with your legislator, please share with GCUA.

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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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