MARCH 25, 2016
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Now that the state legislative session has adjourned, Creating Influence will again be published on a bi-weekly schedule. Publication will resume with the April 8, 2016 issue.

Sine die State Session Adjourns! (Issue 1 of 6)
The 2016 state legislative session went well for the Georgia credit union industry, thanks in part to Georgia credit union leaders' strong personal connections with legislators and to GCUA's lobbying efforts involving more than 360 bills.

  Credit Union Bill on Way to Governor (Issue 2 of 6)
A bill intended to protect credit union operations, introduced at GCUA's request, was passed by the full state Senate and has been sent on to the Governor's office for his consideration.

  CU Priority Bill: Garnishment Overhaul Legislation Passes (Issue 3 of 6)
A bill to reform Georgia's garnishment process, considered of high importance to the state's credit union industry, got the OK from the state Senate and is on its way to the Governor for his consideration.

  DBF Housekeeping Legislation Clears Final Hurdle (Issue 4 of 6)
The Department of Banking and Finance's housekeeping bill, with several provisions that have potential impact for credit unions, was passed by the Senate and sent on to the Governor's office.

  Hard-Fought Provisions in Firearms Discrimination Bill
Retained to Protect Credit Unions (Issue 5 of 6)

A bill aimed at protecting the firearms industry from discrimination by financial institutions won final approval from the state House of Representatives, with amendments sought by the credit union intact.

  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.

Sine dieState Session Adjourns!
(Issue 1 of 6)

As of midnight on Thursday, March 24th the Georgia State Legislature has adjourned for 2016! GCUA was involved in over 360 bills this session that were actively monitored, lobbied, amended, promoted, pushed and/or outright stopped to advance and protect the credit union industry. Below are some of the highlights. However, please note that the final wrap-up will be provided in the next edition of Creating Influence after the analysis is complete (as bills were changing as late as 11:59 pm last night).

While this session proved to be one of the fastest, it was also one of the heaviest to date in issues for credit unions. To illustrate how drastically times have changed at the state Capitol: This year was a far cry from the times of old when state legislators managed to adjourn by St. Patrick’s Day by counting (but not working on) weekends. In the past 10 years alone, the general pace and ferocity of the session has only increased, and will continue to do so. However, amid all the legislative chaos, it was a session that ended well for credit union issues.

Success of any industry in Georgia’s Legislature is not solely dependent on lobbying. Lobbying is a significant factor that is needed to guide and address the issues, but personal relationships between legislators and industry leaders are instrumental in the decision-making that goes into any vote on a bill. To be able to compete in the ever-increasing pace flooded with issues, it will be necessary to grow the numbers of personal relationships between credit union leaders and legislators. And these relationships credit union leaders have with legislators were exceedingly beneficial this session:

GCUA called on credit unions with strong personal relationships with key state legislators to help pursue enhancements to protect credit unions in a bill during the committee process. Thank you to Coosa Valley FCU and LGE Community CU for your strong relationships and assistance!

  • The legislators who serve on credit union boards helped shape opinions of their colleagues on issues in bills prior hearings. Thank you to 1st Choice CU, Augusta Metro FCU, Georgia United CU, and Peach State FCU for having state legislators on your boards and/or committees!
  • Many legislators with strong personal connections to credit unions were instrumental in introducing and presenting bills and/or amendments to bills that were important to all credit union operations. Thank you to Peach State FCU and United Methodist Connectional FCU for cultivating two of these relationships!

This collective effort by the leadership of credit unions will need to grow to address the contentious issues of future sessions. If you have a personal/professional connection with a legislator, please share with GCUA as advocacy success is a credit union wide effort!

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Gold DomeCredit Union Bill on Way to Governor
(Issue 2 of 6)

The Credit Union Clarification for Lending/Operation Procedures bill, HB 759 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), passed the full Senate on Thursday, March 24th and is on its way to the Governor for his consideration. GCUA lobbied continuously to move this bill forward up through the final day as it helps protect credit union operations (and thwart attempted lawsuits). Why this bill matters to your credit union: This clarifies 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.

Presenting the credit union bill on the Senate floor was Sen. PK Martin (R-Lawrenceville), who has been instrumental in the forward momentum of the legislation once it crossed over to the Senate. Our thanks to both Sen. Martin and Rep. Willard for all of their support of the credit union legislation this session. To send a message of thanks to these two legislators, please click on their links and send an email, a letter, or a phone call of appreciation to them for HB 759!

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CU Priority Bill: Garnishment Overhaul Legislation Passes (Issue 3 of 6)

CapitolOne of the priority bills for credit unions, the Garnishment Process Overhaul Bill (SB 255) by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) passed the full House and Senate on Thursday, March 24th and is on its way to the Governor for his consideration. This bill seeks to correct Georgia’s garnishment process and was unique to this state: In 2015 a federal judge ruled the garnishment statute unconstitutional, thereby halting ALL garnishments in some counties, and spreading to more areas of Georgia.

This legislation is intended to change how garnishments are processed in Georgia, so please note that operational adjustments are to be expected in the timeframes for response and new notice requirements (as the case centered around the lack of notice to consumers). Last week a final amendment was added to the bill to provide credit unions and other financial institutions more time to respond to garnishment notices on accounts. The bill originally stated 24 hours to assess the account, and it now allows five days to check the account and another 10 days to respond. In addition, we are pleased to share that the process also was not changed to suddenly require that only attorneys to be utilized in responding to garnishments. Once signed by the Governor, the new garnishment law will become effective 30 days afterwards – so these changes will be implemented soon, and garnishments can begin again quickly in those areas where they were stopped.

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CapitolDBF Housekeeping Legislation Clears Final Hurdle (Issue 4 of 6)

The Department of Banking and Finance's Housekeeping Bill (HB 811) by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) creates multiple revisions to the law that that applies to credit unions, banks and other financial entities. Last week this bill was amended on the Senate floor with an unrelated title pawn issue and went back to the House for its consideration of the change. On Thursday, March 24th the House removed that title pawn amendment and sent it back to the Senate, which passed it before midnight. Of note to credit unions, this bill (once signed into law) will:

  • Streamline the federal parity section for credit unions that was successfully procured in 2015,
  • Outline a set process in which a credit union can 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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Hard-Fought Provisions in Firearms Discrimination Bill Retained to Protect Credit Unions
(Issue 5 of 6)

CapitolOn Tuesday, March 22nd HB 1060 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) passed the full Senate, and the bill received a final procedural vote in the House on Thursday, March 24th. Readers of Creating Influence will recall that this is the bill that the Senate amended to include the Firearms Dealer and Manufacturer Discrimination Act (SB 282) by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) – and with all the amendments sought by GCUA. This 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.

This bill was lobbied heavily by GCUA throughout the process, and it was amended multiple times 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. Other amendments obtained last week included language specifically for credit unions that outline that it is not considered discrimination to follow law, regulation, or for denial of service due to membership restrictions. In addition, the bill was also amended to create parity language between state and federal charters – if federal regulators pre-empt federal charters from the reach of the bill, state chartered institutions will be pre-empted as well. Special thanks to Rep. Jasperse for his concern and willingness to ensure that the amendments in the legislation to protect credit unions were preserved in the hectic final hours of the session!

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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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