|State Legislative Wrap-Up: Proactive Bills for Credit Unions On Way to Governor
(Issue 1 of 6)
The state legislative session ended on March 24th, bringing a close to the second half of a two-year legislative cycle. This session was a challenging yet productive session for credit unions. Part of the challenge was the sheer number of issues: There were more than 360 bills lobbied and monitored on behalf of credit unions with more than 4,600 bills analyzed for potential impact to the industry. Given the large amount of bills and issues in this session of interest to credit unions, this final “wrap-up” is divided into three articles:
On the bills that were introduced to help credit unions, we are pleased to share that all three priority bills for our industry passed and are en route to the Governor for his consideration. These major issues lobbied on behalf of Georgia credit unions were:
The Credit Union Clarification for Lending/Operation Procedures Bill, HB 759 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), passed the full Senate on the last evening of the session. This bill was lobbied heavily throughout the session to move it forward as it is beneficial to every credit union in the state:
This bill was introduced by Rep. Willard at the request of GCUA to proactively improve the definition in existing law, and protect credit unions in their operations.
Once signed by the Governor the law will become effective 30 days afterwards – so changes will be implemented soon, and garnishments can begin again quickly in those areas where they were stopped.
Credit Union Law Enhancements in 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. Around 11:48 pm on the last day of the session, the bill cleared its final procedural hurdle with its last vote in the Senate, and once signed into law it will:
|State Legislative Wrap-Up: Bills Lobbied and Amended to Protect Credit Unions that Passed (Issue 2 of 6)
In addition to the above bills introduced to help the industry, credit unions are pulled into a wide variety of issues in the state Legislature. With 990 registered lobbyists representing more than 3,200 different industries at the state Capitol (and hundreds of constituent groups each day), one can see how the majority of issues are influenced by external factors outside of credit unions, and often unknown until they happen (either introduced as bills, or innocuous bills amended in the process in a manner that impacts the industry). GCUA attended more than 200 hearings in the course of the session, the bulk of which were attended for this issue alone – ensuring that what is being sought by other industries does not negatively impact how credit unions operate today and in the future. Below are some of the issues that GCUA lobbied, amended, monitored and worked to protect credit unions:
Firearms Dealer Anti-Financial Discrimination: HB 1060 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), one of the various gun bills in the Legislature, became the “vehicle” in the final days of the session for the Firearms Dealer and Manufacturer Discrimination Act SB 282 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). 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, and was lobbied heavily by GCUA throughout the process to obtain amendments and remove language that would have negatively impacted credit unions.
Tax Liens: HB 51 by Rep. Tommie Benton (R-Jefferson) 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 bill has been around for several years, and GCUA had spoken with Rep. Benton early to address concerns and help craft language that would make it clear what he sought to do. And for years, this legislation has been monitored closely as it is a vehicle for homeowner associations’ superseding lien language to try to require foreclosing parties to pay past-due fees.
College Savings Accounts: On the last day of the session HB 802 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) was finally passed after the long process to head to the Governor’s desk. This bill will increase the tax deduction on contributions to 529 savings accounts in an effort to encourage families to save for college, something GCUA supported in the process.
|State Legislative Wrap-Up: Bills Lobbied, Modified, or Mitigated - No Final Passage by Day 40 (Issue 3 of 6)
The vast majority of bills introduced do not make it through the process, and daily bills failed by votes on the floor or in committee hearings. But more often than not, bills “die” in the process by not being selected by a committee for action, or a delay in time in which they are selected. Any delay can derail a bill’s path, and if a bill loses momentum, that loss of time often is the death nail in the bill’s chance to become law. That is prior to any consideration of what the bill does, or the level of opposition against it! But regardless, any bill that impacts credit unions must be lobbied to address issues, and monitored throughout the session. Below are examples of these bills that did not make it through the process, but could return in the future:
EBT Cards and ATMs: SB 389 by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) was directed at ensuring that individuals do not abuse welfare benefits. GCUA worked with Sen. Hill to address an unwanted amendment that restricted EBT card use at ATMs (and placement of ATMS). Sen. Hill was receptive to credit union concerns, and rewrote that section to ensure that credit unions would not be 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. The bill was one of the many to be considered on the last day, but was not selected for a vote. Another bill on this topic was HB 847 by Rep. David Clark (R-Buford) on expanding the penalties to those who commit public assistance fraud. GCUA spoke with Rep. Clark early in the process to ensure that the bill would not inadvertently create compliance burdens.
Notaries: HB 381 by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) was one of many bills that did not make it out of the final Rules Committee selection process. This bill, which had been pursued for three years by Rep. Welch and the Clerks of Court, sought to overhaul and modernize the process by which one becomes a notary public. It would require training and background checks as well as detailed (10 years) record-keeping by the notary. 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.
Blighted Properties: SB 422 by Sen. JaNice VanNess (R-Conyers) forced upkeep of neglected properties, outlined prescriptive requirements for the owner, and directed the county to pay for any noncompliance upkeep with a lien and/or foreclosure on the property. On the day the bill was introduced, Sen. VanNess procured a quick hearing but it did not move forward. Sen. VanNess then introduced two separate study committee resolutions that would create the window for legislation similar to this in 2017. One of these, SR 1098, made it through the process and will be monitored in the off session.
Cybersecurity: This was an issue that received a lot of attention in the off session, with multiple hearings during the summer and fall. This topic will likely continue and will be monitored as it creates the avenue for those industries who seek to mandate chip-and-PIN cards at Georgia financial institutions. Some of the bills of 2016 included:
New Homeowner Solicitations HB 914 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) sought to increase consumer awareness of those that attempt to coerce new mortgage holders into paying money for a copy of the instrument conveying real estate. The bill would require them to state that the notice is a solicitation. It moved through the committee process but did not “cross over” by day 30.
Homeowner Associations: HB 685 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) was addressed in the committee process in February, but did not move forward. This outlined how condo/homeowner associations can reinstitute a board to maintain common areas, and was monitored to ensure that there were no attempts to force credit unions to be on the hook for back fees/fines. GCUA learned that homeowner association interests may bring forward a comprehensive bill next year to address multiple provisions of their act. It will be monitored closely to protect credit union lending operations.
Retirement Savings Programs: SR 736 by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) would create a study committee to analyze the number of Georgia employers who offer retirement/savings programs for employees, and develop a public/private partnership to provide savings programs for those that do not.
|Pushing Congress for Regulatory Relief (Issue 4 of 6)
On Tuesday, April 5th the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee conducted a hearing on “Assessing the Effects of Consumer Finance Regulations.” Committee members and witnesses alike had concerns over regulatory burden’s effect on the financial services marketplace for consumers. CUNA was on hand for the hearing, and had submitted a letter for the record in advance that highlighted results of its comprehensive regulatory burden study. That study found that in 2014 alone the cost of regulatory burden on credit unions was $7.2 billion.
|Election Season Is Here: Use this Free Resource for Your Members (Issue 5 of 6)
Election season brings the opportunity for credit unions to get involved, whether that be through the simple act of encouraging members to vote, hosting legislators at a branch, volunteering with campaigns, or having the resources to learn where candidates stand on issues that matter to YOUR credit union's operations and long-range success. Take advantage of ElectionWatch, the get-out-the-vote website for your credit union. Ensure that it is on your credit union website today!
|Credit 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."