FEBRUARY 10, 2017
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Georgia Capitol Credit Union Priority Bill Moves Forward (Issue 1 of 6)
After being passed by a key state House committee, a bill that includes several provisions favorable to credit unions could come before the full House for a vote as soon as next week.

  Bill to Expand Account Options Introduced: Credit Unions on Hand for Prize-Linked Savings Bill Press Event (Issue 2 of 6)
Credit union advocates were among those attending an event marking the introduction of a bill that would allow credit unions and other financial institutions to offer prize-linked savings accounts.

  Week 4 with Multiple Hearings – Including One on Bill to Help Protect Credit Union Directors (Issue 3 of 6)
The fourth week of the state legislative session included numerous hearings, including one scheduled for Friday to debate a bill that would broaden credit union directors' protection against accusations of negligence.

  Federal Executive Order on Regulatory Review (Issue 4 of 6)
President Trump signed an executive order calling for “efficient, effective and appropriately tailored” regulations, a objective that jibes with the goals of CUNA's recently launched Campaign for Common-Sense Regulation.

  Credit Union Legislative Night (Issue 5 of 6)
Georgia credit union leaders shared industry insights and thanks with members of the state Legislature at a reception held in conjunction with board meetings of the Georgia Credit Union League and other organizations.

  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.

LegislatureCredit Union Priority Bill Moves Forward
(Issue 1 of 6)

A bill containing multiple pro-credit union provisions took another step forward in the state Legislature on Wednesday, February 8th when the House Banks and Banking Committee passed HB 143 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe). The positive provisions for credit unions in this bill, the Department of Banking and Finance’s housekeeping legislation, are a direct result of their dialogue with a credit union task force that met in the summer of 2016. This task force met to generate ideas for potential improvements to credit union state law, and the enhancements to improve credit union operations include:

  • creating flexibility and enhancements in the audit provisions for smaller credit unions by permitting different forms of audits to be held on a case-by-case basis,
  • modifying the law governing merger votes to reflect what is in practice (and not requiring votes of both merging and merged institutions),
  • outlining that businesses headquartered within the field of membership may be eligible for in the same manner as a "person" for membership,
  • adding "working" to the eligible criteria for field of membership (when an individual is working in the approved geographic area),
  • adding whole loans to the permissible items for investment, and
  • improving the law that governs fixed assets/real estate property held by the credit union.

The bill also outlines the ability of financial institutions to charge a convenience fee, outlines that a financial institution may operate on Sundays, permits the department to include third-party providers in their examinations, streamlines the calculation for lending limits, and increases the age at which a minor can open an account with a bank (but no changes to the law governing minor accounts at credit unions). The bill now travels to the House Rules Committee for consideration and could be up for a full House vote as early as next week.

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Bill to Expand Account Options Introduced: Credit Unions on Hand
for Prize-Linked Savings Bill Press Event (Issue 2 of 6)
Prize-linked savings
Far left: Terry Hardy, MembersFirst Credit Union. Far right: State Sen. David Shafer

On Tuesday, February 7th credit unions were a part of a press event to announce a bill that has been in the planning stages for some time: "Save Earn Win Bill" SB 134 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth), which seeks to institute the ability for credit unions and banks to offer prize-linked savings accounts. GCUA has been engaged with Sen. Shafer for some time on this issue, encouraging the idea and fine-tuning the language so as to create a positive option for credit unions. Terry Hardy, CEO of MembersFirst Credit Union and chairman of the GCUA Advocacy Policy Committee, joined GCUA and other backers of this legislation at the event to show support.

If passed, this bill would allow Georgia credit unions, if they so choose, to offer a savings account that offer a "sweepstakes" component (such as the Save to Win program). This type of account would set entries into a sweepstakes for every predetermined amount saved by the member, encouraging savings habits and helping individuals of all walks of life build some sort of savings. This bill seeks to make a dent in the negative statistics of how few Americans could handle an unexpected $400 emergency, encourage individuals to even have a savings balance, and strengthen the ability of credit union members to have positive financial behaviors with other credit union products and services.

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Week 4 with Multiple Hearings – Including One on Bill to Help Protect Credit Union Directors (Issue 3 of 6)

LegislatureThe rapid-fire pace of the number of hearings and new bills introduced has only heightened, with more than 175 bills now monitored on behalf of credit unions. Hearings of note addressed topics including bankruptcy, property issues, mortgage lending, positive operational changes for credit unions (see above HB 143), tax changes and regulatory changes.

One hearing of specific note is another priority bill for credit unions scheduled at press time: HB 192 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) is to be debated in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, February 10th. This bill seeks to strengthen the business judgment rule for financial institutions and general business as there has been a growing awareness in the Legislature that Georgia should improve its laws that apply to businesses (and less advantageous for increased lawsuits). As such, there has been a collective move afoot by multiple industries led by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to try to improve the legal climate in Georgia, specifically on expanding the liability protection for board members.

This bill seeks to strengthen the protections of board members from charges of "ordinary negligence" in their decision-making, leaving them liable only for gross negligence, fraud or bad faith. And, it is in reaction to the recent court case (FDIC v. Loudermilk)that decided that the directors of that bank in question could be liable for ordinary negligence committed in the decision-making process. As credit unions are also subject to the same business judgment law, this legal decision has ramifications for credit unions (as well as all types of businesses). The opposition to the bill is the trial attorneys, an entity that carries significant weight in the Legislature. This first hearing is not slated for a vote – stay tuned!

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Red tapeFederal Executive Order on Regulatory Review (Issue 4 of 6)

President Donald Trump signed an executive order February 3rd calling for, among other things, “efficient, effective and appropriately tailored” regulations. This is an objective of CUNA’s Campaign for Common-Sense Regulation, which seeks to relieve regulatory burdens on credit unions. The order calls for the Secretary of the Treasury to consult with the heads of Financial Stability Oversight Council members (which includes the NCUA and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) within 120 days to determine the extent to which existing regulations and guidance promote the core principles. This includes identification of regulations and guidance that inhibit federal regulation of the American financial system.

In another step to try to accomplish some regulatory relief, Georgia Senator David Perdue and six other Senate Republicans, including Senator Johnny Isakson, introduced  joint resolution 19 that provides "congressional disapproval" for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Prepaid Accounts Rule that goes into effect October 1, 2017.  The rule, which many believe was overly expansive when issued, deals with reloadable prepaid cards, payroll cards and government benefit cards, and also includes digital wallets, such as PayPal and Google Wallet.   The definition of "prepaid account" includes several exclusions, including for gift cards and gift certificates.  The resolution says that the rule will have no force or effect and is a rarely used process to try to prohibit the CFPB from implementing the rather lengthy regulation on prepaid accounts. 

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ReceptionCredit Union Legislative Night (Issue 5 of 6)

On Tuesday, February 7th, credit union leaders spent time sharing their insight and thanks with members of the state Legislature, growing influence for the industry at a reception held in conjunction with the February League and GCUS board meetings, as well as the Advocacy Policy Committee and GA CUPAC Trustees meetings. Joining credit unions and the legislators were several statewide elected constitutional officers, as well as top-ranking officials from the Department of Banking and Finance: Commissioner Kevin Hagler and Deputy Commissioner Melissa Sneed. Our thanks to them for sharing so much of their time and insight with the group.

This reception is held to create the opportunity to engage the industry with elected leaders, build relationships with legislators, and weave in support for priority bills for credit unions: HB 143, HB 192, and SB 134. But above all, it’s a terrific opportunity to educate members of the state Legislature on what makes credit unions unique, and develop in-person connections that can help put a face on the industry when lobbying for issues!

Prior to the reception, the Advocacy Policy Committee also met with newly appointed Attorney General Chris Carr on his vision for the state, the role of the Attorney General, and their priorities. Our thanks to the credit union board and committee members in attendance at the meetings and reception; you helped grow the level of connections for the industry!

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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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