MARCH 10, 2017
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Capitol Aftermath of Crossover Day in State Legislature (Issue 1 of 5)
Crossover Day has come and gone in the Georgia Legislature, and a number of bills with implications for the state's credit union industry survived the deadline and remain alive for possible passage in this year's legislative session.

 
     
  Bill to Protect Board Members Sees Action in State House (Issue 2 of 5)
A bill that would strengthen financial institutions' protection against liability for "ordinary negligence" in their business decision-making remains active and may yet become law this year.

 
  Nine More Days = Three More Weeks to Go in State Legislature (Issue 3 of 5)
The run-up to Crossover Day left legislators and lobbyists exhausted, but with little time for rest, as the busy schedule continues in the final nine legislative days of the current session.

 
  Urging for Support of Two Bills in Congress Positive for Credit Unions (Issue 4 of 5)
Two bills shared with credit union advocates during the recent CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference - one dealing with regulatory relief, the other with supplemental capital - have since been introduced in the U.S. Congress.

 
  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.

 
 
 
Aftermath of Crossover Day in State Legislature (Issue 1 of 5)

On Friday, March 3rd the state Legislature was at “Crossover Day,” which is the day a bill must pass the originating chamber to be able to move forward in the process (as a stand-alone bill).  Because of this deadline, the House and Senate worked well into the evening hours with the final bill vote around 10:45 p.m. on that Friday evening.  In the aftermath of the long crossover day, the Legislature has not stalled this week, with a packed schedule of hearings to navigate through the bills before the session adjourns.  And as of press time, the Legislature is at its 31st day, which leaves nine “official” days remaining with hearings on the “off” days leading up to March 30th.   A factor unique for this year is that crossover day was held two days earlier than it has been in more than a decade – earlier so that the Legislature could jump right into the hearings and spend more time debating the issues. 

Georgia CapitolFrom a credit union perspective, here is a sampling of just some of the bills that have “crossed over” that touch the industry:

  • Board Member Personal Liability ProtectionsHB 192 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) passed the full House in the remaining hours on crossover day (see below article for more details). This bill seeks to strengthen the protections of board members against charges of “ordinary negligence” in their decision-making process. 
  • Boat Titling:  HB 357 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) passed the full House prior to crossover day (see below article on action from this week).  This bill attempts to institute a boat-titling process in Georgia. 
  • Credit Union Law ImprovementsHB 143 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe).  This is the Department of Banking and Finance’s housekeeping legislation, and contains multiple pro-credit union provisions to help improve operations and alleviate compliance burdens.  The bill had passed the full House prior to crossover day, and passed Senate Banking last week.  It is awaiting selection in Senate Rules.
  • Electronic TitlingHB 412 by Rep. Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville) passed the full House in the late hours of crossover day, and is awaiting selection in Senate Public Safety for a hearing.  This seeks to require dealers to utilize only electronic titling. This bill is being monitored closely to ensure that it is not expanded to financial institutions.
  • Georgia Industrial Loan Act (GILA) RegulationsHB 523 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) was introduced just late last week, receiving two quick hearings in the House Industry and Labor committee and was the last bill to pass the House on crossover day.  This bill seeks to prohibit loan companies regulated by GILA from operating within close distance of a base/military installation, and prohibit them from mailing live checks that would then obligate the recipient to a loan contract.  It is being monitored closely so as to prevent it from expanding beyond GILA into credit union operations, something Rep. Strickland shared he did not want to happen.
  • Motor VehiclesHB 150 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) passed the House before crossover day and awaits selection in the Senate Transportation for a hearing.  This bill seeks to allow the state another avenue to collect unpaid tolls. In dialogue with the bill sponsor we learned that some of these toll debts were upwards of $10,000, so research has been put forth to ensure that credit unions are not jeopardized in their auto lending procedures. The bill is intended to add toll debts to those that can be recouped through the Department of Revenue through its debt setoff collection via "garnisheeing" income tax refunds. However, it will continue to be monitored closely to ensure that it doesn't change to implicate the title of the vehicle and auto loan.
  • Power of Attorney ReformHB 221 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) passed the full House in the evening hours of crossover day and is awaiting selection for a Senate Judiciary hearing.  This bill seeks to reform the power of attorney statue so as to have a uniform procedure and form, and to create a stronger ability for the authorities to investigate and prosecute financial elder abuse and fraud. GCUA has been in dialogue with Rep. Efstration to ensure that it does not create liability for credit unions.
  • Prize-Linked Savings Accounts: The "Save Earn Win Bill" SB 134 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) passed the full Senate on crossover day and is now awaiting selection by the House Banking Committee. This bill, an issue addressed by GCUA for the past several months with Sen. Shafer, seeks to institute the ability for credit unions and banks to offer prize-linked savings accounts. If passed this bill would allow Georgia credit unions, if they so choose, to offer a savings account that offers a "sweepstakes" component (such as the Save to Win program).
  • Property Tax Notices:  HB 204 by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) which seeks to ensure that tax bills only contain taxes and do not contain any fees for ancillary services, passed the full House prior to crossover day and is awaiting selection in Senate Finance for a hearing. 
  • Real Property: HB 76 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) had cleared the House as well as the Senate committee process prior to crossover day and awaits selection in Senate Rules.  This bill seeks to enhance the law that changed last year on electronic filing of plats as well as condo plans, and is being monitored for multiple property and lien superseding issues. GCUA will continue to watch it through the process to circumvent any issues.
  • Self-Settled Trusts: HB 441 by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) passed the full House in the evening hours of crossover day and now awaits selection in Senate Banking for a hearing.  This bill seeks to permit a new form of trust account to be offered in Georgia.  This issue is being monitored closely to ensure that creditors would receive notification if assets were placed under the trust.
  • SolicitationsHB 197 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) is directed at entities that attempt to solicit money from new homeowners by seeking to require that any business trying to sell a copy of the instrument conveying real estate prominently states that it is in fact a solicitation (and not a part of their required documents).
  • TAVT:HB 340 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) passed in the evening hours of crossover day and is awaiting a hearing in Senate Finance.  This bill had been amended in the process to contain language from another bill to alter how the TAVT tax is calculated on used vehicles, clarifying that both new and used vehicles will be calculated in the same manner (and without any deduction for a trade-in value). 
  • Tax Liens:  HB 337 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) passed the full House on crossover day and now awaits selection by Senate Finance for a hearing.  This bill seeks to create a statewide tax-lien registry.   Previous discussions on the bill wrapped in the possibility of all liens; however, as drafted, it will only apply to tax liens, but will be monitored closely so as to protect lending operations at credit unions.
  • Tax ReformHB 329 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) passed prior to crossover day and awaits selection in Senate Finance for a hearing. This bill seeks to change the state income tax rate to 5.4 percent, and will continue to be monitored closely (along with the large volume of tax bills) as any tax-reform measure opens the opportunity for other changes.

This is just a sample, as at this stage of the session there are more than 280 bills that are being actively tracked and monitored on behalf of credit unions, including a large number of tax bills.  And while some of these did not pass by crossover day, such as bills on data breach protections, garnishment law changes, title pawn regulations, foreclosure procedures, ignition interlock devices, abandoned mobile homes, towing laws, and property related bills, nothing in the Georgia Legislature is “done” until the last day of the session.  And, there are likely several large issues that have not yet been introduced to gain traction in the final days of the session (such as the firearms discrimination act language from the previous session).  In discussions with legislators, there are already attempts to attach existing legislation that did not pass by crossover day onto related bills before this session ends – so everything and anything is possible until the session ends around midnight on March 30th!

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Bill to Protect Board Members Sees Action in State House (Issue 2 of 5)

Georgia CapitolCutting it close to the wire, HB 192 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) passed the full House in the remaining hours on the last day in which it could. This bill seeks to strengthen the business judgment rule for financial institutions and general business – specifically to strengthen the protections of board members against charges of “ordinary negligence” in their decision-making process.  This bill is in reaction to the recent court case (FDIC v. Loudermilk)that decided that the directors of that bank in question could be held personally 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 the industry.

There was more than nine hours’ worth of hearings on this bill (which does not include the time devoted by legislators and lobbyists on the issue).  After that, the bill passed the House on crossover day on Friday, March 3rd with a vote of 128 to 40!  And while this movement is positive, there is still a long way to go and much work that needs to be done to counteract the opposition from trial attorneys.  Our thanks to Rep. Beskin and House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) for their leadership in getting the bill to successfully pass the House.  To share a message of thanks for their hours of work on HB 192, you can reach Rep. Willard at Wendell.willard@house.ga.gov and Rep. Beskin at beth.beskin@house.ga.gov.  Without their help and leadership, this bill would not have passed the committee (let alone the House).

What is next:  The bill has been assigned to the Senate Banking Committee, and a hearing is anticipated next week.  GCUA continues to lobby this bill so as to firm up the personal liability level for credit union board members, but the opposition continues to push against it.  Stay tuned!

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NineNine More Days = Three More Weeks to Go
in State Legislature (Issue 3 of 5)

This week the state Legislature held session days on Monday, Thursday and Friday with the two “off” days utilized for more hearings.  And while legislators and lobbyists alike are still drained from the previous week’s marathon session and hearing schedule and long hours, there was no down time, with the Legislature picking right up to debate the previous side’s bills.  Some of the activity of this week included: 

  • Bankruptcy Law ChangesSB 87 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) seeks to adjust the bankruptcy code on how certain debts are discharged.  The bill passed a House Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday, March 7th and then full committee on Thursday the 9th.  It now travels to Rules for consideration.
  • Bankruptcy Law Changes – Health Savings AccountsSB 71 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) seeks to add health savings accounts to those that are protected in bankruptcy proceedings.  The bill passed a House Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday, March 7th and then full committee on Thursday the 9th.  It now travels to Rules for consideration. 
  • Boat Titling:  HB 357 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) attempts to institute a boat-titling process in Georgia – an issue that has been introduced almost annually over the past 20 years in the Legislature without success yet.  However, this year’s bill moved farther than it has previously as it passed the House last week, and was debated in a Senate Finance hearing on Wednesday, March 8th.  The bill passed with one small change to push back the effective date to 2018 to provide the Department of Natural Resources (the entity that will handle the titling) time to set procedures, and now moves to Senate Rules for consideration.
  • Disciplinary Actions on Real Estate Appraisers: The House Regulated Industries Committee passed HB 39 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) on Monday, March 6th. This bill seeks to clarify the penalties for any real estate appraiser who is found guilty of violating his or her code of conduct, while providing the flexibility to address extraneous situations. This bill now goes to the Rules Committee for its consideration for the full Senate, and is being monitored to ensure that there are no changes that would impact mortgage lending operations at credit unions.
  • Sick LeaveSB 201 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), which seeks to provide that employers that offer sick leave permit employees to utilize it to care for an immediate family member, but does not mandate that the leave be provided, was heard in a House Industry and Labor committee.
  • Tax Bills:  There have been more than six separate hearings on tax bills in the Senate Finance committee this week alone, with more to come.   GCUA continues to monitor these hearings to ensure that there is no negative impact to credit unions when they debate income tax bills and exemption bills, as well as sales and use tax expansion attempts.
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Urging for Support of Two Bills in Congress Positive for Credit Unions (Issue 4 of 5)

U.S.  CapitolOn the heels of CUNA’s GAC conference, two bills have been introduced that echo some of the talking points that were shared with members of Congress during the Hill visits by credit unions.  One would  exempt institutions under $50 billion in assets from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rules, and the other would provide credit unions the ability to raise supplemental capital.  Our thanks to all the Georgia credit union leaders who traveled to D.C. last week to push for issues such as these!  CUNA wrote in support of these measures to reiterate the message shared last week; these bills are:

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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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