MARCH 17, 2017
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Capitol Credit Union Priority Bill Passes Senate! (Issue 1 of 6)
The Georgia Senate's passage of the Department of Banking and Finance housekeeping bill, which includes several measures favorable to credit unions, marks a big success for the industry and its advocacy efforts.

 
     
  Board Member Protections Bill Takes Another Positive Step (Issue 2 of 6)
The Senate Banking Committee passed a bill that would strengthen protections for credit union board members against accusations of negligence; the measure now goes to Senate Rules, remaining alive for possible passage this year.

 
  Anti-Financial Discrimination Protection for Firearms Dealers (Issue 3 of 6)
State credit union advocates worked hard to ensure that a bill designed to shield firearms dealers from financial discrimination includes language protecting credit unions against liability in matters of membership.

 
  State Session at Two More Weeks to Go, and a Long Way to Get There (Issue 4 of 6)
Several bills of interest to credit unions are among the many still be be dealt with in the two remaining weeks of the current session, including five legislative days and numerous hearings scheduled for the off days.

 
  Home Depot Data-Breach Suit Update: Proposed Settlement Given Preliminary Approval (Issue 5 of 6)
A federal court has given preliminary approval to a proposed settlement in a date-breach lawsuit involving The Home Depot, including an August 14 deadline for affected credit unions to make claims.

 
  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.

 
 
 
Good newsCredit Union Priority Bill Passes Senate! (Issue 1 of 6)

A big win for credit unions happened on Thursday, March 16th when the industry priority bill passed the full Senate: HB 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. These improvements are a direct result of the Department’s dialogue with a credit union task force that met in the summer of 2016. This bill is a priority for GCUA to improve operations and enhance membership laws at credit unions; the enhancements:

  • creates 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,
  • modifies the law governing merger votes to reflect what is in practice (and not requiring votes of both merging and merged institutions),
  • outlines that businesses headquartered within the field of membership may be eligible for membership in the same manner as a "person,”
  • adds "working" to the eligible criteria for field of membership (when an individual is working in the approved geographic area),
  • adds whole loans to the permissible items for investment, and
  • improves 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 goes to the Governor for his consideration as it has navigated the entire legislative process successfully. Much thanks to the members of the credit union task force that met in the summer that generated the suggestions for credit union operational improvements, and to the Department for including those in this bill. The passage of the legislation is a success for all involved!

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LegislatureBoard Member Protections Bill Takes Another Positive Step (Issue 2 of 6)

While this point of the session is littered with bills that have stalled, another priority for credit unions is still in play and took one more step forward: HB 192 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) passed the Senate Banking hearing this week on Wednesday, March 15th. 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.

What is next: The bill now travels to Senate Rules for consideration in the full Senate. 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. And time is quickly running out, as there are only three more Senate Rules hearings – which means only three chances for the bill to be selected for a full vote. Stay tuned!

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LegislatureAnti-Financial Discrimination Protection for Firearms Dealers (Issue 3 of 6)

All throughout last session we wrote about the lobbying actions put forth on the anti-financial discrimination protection bill for firearms dealers that was pursued by that industry in states around the country to send a message to the federal government and regulators against “Operation Choke Point” actions. The lobbying efforts of GCUA and others last year removed the special cause of action language, gained amendments to protect credit unions through recognizing the membership constraints, and gain preemption language so that federal and state charters are at the same level for parity. In addition, GCUA was able to have an amendment included to explicitly protect credit unions as they are already limited to whom they can serve with their field of membership. At the end of the 2016 session, that bill had been added to another gun bill, which then passed but was vetoed by the Governor due to unrelated parts of the “catch-all” gun bill.

All throughout 2017 session, GCUA has been on guard at the Capitol to see when this issue would come back up (as the industry vowed they would come back) so as to ensure that all the hard-fought amendments and changes were included. And, GCUA proactively met with the representative of the firearms industry multiple times during the off session of 2016 to garner the commitment that if the bill was pursued in this session, that all the hard-fought changes would be incorporated.

On March 15th one of the bills being monitored for this, HB 292 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), was amended with the anti-financial discrimination language from last year. However, it did not initially contain the amendments protecting credit unions that outline that it is not considered discrimination to follow law, regulation, or for denial of service due to membership restrictions – nor the preemption language that (so that if it does not apply to federal charters, state charters would not apply either). There was fast work in the 20 minutes between the two hearings to speak with key senators on the Judiciary Committee, as well as the firearms industry, to have the commitment to add back the membership and preemption language. GCUA will continue to monitor this issue through the process closely to ensure that the protections for credit unions remain intact.

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State Session at Two More Weeks to Go, and a Long Way to Get There (Issue 4 of 6)
Savannah Schools FCU
From left: Richard Smith and Ashley Norris, Savannah Schools FCU; Brandee Bickle, GCUA; Ricky Edgerly, Savannah Schools FCU

This week the state Legislature utilized four days of its schedule, with a packed schedule of hearings, and bills being amended quickly with other bills that had not passed. In this hectic week, however, it was a dose of normalcy to see credit union leaders from Savannah Schools FCU at the Capitol for the annual Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day Parade honorary invitation to the Legislature! While the pace is high and will only increase, there are only five days remaining at press time, which will be spread across the next two weeks (and hearings on the off days). Some of the bills of credit union interest that saw activity this week were:

  • Boat Titling: HB 357 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) has passed the Senate Finance Committee hearing and now awaits selection in the Rules committee for a full Senate vote. This bill attempts to institute a boat-titling process in Georgia, which would be managed by the Department of Natural Resources to coincide with the registration process. 
  • Disciplinary Actions on Real Estate Appraisers: The full Senate passed HB 39 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) on Wednesday, March 15th. 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.
  • Homeowner Association Issues: HR 626 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) seeks to create a study committee in the off session to analyze homeowner associations and the fees they assess. This will need to be monitored closely as it will also wrap in the lending process.
  • Power of Attorney ReformHB 221 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) was debated in a Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday, March 14th, with more hearings anticipated to address the multiple questions the committee had on the changes. 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) was debated in a House Banking Committee on Tuesday, March 14th. This bill, an issue addressed by GCUA for the past several months with Sen. Shafer and lobbied among the Legislature, 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 savings accounts that provide a "sweepstakes" component (such as the Save to Win program). A vote is anticipated in another hearing (pending).
  • 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 was debated in a Senate Finance subcommittee on Tuesday, March 14th. 
  • Real PropertyHB 76 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) passed a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday, March 14th and then full committee on Thursday, March 16th. 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.
  • TAVT: HB 340 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) was addressed in a Senate Finance subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, March 14th. 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 Senate Finance on Monday, March 13th. 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. And while tax liens are always superior to financial institution liens, it continues to be closely monitored so as to protect lending operations at credit unions.
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Home DepotHome Depot Data-Breach Suit Update: Proposed Settlement Given Preliminary Approval (Issue 5 of 6)

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has granted preliminary approval of a settlement in the Home Depot data breach. The court has established an August 14 deadline for credit unions to make claims. The methods for making such claims is not yet put in place; however GCUA and CUNA will publicize the process as soon as it is available. GCUA and CUNA, as well as other leagues and credit unions, are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which stems from a 2014 data breach that compromised 56 million credit and debit cards.

The settlement includes Home Depot agreeing to pay $25 million into a settlement fund. The settlement also includes an agreement from Home Depot to strengthen its future data security measures.

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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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