MARCH 24, 2017
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The end is near The End Is Near: State Session with 2 Days/1 Week Remaining (Issue 1 of 4)
With only two legislative days left in the 40-day state session, hundreds of bills - many potentially affecting the credit union industry - are still in the pipeline for possible passage.

  Board Member Protection Bill Slated for Senate Vote Today (Issue 2 of 4)
A bill that would extend protections for financial institution board members against charges of ordinary negligence was set, as of press time, for a vote today in the full state Senate.

  Prize-Linked Savings Bill Takes Another Step Forward
(Issue 3 of 4)

The House Banking Committee passed legislation that would enable credit unions to offer prize-linked savings accounts; the measure is now in the hands of the House Rules Committee.

  Credit Unions in the News (Issue 4 of 4)
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.

The End Is Near: State Session with 2 Days/1 Week Remaining (Issue 1 of 4)

The state legislative session is in its final days, and as of press time is debating bills in the 38th day of its 40-day session. The end of any session is dicey at best, with tensions and tempers on high.  Bills themselves either are being amended drastically with other legislation that has not moved forward, have died in the committee process, or are among the hundreds of bills working to break out of the bottleneck of legislation eligible to be selected for a full vote. There are presently more than 290 bills that are being lobbied, monitored and addressed on behalf of credit unions, and it is imperative to keep close watch on even more bills as there are amendments on issues of interest frequently.  And while the issues are very fluid at the moment given the environment and the narrow timeframe, here’s the present status of bills addressed on behalf of credit unions:

  • Keep calmAnti-Financial Discrimination for Firearms Dealers: HB 292 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) is the bill that was amended with the anti-financial discrimination language from 2016, with the amendments that GCUA worked to procure to protect credit unions. These amendments state that it is not considered discrimination to follow law, regulation, or for denial of service due to membership restrictions – as well as preemption language that (so that if it does not apply to federal charters, state charters would not apply either). The bill presently is awaiting selection in Senate Rules. 
  • Anti-Terrorism: SB 1 by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) is broad anti-terrorism bill, but was drastically changed in a House Judiciary Noncivil committee hearing on Tuesday, March 21st and March 22nd to focus solely on strengthening the state’s ability to investigate and prosecute terroristic acts.  This bill had been monitored in the process as it granted new powers to the Attorney General to subpoena financial accounts and transaction data.  This part has been removed, and cites that the AG does have the authority to prosecute domestic terrorism, obtaining information from service providers with a search warrant.
  • Blighted PropertiesHB 434 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), a bill on eminent domain that is directed at counties and cities seizing blighted properties, passed the full Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 20th. This bill is watched closely to ensure that lienholders are not negatively impacted.
  • Boat Titling:  HB 357 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) 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.
  • Board Member Protections/Business Judgment Rule: HB 192 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) 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. GCUA has been heavily involved in pursuing this bill, and see below article for more details.
  • Credit Union Operational Improvements: Credit union priority bill HB 143 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) passed last week and is on its way to the Governor. 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.
  • ForeclosuresSR 481 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) was introduced this week and seeks to create a study committee to review the treatment of deficiency judgments and foreclosures during the off session/summer.
  • Homeowner Associations:HB 203 by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) seeks to make changes to homeowner/condo association laws to provide the ability of property owners to take control over defunct associations (found in developments that were not completed due to a builder closing).  The bill passed a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, March 22nd and full committee on Thursday March 23rd, and heads to Senate Rules.
  • Homeowner Solicitations: HB 197 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) on 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).  It passed the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, March 22nd and full committee on Thursday March 23rd, and heads to Senate Rules.
  • Motor VehiclesHB 150 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) had already passed the Senate committee process, but was recommitted to the Senate Transportation by Rules on Tuesday, March 21st.  This likely means that the bill will be amended with another related issue, and will be watched closely.  The original 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. This as well as any amendment 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) 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. The bill is scheduled for a Senate vote as of press time.
  • Property Tax Notices: HB 204 by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) originally sought to ensure that tax bills contain only taxes and do not contain any fees for ancillary services.  However, the bill was drastically changed to exempt some hotels from the $5 fee in a Senate Finance hearing on Monday, March 20 and is likely to change back, or the original language may get added to another unrelated bill before the session ends.
  • Prize-Linked Savings: SB 134 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) seeks to institute the ability for credit unions and banks to offer prize-linked savings accounts and has been pursued by GCUA on behalf of credit unions.  See below article on recent activity on this bill from the week.
  • Real PropertyHB 76 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) 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. It is presently awaiting selection in Rules for a vote; GCUA will continue to watch it through the process to circumvent any issues.
  • Self-Settled TrustsHB 441 by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) seeks to permit a new form of trust account to be offered in Georgia. This issue is monitored closely to ensure that creditors would receive notification if assets were placed under the trust.  It was debated in a Senate Banking hearing on Wednesday, March 22nd hearing and was held over for possible action next year. 
  • TAVT: HB 340 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) was addressed in a Senate Finance hearing on Monday, March 20th. This bill has changed frequently, amended to contain language from another bill to alter how the TAVT tax is calculated on used vehicles, and then changing again on how used vehicle tax is calculated (changing it to retail sale minus the trade-in value). The bill passed and is scheduled for a Senate vote as of press time.
  • Tax Executions: HB 375 by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) changes minor language surrounding the delivery of tax execution notices, and repeals the ability for a tax commissioner to charge a personal fee for the tax executions, and was monitored to protect the priority lien status of credit unions in mortgage lending.  This bill passed the full Senate on Wednesday, March 22nd with no issues and no changes.
  • Tax Liens: HB 337 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) passed the full Senate on Monday, March 20th.  This bill seeks to create a statewide tax-lien registry, and now travels to the Governor for his consideration.   Previous discussions on the bill wrapped in the possibility of all liens; however, as drafted, it will apply only to tax liens.  And while tax liens are always superior to financial institution liens, it was monitored closely to protect lending operations at credit unions.
  • Tax ReformHB 329 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) seeks to change the state income tax rate to 5.4 percent, and passed the Senate Finance committee on Wednesday, March 22nd. It now travels to Senate Rules. 
  • Title-Pawn TransactionsHB 353 by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) was a bill that had failed on the House floor on crossover day due to a fight between the industry and the Georgia Industrial Loan Act interests, and the title-pawn industry lobbyists have been actively pursuing opportunities to add the topic to another bill.  SB 173 was the most recent attempted bill; GCUA learned that there was an amendment being pursued to limit GILA entities from selling insurance and being located within a 3-mile radius of a military installation.  The amendment was not added; however, this issue will continue to be monitored to ensure that it does not inadvertently wrap in credit unions and impact their ability to offer insurance products, or be located on a base.
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Board Member Protection Bill Slated for Senate Vote Today (Issue 2 of 4)

CapitolAs of press time, a GCUA priority bill is awaiting a full vote of the Senate later today.  The Board Member Protection/Business Judgment Bill HB 192 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) 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 the 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.

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 if one word on the bill happens to change today in the Senate, the bill will then need to travel back to the House for another vote, therefore lowering its chances of final passage by the end of the session. Stay tuned!

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LegislaturePrize-Linked Savings Bill Takes Another Step Forward (Issue 3 of 4)

The prize-linked savings bill supported by GCUA took one more step forward in this tenuous session.  SB 134 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) seeks to institute the ability for credit unions and banks to offer prize-linked savings accounts. There are more than 20 states where these accounts are offered, and Sen. Shafer has worked with GCUA to add this option for Georgia credit unions, without any mandates or added compliance burdens. 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).

The bill passed the House Banking Committee on Thursday, March 23rd after much lobbying to call the bill up for a vote by GCUA, and now heads to House Rules.  There are only two days left of the session as of press time - very little time left.  And while the House is more flexible than the Senate in its rules, it is possible that the bill could be called up in a Rules hearing as late as the final day.  However, it’s more likely that this bill will be held over for possible action in 2018 given some Capitol politics, and/or possibly amended with another bill that could derail its progress in 2017.

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NewsCredit Unions in the News (Issue 4 of 4)

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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