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End of State Legislative Session Approaching Fast with Many Issues Still in Play

The state Legislature has one more “official” day remaining on Tuesday (Monday will be utilized for last-minute strategy and hearings). And as of press time the session is in for its 39th day of the 40-day schedule, with many issues still left remaining and legislators and lobbyists working feverishly to get their respective issues moved forward. The vast majority of bills, however, do not make it through the process, with people already preparing for what they need to do in the second half of the two-year session – and the “best” outcome is to just make it through the next legislative day without their issues being derailed for the long run.

From a credit union perspective, this is the window of time where anything can (and does) happen, where connections with legislators are vital, as there are a flurry of issues being attempted outside of the normal committee hearing process, and it will be imperative to be on guard for the issues that impact the industry (either positively or negatively!). To see all the bills monitored and addressed, please click here for the tracking system, but below is some of the activity of note from this week:

  • Affordable Housing Issues: On March 27th the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee debated a bill that seeks to study workforce housing – HR 591 by Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain). While the purpose is to attempt to limit what local cities/counties can apply towards home aesthetics with building codes, the study would delve into affordable housing options and would need to be monitored closely during the off session for any property-related issues that could impact lending. The bill is awaiting selection in House Rules as of press time.
  • Auto Dealer-Franchisee Relationships: SB 122 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) – as of press time this bill is awaiting a procedural vote in the House to approve some technical amendments made in the Senate last week and is delayed due to some late-breaking challenges. The bill seeks to update the way auto dealers and franchisees interact with each other, as well as how they protect data. And while it’s narrowly focused, it will continue to be monitored to ensure that what is sought doesn’t affect lending programs.
  • Boat Titling: HB 314 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) passed the full Senate on March 28th and is presently awaiting a procedural vote in the House; this bill seeks to create a boat titling procedure in Georgia regulated by the Department of Natural Resources. GCUA will stay engaged in the process.
  • Creditors’ Rights: On March 27th the Senate Judiciary Committee debated HB 396 by Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon), which seeks to make it unlawful for a person to defraud a creditor’s rights by transferring real property without consent. And while well-intended, this bill is monitored closely to ensure that it is not amended to include changes to the lending or foreclosure operations at credit unions.
  • Encouraging Savings: HB 193 by Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R-Gainesville) is presently awaiting selection in Senate Rules as of press time. This bill was introduced to allow Georgia financial institutions, if they so choose, to offer savings accounts that include a “sweepstakes” component (such as the Save to Win program), and is pursued to give credit unions an option to help encourage savings among members and make a dent in the number of individuals who cannot address a $400 emergency.
  • Filing Deeds: HB 694 by Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) was introduced on March 26th and seeks to make a local in-county change to how deeds are filed in DeKalb County. And as it is a local bill, it does not follow the same rules and timeframes as other bills. However, GCUA worked on this exact issue last year (Fulton County local bill) to procure language to ensure that the absence of the extra information did not invalidate the title, deed, or lien paperwork, and this bill mirrors that same amendment.
  • Habitat for Humanity: On March 26th the original language from HB 313 by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) that was moved forward as HB 344 by Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville) passed the Senate and now moves to the Governor for his consideration. This bill seeks to address a property tax issue for Habitat for Humanity and how its properties are assessed before they are turned over to the new owners. And while narrow in scope, it was monitored as it opens up sections of law that pertain to lending, nonprofits and tax exemptions.
  • Hemp Farming: On March 25th legalized hemp farming took another step forward when HB 213 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) passed the full Senate. This bill, as well as the other marijuana-related bills, are monitored to ensure that no barriers to financial services (other than the existing barriers on a federal level, but efforts are under way in Congress to try to address it) are created. It is currently awaiting another vote in the House as of press time.
  • Improvement Zones: As of press time SB 20 by Sen. Michael Rhett (D-Marietta) is awaiting selection in House Rules. This bill, which is the same “banking improvement zone” bill attempted in 2018, has been introduced for the past several years, and attempts to encourage cities and counties to utilize public funds as a quasi-incentive for banks, but is problematic in its application and the expectations it sets. It is watched closely as it is an attractive bill for other interests to take and use for negative bills that could impact financial institution law.
  • Landlord Tenant Provisions: HB 346 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) was to be debated on the Senate floor on March 26th but was tabled and could be brought up at any point or could stall during this session. This bill seeks to outline protections for tenants by preventing retaliation (or eviction) by a landlord in the event of a complaint. This bill is directed at “slumlords,” but is monitored closely to ensure that it does not wade into financial issues.
  • Liability Protection and Clear Operations for Funeral Home PaymentsHB 490 by Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth) is presently awaiting selection in Senate Rules as of press time. This is the legislation that GCUA and others have worked on to include liability protection and a clear process with funeral home payments. Last year GCUA kept dialogue open with Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) on his previous attempts to expedite the payment of funeral expenses (when an individual dies without a will and without a joint member on their account). Presently there is a 90-day waiting period in which the funds must be held before payment, and in 2018 he sought to abolish the waiting period and instruct the financial institutions to pay funeral home expenses first before anyone. However, Rep. Williams has been very open to working with the industry to ensure that what is pursued this year is positive for credit unions. He has modified his original effort to remove the onerous language from 2018, and has included liability protection for the financial institution as well as a clear system in which to apply for payment.
  • Mass Tax Exemption Review: On March 27th the House Ways and Means Committee amended and then passed SB 120 by Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta) which seeks to create a lengthy tax exemption review. This bill originally called for an analysis and cost-return on 53 separate income and sales tax exemptions and credits, with the intent on determining which work and which do not (and as such, should not be continued). It now allows the House Ways and Means Committee as well as the Senate Finance Committee to do this analysis by requesting three exemptions at a time, and presently is awaiting selection in House Rules.
  • Reciprocal Deposits: SB 157 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) seeks to allow deposit placement services as an alternative to collateralization of public deposits. As drafted the bill is narrow in its approach, and seeks to allow Georgia to be the last of the 50 states to allow this option. This bill passed the full House on March 26th and now heads to the Governor for his consideration.
  • TAVT Changes: This year’s attempt at a TAVT changes bill, HB 365 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), is presently awaiting selection in Senate Rules as of press time. However, the House amended the identical language onto another bill (SB 65 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla)) on March 26th and passed it back over to the Senate for a procedural vote. It is unclear if the bill will move forward (or go into conference committee); however, as drafted it seeks to put autos sold at used and new dealers on the same process for calculating fair market value, as well as lowering the amount of tax required. It was amended in the hearing and will continue to be monitored.
  • Tax Bills: There is a significant amount of time spent in the various tax committee hearings (two separate hearings on March 27th) as the state addresses a wide variety of tax, tax exemption, and nonprofit issues in any given session. As of press time there are over 140 tax bills being monitored on behalf of credit unions. A prime example of what can and does happen: As of late the Senate Finance Committee inserted medical billing legislation into a tax bill, and included language requiring nonprofit hospitals to provide extensive financial disclosures publicly, including salaries of executives, holdings, etc.
  • Tax Executions: On March 25th the full House passed SB 216 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), which was amended in the subcommittee process last week to include how tax executions are communicated and held. As of press time the bill is awaiting a procedural vote in the Senate, and will continue to be monitored for any tax amendments or amendments that impact the lending or foreclosure process (now that it impacts tax executions).
  • Towed Vehicles: GCUA continues to be engaged on a bill that seeks to overhaul the entire section of law that pertains to towed vehicles: HB 307 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell). The original version of the bill lengthened the period of time in which a towing facility would notify a lienholder to 20 days; however, GCUA has been working closely with Rep. Powell and interested parties to shorten this to keep credit unions and other from having a delay in realizing that a vehicle had been impounded. As of press time the bill is awaiting selection in Senate Rules.

The above is just a sampling of the activity of note for credit unions, as the last few days of the session are quite intense. More changes and issues are expected as of press time; stay tuned!

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