After midnight in the very wee early morning hours of Wednesday, April 3rd the state Legislature has adjourned! Your state legislative team is temporarily off the grid after the adjournment so please stay tuned to the next edition of Creating Influence (which now returns to its normal bi-weekly schedule) for a final wrap-up of all activity.
This first half of a two-year session saw more than 2,300 bills introduced in the past three months, each of which was analyzed for potential impact (either positive or negative) to credit unions. Out of these, there were more than 330 of note to the industry that required monitoring, lobbying and effort. To see all the bills monitored and addressed, please click here for the tracking system.
So much of what happens at the state Legislature is defensive in nature – seeking amendments to bills to remove concerns, watching issues closely, testifying in hearings, and lobbying against outright negative issues. The same legislators you lobby against are ones that you need to help procure movement on positive bills – it’s a dicey situation at best, and consistency in messaging and stance on issues can help. But even with the large amount of defense put forth for credit unions this session, we are pleased to share that in addition to the above HB 193 savings account bill, there were several key issues to help credit unions and their operations passed:
Protecting the Lending Environment: In the late hours of March 29th the full Senate passed SB 37 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), which seeks to address a Georgia Court of Appeals decision that conflicts with the longstanding legal footing surrounding guarantees (Moye decision). GCUA has testified in favor of this bill in hearings in the Senate and House, as this decision allowed for the recognition of a verbal (and not written) cancellation of a guarantee, and could have far reaching impacts on lending. This bill seeks to ensure that any commitment (and change to or cancellation of said agreement) to lend, answer for a debt, default, etc., must be done in writing. This bill is positive for the entire lending process in Georgia, and is a good example of how working in concert with other organizations (as the Georgia Bankers Association brought this idea forward in the pre-session industry trade meeting) can benefit all financial institutions.
Charter Enhancements: HB 185 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) passed earlier in the session on March 18th and creates operational improvements for the credit union charter which were identified during the summer of 2018 by the credit union task force dedicated specifically to generate ideas for changes to the credit union state law. These improvements include:
- Addressing operational issues when there’s a merger between credit unions,
- Clearing up federal insurance and membership issues if a credit union purchases a bank,
- Outlining a clear and fair process for member expulsion by a credit union,
- Clarifiying processes and definitions, including that of purchasing/selling loan participations for credit unions, and
- Renaming supervisory committee to audit committee to avoid confusion that the duties are the same as the duties of a supervisory committee for a federally chartered credit union.
Liability Protection and Clear Operations for Funeral Home Payments: On April 2nd the full Senate passed HB 490 by Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth). Last year GCUA kept dialogue open with Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) on his previous attempts to expedite the payment of funeral expenses. There is a waiting period in which the funds must be held before payment if the person passed without a will or joint account holder, 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 was very open to working with the industry to ensure that what is pursued is positive for credit unions. He modified his original effort to remove the onerous language, and included liability protection for the financial institution as well as a clear system in which to apply for payment.
Boat Titling: After more than 20 years of attempts in the state Legislature, a boat titling process has passed! HB 314 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) passed the full House for the final vote on April 2nd; this bill seeks to create a boat titling procedure in Georgia regulated by the Department of Natural Resources. GCUA will stay engaged in the rulemaking process to help iron out any wrinkles (as it will be a new process and a department not used to titling). We are pleased to see this bill finally pass to help provide a more secure method in offering boat loans.
Towed Vehicles: For the past few years there have been bills to alter the towing laws in Georgia. This year saw a complete overhaul of the entire section of that law: HB 307 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell). And while the original version of the bill was negative as it lengthened the period of time in which a towing facility would notify a lienholder to 20 days, GCUA worked 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 and notified promptly before a lien is foreclosed upon the car. And with proactive engagement preventing negative amendments from being added in the final days, the bill passed the full House on April 2nd.