In Georgia, for a bill to pass the state Legislature fully, it is required to pass its originating chamber by a specific date (so as to provide time for the opposite chamber to debate). This day is known as “crossover day,” and for this year it was day 28, which was Wednesday. Crossover day is a day packed with a flood of bills on both the Senate and House floor attempting to stay alive in the process and “cross over” … which equates to long hours through the evening debating bills, and hectic hearings leading up to the day. Some of the issues of note to credit unions addressed included:
Appraisal Management Companies: H.B. 775 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) seeks to bring Georgia law on regulating appraisal management companies into compliance with federal statute. This is the bill on which GCUA worked with Rep. Powell to add an amendment to correct a provision that had excluded credit unions in the definition of federally regulated appraisal management companies with other financial institution-owned appraisal management companies. This bill passed the full House on February 28th in time for crossover, and heads to the Senate for consideration.
Credit Freeze Changes: Two of the three separate bills that seek to remove the fee credit reporting agencies are permitted to charge consumers who request a freeze passed their originating chambers by crossover day on February 26th: H.B. 866 by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) and S.B. 376 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth). Both of these bills seek to do the same thing – remove the fee for a credit freeze. One of these bills will likely move forward, and both will continue to be monitored closely through the process for any changes that could impact lending operations.
Credit Insurance: On February 23rd H.B. 938 by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) was heard in a House Insurance Committee hearing; this bill seeks to provide an option to credit unions (and others) a form of regulatory relief with the option to obtain one license for credit insurance sales as opposed to licensing each individual. The bill would require regular education of those individuals tasked with selling the insurance in their roles (five hours initially, and then two hours annually) to ensure that consumer protections are upheld in the event an institution opts to have one overreaching license. GCUA has engaged CUNA Mutual on the bill, and it is intended to make the registration/licensing process less cumbersome on the institution, while ensuring that the individuals receive training. The bill passed the full House on February 28th and continues in the process to become law.
Elder Abuse Protections/Power of Attorney Reform: On February 28th the power of attorney technical changes bill, H.B. 897 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), passed the full House. GCUA has been engaged with Rep. Efstration on this issue, sitting down with him and other interested parties to ensure that what is being sought is positive and workable. While he intends for the bill itself to be “clean-up” in nature, it will be monitored closely to ensure that credit unions’ operational ability surrounding the power of attorney process is not negatively impacted. In addition, it will be shepherded through the process to protect against attempts to add greater liability to financial institutions, while protecting the ability of authorities to investigate and prosecute financial elder abuse and fraud.
Elimination of Certain Tax Credit Programs: On February 26th a bill that originally sought to remove 70 tax exemptions was passed in the Senate Finance committee. S.B. 432 by Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta) was amended in the process to institute a state review of the 70 tax exemptions/credits for various income tax as well as sales and use tax, and touches groups such as the National Guard, churches, food banks, 4-H, disaster recovery and aquariums. None of the 70 tax credits being analyzed impacts credit unions; however, the bill will be monitored closely. Tax exemptions were analyzed all throughout the off session in 2017 and is expected to continue in the summer/fall of 2018.
Foreclosure Protections for Active Military: H.B. 676 by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Powder Springs) has been amended with the changes sought to protect credit unions from falling under different requirements and protections surrounding lending to military. This bill seeks to provide foreclosure protections to active military and is couched as an aid to the state in base realignment closures, and legislators are very keen to keep military bases in the state (for good reason). The measure would delay any foreclosure action during a servicemember’s active duty and for a protected period afterwards, and GCUA has worked, testified and lobbied to amend the bill so that it tracks federal military law (Servicemembers Civil Relief Act) foreclosure protections so as to prevent regulatory burdens and confusion, as well as the negative provisions that were in the bill originally that opened the door to judicial foreclosure and expanded the protections beyond mortgage lending. The bill was never selected by the full House on crossover day; however, there are other “vehicles” that this language can be attached onto (other bills in a similar code section), so it will continue to be monitored closely to ensure that the amendments sought are retained so as to just mirror federal law.
HOA Issues: H.B. 410 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) seeks to regulate what information HOAs share in letters requested for mortgage closings, and what fees could be charged, and has been hotly contested in the process. There have been multiple versions of the bill, and throughout it has been addressed to ensure that in the process to find a compromise it does not impact the lending operations at credit unions. The version of the bill that was addressed on the House floor on February 28th denotes that HOAs would have a $250 cap on the fee. However, more changes are expected when the bill travels to the Senate, and it is being closely monitored to ensure that credit union operations are protected, and to ensure that HOA interests do not insert language to supersede the lien status of the lender.
Improvement Zones: On February 28th S.B. 358 by Sen. Michael Rhett (D-Marietta) was debated on the Senate floor; this bill seeks to create banking improvement zones with the intent to encourage branches in areas where there are few options for financial institutions. The bill encourages cities and counties to utilize public funds as a quasi-incentive for banks but is problematic in its application and the expectations it sets and will still need to overcome multiple hurdles in the legislative process.
Payments Between Insurers and Health Providers: H.B. 818 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) was delayed when it returned to the House Insurance Committee on February 26th for a technical correction (as the bill was slated to have a full House vote), then was passed by the full House on February 28th. The bill is directed solely at the fees charged between insurance providers and doctors’ offices (and not on consumer transactions). This bill was modified earlier (to the positive) to make it explicitly clear that it is applied to those insurance payments to the provider, and to prevent insurance companies from requiring providers to accept only payment via virtual credit card.
Property Taxes: H.R. 1317 was introduced by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) to create a study committee in the off session that would review how real property is taxed. This study committee will need to be watched closely during the summer/fall to ensure it does not shift into a direction to impact credit unions.
Regulations: S.B. 338 by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) was debated in a House Judiciary subcommittee on February 27th; this bill seeks to implement changes to how the state Legislature can put a halt to proposed regulations to any state agency, and how new rules and regulations are proposed. This bill will continue to be monitored closely to ensure that credit unions are not disparately impacted in this process.
Savings for Higher Education: On February 23rd the House passed H.B. 664 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) to increase the amount one can place in 529 plans for tax credit purposes. The bill will continue to be monitored through the process to help incent more to save – and prevent credit unions from being impacted from a taxation perspective (as any tax bill can and often is amended in the legislative process).
Self-Settled Trusts: On February 27th H.B. 441 by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) was debated in a Senate Banking hearing. This bill, which is carried over from last year, seeks to permit a new form of trust account to be offered in Georgia, and is monitored closely to ensure that creditors have the capability to claim on assets that were included in making a decision on a loan (if the assets were placed under the trust afterwards).
Towed Vehicles: On February 26th S.B. 446 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) passed the full Senate; this is one of the two bills that seek to rewrite the towed-vehicle law so as to allow a streamlined process for abandoned vehicles to be disposed of. GCUA worked with the interested parties last year on a similar bill to ensure that the lienholder notification remains intact, and these new versions retain the notice.