As of press time, the Georgia state Legislature is in session for the 38th legislative day, with two “official” days remaining that will be stretched over next week. And with the last days of the session, anything and everything is happening. Bills that did not move forward all session are being attached to other bills, there are bills that are completely stripped of their contents for other issues to “use” their moving bill number, and amendments upon amendments are being added. To say it’s fluid is putting it mildly, and the Legislature is likely to be in long hours on this 38th day on March 23rd. Some of the activity of note from this week includes:
Abandoned Mobile Homes: H.B. 381 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) passed the full Senate on March 19th with no amendments. This is the legislation that GCUA has been engaged on that seeks to provide property owners a legal method of disposing of abandoned derelict mobile homes that are titled to someone other than the property owner, and has been monitored closely to ensure that proper notice is provided to any lienholder prior to disposal. While the bill seeks to resolve a negative issue, GCUA worked during the hearing process in the House to remove language that could create greater liability for past-due rent once the mobile home is abandoned. The bill now goes back to the House for a procedural vote, and will be monitored to ensure that what passes contains the provisions needed for lienholders.
Cybersecurity: One of the cybersecurity bills in the state Legislature, S.B. 315 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), was debated again in a hearing of House Judiciary Non Civil committee on March 20th and 22nd. This bill had been amended last week to ensure that intrusion tests of systems would not be inadvertently wrapped up in the bill, as it seeks to address data breaches by criminalizing the unauthorized access of computer systems. This bill moves forward, and will continue to be monitored closely to ensure that credit unions are not tasked with unneeded burdens while still protecting data, and that legitimate business activity isn’t inadvertently wrapped into it.
Elder Abuse Protections/Power of Attorney Reform: On March 19th the full Senate passed the power of attorney technical changes bill, H.B. 897 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), and it now goes to the Governor for his consideration. 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. This bill makes “clean-up” changes, and has been monitored to ensure that credit unions’ operational ability surrounding the power of attorney process was not negatively impacted (and that greater liability to financial institutions was not included in the legislation, while protecting the ability of authorities to investigate and prosecute financial elder abuse and fraud).
Elimination of Certain Tax Credit Programs: All throughout the summer, fall and winter months a study committee met to thoroughly review tax credit/exemption programs to weigh a return on investment, whether the programs are working, and whether they should (or should not) be continued. An output of these hearings was seen this week with the introduction of S.B. 328 by Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta), which seeks to eliminate three of the tax credit plans these hearings analyzed (drivers’ education, diesel, and a transportation fringe tax credit). This bill passed the full House on March 19th, and had the last procedural vote in the Senate on March 21st for approval of the changes made last week to adjust for an unrelated statewide federal tax change, and now goes to the Governor for his consideration.
Elimination of Certain Tax Credit Programs (Study): On March 20th the Senate Finance Committee added to H.B. 93 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) the bill that originally sought to remove 70 tax exemptions (S.B. 432 by Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta)); however, it now instructs the state to conduct a review of the 70 tax exemptions/credits for various income tax as well as sales and use tax. These exemptions that are slated to be analyzed impact 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. This bill had originally passed the Senate but has not moved out of the House Ways and Means committee process, and amending it fully onto H.B. 93 is an attempt to move the issue forward. Regardless of whether H.B. 93 (or S.B. 432) passes, tax exemption analysis is expected to continue in the summer/fall of 2018.
HOA Charges for Clearance Letters: 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 with hours of hearings. 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 that passed the full House on February 28th had a $250 cap on the fee that HOAs could charge; however, the Senate Judiciary committee debated the bill last week and this week, and lowered that fee cap to $100. The bill passed the full committee on March 19th, but it is expected to change again in the process. From a credit union perspective, it has been important to keep this issue on close watch 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 in the midst of the debate.
Real Estate Issues-Sovereign Immunity: H.B. 791 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) was debated in the Senate Judiciary hearing on March 19th and again on March 22nd. In the process earlier, this bill on sovereign immunity (where or when the state could be sued) had an amendment in that contains a provision that would make the process of quieting of title easier in instances where the state is a party.
Real Estate Issues – Fulton County: H.B. 1036 by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) is the local bill that impacts how titles/deeds are filed in Fulton County. This is a local bill, which means it doesn’t follow the same rules of normal bills, moves quickly without vetting in a committee, and is generally voted on in a “block” of local bills on the floor. However, this bill would alter how any instrument or interest with real property is conveyed in Fulton County (and only Fulton County) and would require the tax parcel identification numbers (or numbers associated with any or all portions) are printed on the top of the first page of the instrument. This bill would create the unintended consequence of invalidating titles and disrupting mortgage lending (as well as title insurance) for any loan that involves real property in Fulton County. GCUA has been engaged with Rep. Martin, the State Bar and title insurers to secure an amendment to protect the titles from being deemed invalid due to error, and has engaged members of the Senate this week to ensure that the version they pass is the version with the lending protections.
TAVT: H.B. 327 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) is the bill from last year that sought to make several changes to the TAVT process for autos, including addressing the “welcome to Georgia” tax people see when they move to the state upon transferring vehicles, among other changes. It would place used cars at the same tax calculation as new cars (the higher of book or retail price) if sold by a dealer, making those calculations consistent. For casual sales between individuals (and not a new or used car dealer), the fair market value would be the same as it is today. This bill changed drastically in a Senate Finance subcommittee hearing last week and passed full committee on March 19th; it will likely go into conference where more changes are to be expected, and will continue to be monitored closely.
Tenant Laws: On March 15th S.B. 443 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), which seeks to change tenant laws as they apply to damage and security deposits, was added to H.B. 834 by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Tenant laws have been as frequent as credit reporting fee bills this year, with multiple ones at different stages of the legislative process. All of these are monitored to ensure that credit unions are not saddled with regulatory burdens or have their lending operations impacted.
Towed Vehicles: On March 22nd S.B. 446 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) was debated in the House Motor Vehicles Committee and passed with multiple amendments (none of which impacted the lienholder notification provisions). This bill 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, and will continue to be monitored closely to protect credit unions.