As of press time, the state Legislature is in session for day 32 of the 40-day schedule, with eight days remaining. The remaining days will be spread over the next three weeks, with hearings on the off days leading up to last day of the session on March 29th. And with it being towards the tail end of the session, the issues, hearings, and amendments are on overdrive. Just some of the activity of note this week includes:
Abandoned Mobile Homes: H.B. 381 by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) was debated at length by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 5th. 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, and continues to work with Rep. Corbett (who has been supportive of our changes) to ensure that what passes contains the provisions needed for lienholders. Another hearing is anticipated as of press time.
Appraisal Management Companies: On March 6th the Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed H.B. 775 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), a bill that 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 earlier in the legislative process. The bill has moved on to Senate Rules for their consideration for a full floor vote, and will continue to be monitored closely to ensure that the amendment to protect credit unions from being disadvantaged is not removed.
Credit Freeze Changes: One of the three separate bills that seek to remove the fee credit reporting agencies are permitted to charge consumers who request a freeze was debated in the House Banking Committee on March 8th: S.B. 376 by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth). This bill seeks to remove the fee for a credit freeze, and is a duplicate to the House version of the bill by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), H.B. 866, which this same committee passed before Crossover day. This issue will continue to be monitored closely through the process for any changes that could impact lending operations.
Credit Insurance: On March 7th H.B. 938 by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) was heard in the Senate Insurance Committee; this is the bill that GCUA has worked with the Insurance Commissioner’s office on as it 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.
Cybersecurity: One of the cybersecurity bills in the state Legislature, S.B. 315 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), was debated in the House Judiciary Non Civil subcommittee on March 7th, and it will likely change at a later date given the level of debate. This is the bill that seeks to address data breaches by criminalizing the unauthorized access of computer systems, and any pending changes will be monitored closely as the bill moves forward in the process, to ensure that credit unions are not tasked with unneeded burdens while still protecting data.
Elder Abuse Protections/Power of Attorney Reform: On March 5th the Senate Judiciary Committee debated the power of attorney technical changes bill, H.B. 897 by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula). 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. The bill was brought back up for more debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7th; it passed and has moved forward to Senate Rules.
Elimination of Certain Tax Credit Programs (Study): On March 6th the House Ways and Means Committee debated 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. Tax exemptions were analyzed all throughout the off session in 2017 and is expected to continue in the summer/fall of 2018.
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 Senate on February 8th with no negative changes to credit unions, and has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee for their consideration. This bill will continue to be monitored closely to prevent negative impact to the industry. This bill was debated in two separate hearings on March 6th and again on March 8th where it was amended with a tax change for foreign owned subsidiaries to address a new federal tax law issue, and then passed full committee.
Forfeiture Law: on March 5th H.B. 137 by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) passed the Senate Judiciary Committee; this bill would require that any forfeiture action brought under many titles, including forfeitures that fall under Title 7, must have a written contract when an attorney is appointed by the Attorney General or district attorney to represent the state in the forfeiture action. Bills that open the Title 7 section of law are watched closely for negative amendments as it is the section of law on credit unions and other financial institutions.
Garnishments: On March 6th and again on March 8th the bill from last year that seeks to make technical corrections to the garnishment law that passed in 2016, S.B. 194 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), was debated and passed the House Judiciary Committee. This bill has been monitored closely for any negative changes.
Improvement Zones: On March 6th the House Banking Committee debated S.B. 358 by Sen. Michael Rhett (D-Marietta); 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.
Occupational Taxes: On March 6th the House Special Rules hearing passed H.R. 1258 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire). This will institute a study committee during the off session to analyze occupational taxes and suggest changes for legislation to be pursued in 2019. This study committee is a reaction to the bill regarding the payment of occupational taxes (H.B. 858 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), which did not move forward), which was researched to ensure that it doesn’t inadvertently wrap in credit unions in paying this tax on the local level. Rep. Blackmon is aware of the potential concerns and this issue will continue to be monitored closely to protect credit unions.
Property Taxes: H.R. 1317 was debated and then passed in a House Ways and Means subcommittee on March 6th and full committee on March 8th. This bill, introduced by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough), will 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.
Tax Changes: The large number of tax bills being debated in hearings continues; almost each day of the session GCUA has a presence in multiple hearings specifically to protect against negative attempts on the industry. One example from this week was on March 7th, when the Senate Finance Committee debated H.B. 729 by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville), which seeks to make changes to the intangible tax and how it is applied to real property. This bill (among over 100 more tax bills) has been monitored through the process as it could easily be amended to impact credit unions and pull them under that taxation structure, something we had addressed with a few legislators (who also sit on bank boards) last year. During the hearing the bill was amended, but not to contain any negative language towards the industry. These tax hearings are monitored closely as any changes to bills can be added, and until midnight on day 40, this effort will continue on behalf of credit unions.
Tenant Laws: On March 6th S.B. 443 by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), which seeks to change tenant laws as they apply to damage and security deposits, was heard in a House Judiciary subcommittee 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 8th S.B. 446 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) was debated and passed in the House Driver’s Safety and Services subcommittee on March 8th; 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.