That was the message lobbyists, regulators, legislators and other experts delivered to the more than 60 Georgia credit union employees gathered at the state Capitol on Jan. 28 for the 2020 Georgia GAC Grassroots Academy.
During the GAC session, participants from credit unions across Georgia were able to interface with four members of the Georgia legislative body, including Senator John F. Kennedy (R-18), Senator Gloria Butler (D-55), Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-82) and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. They also heard from Commissioner Kevin Hagler and Deputy Commissioner Melissa Sneed from the Department of Banking and Finance as well as experts including Lauren Pollow, legislative director at JL Morgan Company; Tharon Johnson of Paramount Consulting Group, LLC and Jeremy Brand, a leading political strategist and partner at Parlay Political.
“The first thing I want to say to you is how important it is for you to be here,” said Jay Morgan, principal at JL Morgan Company – a firm that lobbies on behalf of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates at the statehouse in Georgia. “‘Grassroots advocacy’ means that when this day is over, your legislator should know who you are without a nametag – that you’ll be a resource for them when an issue comes up on anything that might affect your business.”
Both Morgan and his associate Pollow took time during the day to touch on some of the bills that could affect Georgia during the 2020 session. Below is a summary of those bills:
- DBF Housekeeping Bill (HB781) – Although this is an annual housekeeping bill, Pollow said the League and JL Morgan will be paying attention to it. “It touches most of the code sections that govern how you – credit unions – do your business,” she said. “The Department of Banking and Finance has a lot of latitude on what it can take out and put in to these, so it’s really important to keep your eyes on these types of bills.” During our state advocacy day the House Banks & Banking Committee brought up the housekeeping bill for a hearing and, after some discussion on a residency question for bank boards of directors, passed the bill out of committee with a committee substitute.
- Tax Credit Return on Investment Act of 2020 (SB302) – This bill is, to some degree, a repeat of Senate Bill 120, which Gov. Brian P. Kemp vetoed last year. Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) authored this year’s bill. “Senator Albers is very hot on allowing certain committees to pick taxes to be examined for their benefit,” Pollow said. “And the state is really interested in examining under every nook and cranny to see possibly where they don’t feel taxes and tax exemptions are being applied appropriately and how they affect the business climate.” She said the danger is that this could open the door for people at the statehouse who are interested in changing the credit union tax status. “We think, given the new climate and all the budget issues that are going on, it’s not unexpected to anticipate some scrutiny on tax credits in general,” Pollow said.
- Gift Card Legislation (HB488) – This legislation pushed by the retail association is an effort to combat large-scale criminal schemes in which criminals steal merchandise and then return it for store credit. “The issue with this bill is that it touches – potentially – debit cards,” Pollow said. “So we’re keeping an eye on how the language is crafted.”
- Financial Exploitation for Reporting (HB337) – This bill would make tellers at financial institutions, including credit unions, mandated reporters in certain circumstances. “We always want to be mindful of unfunded mandates,” Pollow said. “You have a lot of requirements – state and federal – that you already have to adhere to. We just want to ensure that this isn’t something that’s overly burdensome.
- Insurance coverage for peer-to-peer car sharing – Pollow said this is another example of an unfunded mandate the League and JL Morgan will make sure doesn’t become too burdensome for credit unions.
- Bills to permit a new form of trust accounts offered in other states (SB186/HB497) – Pollow said the League and JL Morgan will be watching to see if Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Suwanee) and Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) will be pursuing these bills this year.
Besides the bills of interest in 2020, Pollow also said JL Morgan will be staying abreast of the cannabis banking issue. Low THC, or medical marijuana, was approved in Georgia last year.
“Therefore, the individuals that participate in that industry will be interested in putting their money somewhere,” Pollow said. “It puts banks and credit unions in a really precarious position to either turn away financial services from a completely legal entity in Georgia or violate the federal CSA.”
For more information on bills or legislation that could affect credit unions during this legislative session, please contact either Cindy Connelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jared Ross at email@example.com.