State GAC Day Held for Georgia's Credit Unions

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Each year in January the Georgia Legislature convenes for an intense 40-day legislative session and for the eighth consecutive January, credit unions traveled to the Capitol in Atlanta for GCUA’s state governmental affairs conference. At the conference, credit union professionals gained insight into multiple legislative issues facing the industry, heard from legislative leaders and political opinion makers, and learned what they can to do to help shape bills before they become law.

This year’s event, held on January 26, provided the opportunity for credit union professionals to grow in their understanding of legislative issues, gain the tools to expand grassroots strength and widen the scope of influence credit unions have with legislators. To see the day as it unfolded, visit GCUAGov on Twitter or follow the hashtag #CUGrassroots.

Over the years credit unions in Georgia have heard from all major statewide elected officials, political operatives, key legislators, and other leagues on their election strategy at the event. This year, Georgia credit unions gained insight from:

  • Attorney General Sam Olens on the priorities of his office and what credit unions could anticipate in the year ahead.

  • Department of Banking and Finance Commissioner Kevin Hagler and Deputy Commissioner Lori Godfrey on upcoming legislation from the Department, with a synopsis of the positive changes for credit unions pursued by GCUA.

  • Bill Nigut, Senior Executive over TV, News and Radio for Georgia Public Broadcasting on his perspective of covering national and state political issues and elections for the past 30 years. 

  • Senate Minority Leader Senator Steve Henson on the Democratic Party’s priorities of his caucus in the state legislature.

  • Senate Majority Leader Senator Bill Cowsert on the Republican Party’s priorities in the state legislature. 

Credit unions also were presented an overview of the key players and factors in this year’s legislature, as well as an overview of the legislative issues of interest to credit unions. Two of the priority bills being pursued for credit unions in this year’s legislative session include:

Credit Union Clarification for Lending/Operation Procedures

HB 759 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), which was introduced specifically to clarify that credit unions are included by definition in the unauthorized practice of law exemption for financial institution operations (this is the exemption that by practice, allows credit unions to lend, initiate HELOCs, discuss issues with members, or address compliance issues without an attorney present).

From an operational standpoint, credit unions have been treated as though they were included in the exemption – however, by the letter of the law, they are not. This bill was introduced by Rep. Willard at the request of GCUA to proactively improve the definition in existing law, and help clarify it to protect credit unions in their operations. 

Restoring A Garnishment Procedure for Georgia

GCUA has been in regular discussions with Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) on a bill to correct Georgia’s garnishment process (SB 255). This legislation is a priority for Georgia credit unions as in 2015 a federal judge ruled the garnishment statute unconstitutional in the state, thereby halting garnishments altogether in some counties, and spreading to more areas of Georgia. GCUA continues work on this issue to ensure that a correction is passed and that the correction is not burdensome to credit unions. Throughout the session it will be imperative to ensure what is being sought by the legislature does not change the law to suddenly require only attorneys be utilized in responding to garnishments.