This week, CBA spent the week at the Capitol defending our position on the Remote Online Notary (RON) bill. Last weekend, a rumor started that CBA opposed RON. This rumor was in direct contradiction to our testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. See our testimony below. CBA has always supported the RON bill though we have expressed concerns with certain language in the bill. In our testimony, we stated that our concerns and many of the concerns of others can be better addressed in future legislative sessions with the benefit of hindsight following the implementation of the legislation. We testified that the Committee should move “do pass” on the legislation as presented by Rep. Joseph Gullett, and we opposed the deletion of real estate as presented in the substitute bill offered by Sen. Blake Tillery (R), Vidalia.
During our conversations with various Senators, CBA heard that Sen. Tillery was stating that CBA opposed the legislation, and the bill was bad for community banks. CBA talked with Sen. Tillery directly and informed him that community banks do in fact support the RON and reminded him of our testimony that we made before him and the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
On Sine Die, the Senate passed the bill as a substitute (without real estate included) by a vote of 52-0. Since changes were made on the Senate side, the bill had to go back to the House for a motion of agree or disagree with the bill. The House can make one amendment as part of the agree/disagree process. The House amended the bill and added back in the real estate language. The House AGREED to the Senate substitute as amended by the House by a vote of 162-3. The bill was then transmitted back to the Senate for a motion to agree/disagree with the changes made in the House.
Sen. Tillery made a motion to disagree with the House substitute to H.B. 334; however, the Lt. Governor did not recognize the motion. Sen. John Albers (R), Roswell, moved that the Senate agree to the House Substitute for the bill. Sen. Albers presented an argument in the well and stated that we want to encourage more homeownership in Georgia by allowing a digital option for notarization. Sen. Tillery spoke to the bill and the action that was being considered and said that he had suggested that perhaps the bill should have been killed earlier in the day. The discussion was very heated and got very personal. Sen. Tillery insisted that RON hurts community banks and that taking out real estate from the bill would help community banks and small businesses. Sen. Albers closed out the debate by stating that he had talked with community bankers and acknowledged that we support the bill. In the last 12 months, every one of us has learned to do something differently because of COVID-19. Sen. Albers asked for favorable consideration on the bill. Sen. Brian Strickland (R), McDonough moved to table the bill, and the motion carried with a vote 46-6.
Since the bill was placed on the table and not defeated in a vote, the bill remains an active bill and will return to the Senate Judiciary Committee for the next session. CBA plans to continue working in the off session with the coalition interested in getting RON passed and try to get a consensus from all parties on the bill that would include real estate.
Here is the video clip showing the final moments of H.B. 334 Remote Online Notary for this year’s session: