Lawmakers’ fast-paced session: Modernizing foreclosure process, elder exploitation, and ESG on the table

By Amy Heaslet, Executive Vice President/General Counsel, Tennessee Bankers Association

As the second session of the 113th General Assembly begins in Nashville, I look forward to continuing our work on legislative priorities that carried over from 2023 to 2024. With steady leadership in the House and Senate, I am optimistic we will be successful. But we are working quickly, as we are predicting a short session due to legislators’ eagerness to return to their districts to focus on reelection.

At the top of our legislative agenda is a continued push to modernize the foreclosure process by reducing the number of newspaper notices of foreclosure and creating an online website for all foreclosures in the state. With internet access being more readily available to Tennesseans than newspapers, the most effective way of providing “public notice” has changed. Our goal is to make the foreclosure process transparent, effective, and economical. Reducing the number of notices in newspapers would bring significant savings to homeowners facing foreclosure. Creating a website that lists every foreclosure in Tennessee would bring much needed efficiency and transparency to the process. Perhaps most importantly, it would mean public notice of foreclosure would be free to the public and accessible 24/7.

We are also spending significant time raising concerns about ESG-legislation that would bring forced access to banking services. The legislation would prohibit large financial institutions from denying or terminating service based on religious or political opinions, and it would prohibit institutions from using nonquantitative factors, like character or business sector, when making decisions on who it does business with.

We are also pushing legislation to prohibit future acquisitions of banks by credit unions by allowing only FDIC-institutions to acquire all or substantially all of a bank’s assets. This legislation found strong support from legislators who understand the unlevel playing field between banks and credit unions and the need to preserve the community banking model.

TBA will also continue to help banks combat elder financial exploitation by supporting legislation from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to create a hotline system for financial institutions to report suspected elder financial exploitation. Once reported to TBI, the bureau will then refer the case for immediate investigation to investigators who work exclusively in crimes against the elderly. This new system will be voluntary for banks and will allow for real time investigations into suspected cases of exploitation.

This legislation received widespread support from the General Assembly last session but did not receive the necessary funding for the new investigator positions at the end of session. This session we will continue to advocate for this and ask the legislature to approve the necessary funding as the dollars it will cost the state pale in comparison to the moneys it could save the elderly.

TBA is also presenting legislation to update our state’s trust laws and ensure Tennessee remains a leading trust jurisdiction. With a working committee of trust lawyers and trust officers from banks and trust companies across the state, TBA has identified several updates to present to the General Assembly in 2024.

Your involvement in the legislative process and outreach to legislators is critical in maintaining our continued success on Capitol Hill. We will especially rely on bankers to contact their legislators in support of the foreclosure modernization legislation.

I encourage you to stay-up-to-date with our legislative efforts by reading our weekly newsletter, This Week, and, for more in-depth coverage of the issues, participate in our bi-weekly conference calls, held every other Friday during session.

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