Modernizing foreclosure process tops TBA’s Tennessee political agenda

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

As the first session of the 113th General Assembly begins in Nashville, I look forward to working with new members in the General Assembly as well as the legislators continuing their service. As we anticipated, the 2022 elections did not bring many upsets, and we start the new session in a good position to address several important issues for the banking industry.

In November, Governor Lee sailed to victory in his re-election campaign. While he will lay out his legislative agenda during the upcoming State of the State, he has already made it known that he will be asking the legislature to consider infrastructure improvements, including toll roads, without imposing additional taxation as a priority. During his first four years in office, he also prioritized criminal justice reform and has been a supporter of rural communities.

Fortunately, we continue to have a pro-business and pro-banking legislature, and that will continue in 2023.  In total only three incumbents in the House lost their elections and none lost in the Senate. The other freshmen legislators this year—3 in the Senate and 15 in the House—all won races in open seats.  As we’ve met with the freshmen members prior to session, all were supportive of the banking industry and appreciate the critical role banks play in their communities.

This new year will only bring one change in leadership for either party in both chambers with the House Democrats electing a new Caucus Chairman. TBA has built strong relationships with those in leadership, and their continued service will allow for continued advocacy for banking and business issues in general.  That, coupled with continued strong engagement by bankers, will enable us to have another successful legislative session.

At the top of our legislative agenda will be a push to modernize the foreclosure process primarily by transitioning newspaper notices of foreclosure to an online website run by the Secretary of State’s office. With internet access being more readily available to Tennesseans across the state, the most effective way of providing “public notice” has changed from newspapers to the internet. A transition of the newspaper notices of foreclosure to the internet would provide numerous benefits to creditors and borrowers in driving interest in sales with access to every foreclosure in the state in one centralized, free, web-based platform.

We also expect to see several anti-ESG measures ranging from forced access to financial services for certain industries, prohibiting the state from doing business with banks that support certain social issues and initiatives. We will steadfastly oppose any such legislation and, instead, advocate for allowing banks to make their own lending and investment decisions based on the risk tolerance of a bank without fear of political retribution.

TBA will also continue to address efforts to combat elder financial exploitation by supporting legislation from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to create a 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 one of 32 newly created elder investigator positions within each of the state’s district attorney’s office. This new system will be voluntary for banks and will allow for real time investigations into suspected cases of exploitation by a dedicated investigator of crimes against the elderly.

TBA will also pursue 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 technical corrections and updates to present to the General Assembly in 2023.

Your involvement in the legislative process and outreach to your legislators advocating to support or oppose banking-related bills 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 as we expect the newspaper industry to strongly oppose it.

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.

Finally, please join us the evening before Credit Conference for Legislative Reception on February 15. This event provides a great opportunity for bankers to reinforce their relationships with elected officials and get to know new members and members from other areas of the state.

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