An updated version of Georgia's garnishment law, designed to fix flaws that have halted some garnishments for five months, will move to the state House after being approved overwhelmingly Tuesday by the state Senate.
If passed by the House and signed into law, Senate Bill 255 would allow garnishments to begin again, but would give people more information about what money was exempt and allow them to get it back faster if it was improperly taken.
In September, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Marvin H. Shoob said the state's law, which didn't tell people that some money was exempt and didn't lay out a way for them to get it back, was unconstitutional. He stopped garnishments in Gwinnett County, which processes more than anywhere else in the state. Other counties also stopped garnishments or changed procedures.
The Senate passed the updated bill 50-0. State Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, who filed it, said no one had altered the law for 50 years.
The changes, he said, address the issues Shoob raised in addition to “making it user friendly.”
“It’s both pro business and pro consumer,” he said. “I would urge your adoption.”
A last-minute amendment that would have deleted three lines that spelled out some banks’ responsibilities was defeated.
The proposed new law doesn't change any existing exemptions, which include Social Security money, welfare benefits and workers' compensation. It describes what a debtor should do if exempt money has been taken and explains the redress debtors have. It also includes forms that must be sent with notices of garnishment to ensure that people are aware of their rights.
Arielle Kass covers Gwinnett County for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She started at the paper in 2010, and has covered business and local government beats around metro Atlanta. Arielle is a graduate of Emory University.