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Daily Real Estate News  |  May 11, 2011  |   Local Political Wins Show REALTORSŪ' Strength
If all politics is local, REALTORSŪ are in a great position to effect positive change, and not just for the industry but for the nation’s 75 million home owners and 310 million Americans needing shelter.

That’s the strong current running through the REALTORSŪ Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., where NAR’s board of directors will be deciding on one of the most debated issues in the association’s recent history, the REALTORŪ Party Political Survival Initiative. The initiative would inject more horsepower into REALTORSŪ’ advocacy efforts at all three levels of government: local, state, and national.

At one of the opening-day forums, one panel talked about how REALTORŪ involvement at the state and local levels led to important legislative victories for property owners. In North Dakota and Washington, for example, REALTORSŪ backed successful efforts to ban private transfer fees.

Goodbye Transfer Taxes

Steve Franks, chief executive officer of the Washington State Association of REALTORSŪ, called his state’s effort on transfer taxes a “total REALTORŪ Party victory,” and said it demonstrated the value of the REALTORŪ three-way agreement, through which REALTORSŪ join at the local, state, and national associations all at once.

“We received funds from NAR’s Issues Mobilization Program, the state association also provided support, and the local associations got the grassroots involved,” he said.

Scott Louser, a REALTORŪ and newly elected member of the North Dakota legislature, offered advice for building grassroots involvement. It starts with creating the right culture within your brokerage, said Louser, broker-owner of Prudential Minot Real Estate in Minot, N.D. “We encourage involvement in the community, involvement in the association, and contributions to RPAC,” he said.

When issues heat up, the personal touch means a lot, Franks said. A proposal was floated in Spokane that would have enabled residents of a neighborhood to determine the fate of growth initiatives. “That obviously would have been an erosion of private property rights,” Franks said. The association set up a phone bank to call every REALTORŪ in the area, and the proposal was defeated.

Being There Matters

REALTORSŪ’ power comes in part from being present, every day, as issues are debated, said Dave Wluka, NAR’s federal political coordinator to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and broker-owner of Wluka Real Estate Corp. in Sharon, Mass. For example, in a 600-page energy bill, there was one paragraph that talked about requiring energy scores on properties for sale, said Wluka. The provision would have been disastrous for real estate sales, said Wluka, who testified on the bill last year. “Our staff caught it, and it was removed.”

During the Midyear conference, which runs through May 14, state delegations of REALTORSŪ will be heading to Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives in Congress. REALTORSŪ will be sharing three key messages: The mortgage interest deduction must be kept; the country needs a successor to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that will preserve the secondary market; and regulators shouldn’t impose a minimum 20 percent down payment as they define a qualified residential mortgage. “We need you to be persuasive and we need you to be convincing,” NAR President Ron Phipps said.

Stacey Moncrieff, editor in chief of REALTORŪ Magazine

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