2019 Government Affairs First Quarter Update

April 25, 2019

- By The MAR Legal Team

The first quarter of 2019 provided an exciting start to the year. We kicked-off a new legislative session, unveiled our legislative priorities, and continued to advocate for our members on a broad array of issues. We’re looking forward to bringing our members’ voice to Beacon Hill and beyond on important issues affecting REALTORS® and the private property rights of everyone in Massachusetts.

Continued from Last Session

The end of a legislative session generally brings some closure on legislation and quieter times in the advocacy world. However, that wasn’t the case with the 2017-18 formal session, which officially ended at midnight on July 31, 2018. In the fall and winter of 2018 – and through to today – we have continued to work on the following issues:

Short-term rental law

MAR advocated on this bill last session, working to explain the role of REALTORS® in the short-term rental industry and address concerns about unforeseen consequences. The bill was enacted in late December 2018, taking effect for short-term rentals starting on or after July 1, 2019, for which contracts were entered into on or after January 1, 2019. Since its enactment, MAR has served as a resource for members, answering questions on the Legal Hotline, posting an FAQ blog on our website, and drafting short-term rental lease and disclosure forms under the guidance of the Forms Content Advisory Committee (available in our forms library) to ensure that members practicing in this area are in compliance with the statute.

In recent months, we have been in communication with the Legislature and Department of Revenue (click here to see our written comments on draft Department of Revenue guidance), advocating for regulatory clarification and statutory language fixes to better align the law with short-term rental practice and ease administrative burdens on our members. On March 29, the Governor signed into law a supplemental budget bill containing a number of important statutory language fixes that were in-line with our submitted comments. We anticipate further clarifications in the form of regulations from the Department of Revenue coming soon. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to call the MAR Legal Hotline with any questions.

Paid Family Leave

In June 2018, the Legislature enacted and the Governor signed a bill into law that will provide Massachusetts workers with paid family and medical leave beginning in 2021. In January 2019, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) issued draft regulations for the new statute. We filed comments to clarify gray areas in the statute and regulations that could require real estate brokers employing independent contractors to contribute to the paid family leave trust fund for each independent contractor, regardless of whether the independent contractor had opted into the paid family leave program.

In late March 2019, the EOLWD issued a second draft of regulations without clarifying this ambiguity. MAR will continue to work with key decision-makers on this issue to assure that our members are treated fairly under this new statute.

Home Energy Audits

MAR has long worked to educate lawmakers on the challenges presented by home energy scoring, such as the likelihood that REALTORS® would need to disclose scores to prospective buyers, the near impossibility of developing a fair and clear grading system, and the negative effect scores will have on older homes. Required energy scoring will further hamper an already burdened housing market with the second oldest median home age in the country. MAR filed a brief and a letter raising concerns with the proposed home energy scoring program included in the Department of Public Utilities three-year Energy Efficiency Investment Plans.

Over MAR objections, the DPU approved the plans in late January as long as the costs do not exceed twenty percent (20%) of the Residential Conservation Services budget.

This issue will also be debated in the legislative arena as several bills have been filed related to home energy scoring. We look forward to being part the discussion.

New Legislative Session

A new two-year session started in January, the 191st in Massachusetts history, with committee assignments released in early February. The leaders of the House and Senate will remain unchanged from the end of last session, with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka. The Ways and Means Committee has two new chairs in Representative Aaron Michlewitz and Senator Michael Rodrigues. The Housing Committee has one returning and one new leader in Representative Kevin Honan and Senator Brendan Crighton, respectively. Crighton served as Vice-Chair of the Committee last session.

In late January, Governor Charlie Baker released his $42.7 billion budget proposal. The budget discussed a plan, filed as a separate bill, to increase the deeds excise tax by 50% with the new revenue earmarked to fund climate resiliency programs. Justin Davidson, MAR’s General Counsel & Director of Government Affairs, was quoted in several articles on the issue (see, e.g., Boston GlobeBoston HeraldWall Street Journal, and WBUR) voicing our opposition to the transfer tax and explaining that it would increase the cost of housing, further exacerbating the Commonwealth’s housing crisis.

In late February, Speaker DeLeo proposed a similar plan funded by borrowing the money, rather than imposing a transfer tax on Massachusetts homeowners. Polling data collected on behalf of the REALTORS® shows that a majority (roughly 2/3) of eligible voters on the issue oppose the tax.

Throughout the quarter, MAR staff has reviewed thousands of filed bills on issues of interest, and are committed to continuing our important work on:

    • The H.O.M.E. and Housing Choice bills, which would both increase housing production;
    • Promoting first-time homebuyer savings accounts to encourage and help stimulate homeownership;
    • Opposing legislation requiring home energy scoring; and
    • Closely monitoring newly emerging rent control proposals.


We are also pleased to be working on new legislation this session that would enhance the Real Estate Board’s authority to self-regulate continuing education requirements. Our proposed legislation would provide the Real Estate Board with similar authority to other regulated professions in Massachusetts. This will ensure that continuing education remains relevant in substance and execution, especially with changes in technology and the profession.

Finally, we are excited to now provide a new legislative tracking tool to our local associations. Curate is a platform that scrapes information from municipal government websites, and searches and sorts that information by keywords. This tool will provide local associations an incredible resource for finding issues of interest and help increase our members’ ability to get involved in local government.

Looking Ahead to Second Quarter

We’re looking forward to continuing to advocate as bills start to progress through the legislative process. The House just released its budget in early April. We anticipate seeing the Senate’s budget in May and ultimately a conference committee in June to (hopefully) finalize the 2020 budget for submission to the Governor by June 30. Hearings on our bills of interest will also be scheduled in the coming months.

In the second quarter, we hope you will take the opportunity to get involved with our advocacy efforts. Mark your calendars for the NAR Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, May 13-18 in Washington D.C., where MAR leaders will meet with Massachusetts Federal representatives. MAR’s 34th annual Day on the Hill on June 12 in the Great Hall of the State House. Stay tuned for when our keynote speaker is announced! Our goal is to break last year’s attendance record of 450 REALTORS® and powerfully deliver our message directly to our state elected officials. See you there!