By Deborah Heffernan, MAR Government Affairs Chairman
As the 2013 Chair of the Government Affairs Committee, I was recently asked by a fairly new sales associate, “What does Government Affairs do exactly, and what does it have to do with me?” It was a legitimate question. It’s not a topic taught in licensing schools or sales skill development classes. I welcomed the chance to share the answer.
How Government Affairs Works
Our business is a regulated one. We have a vested interest in affairs that affect our ability to conduct business without over-burdensome regulations and restrictions. We also have an interest in promoting issues and policies that support homeownership and private property rights.
We are fortunate that the structure of our REALTOR® Association provides three levels of government and political oversight: the National Association of REALTORS®, MAR, and our Local Associations. There is dedicated staff at all levels that identifies and responds to issues that matter to our day-to-day business and ultimately our paycheck.
Why Advocacy Matters
If we did not have that support, and the support of hundreds of REALTOR® member volunteers who actively participate in government affairs activities, we might have lost the battle to keep banks out of the real estate business at the federal level; we may have seen our commissions hit with a 6.25% sales tax at the state level; and we might be paying our towns $250 to install a for sale sign in each client’s front yard.
It’s important to realize that there are hundreds of issues impacting our million member nationwide Association. Many of the issues also impact millions of homeowners or potential homeowners, and these are certain issues that we need to advocate about on their behalf. Ultimately, what negatively impacts the homeowner will negatively impact us.
If it weren’t for a galvanized intiative by the National Association of REALTORS®, we might have lost the mortgage interest tax deduction at the federal level. At the state level, we defeated a proposal to require energy scoring for residential properties, a move that would have stigmatized older and less energy efficient property. We continue to battle a renewed initiative. At the local level, we would have seen a half dozen or more communities impose transfer taxes, adding to the cost of sale, had it not been for the efforts of our local Government Affairs Committees and Association leadership.
So, yes, it matters. And every member should care. Our REALTOR® Association websites provide information on what’s happening at the local, state, and federal levels. Learn what your legislators have to say about issues that impact you. Participate in “Calls to Action” when asked. Make a $25.00 “Fair Share” contribution to RPAC. And participate in REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill on June 5. The more our members engage, the stronger we will be.