PRESIDENT'S CORNER: Highlights of NAR Legislative Conference

Barry Kramer | June 2018

A few weeks ago I attended the Realtors Legislative Meetings in Washington, DC. I must confess that while I’ve been to nearly every National Association of Realtors’ Convention held every November, this was my first time at the legislative meetings, which are held each May. If your time and budget permit, it’s really a great experience, especially if you are interested in advocating for Realtors and attending NAR business and committee meetings. For most committees you don’t have to be a member, you can attend as an observer.

On my first day, the General Session offered an address by HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who spoke about various HUD initiatives and what was being done to advance housing opportunities.

One of the most informative meetings was the Diversity Committee meeting on Wednesday. HGAR’s Dorothy Botsoe is a member of this committee, so we are well represented. I was pleased that Chairman Tim Hur offered a resolution commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. Included in that resolution was a recommendation to seek legislation to provide for equal opportunity based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Diversity Committee endorsed the resolution unanimously.

Although not a committee member, I had an opportunity to speak to the issue of co-op transparency. Chairman Hur asked the delegates for input on whether this issue should be placed under consideration for further advocacy. I informed the group briefly about what co-ops are in basic terms and explained how they can reject buyers without giving a reason. Under NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, the issue of co-op transparency has been brought increasingly to the forefront. We’ve become more visible in our advocacy for this, and Fred Underwood, the director of diversity and community outreach programs for NAR, has recognized this is an issue of fair housing and diversity. The committee agreed to consider the issue at future meetings, and raising awareness of this issue was worthwhile.

While in Washington our Government Affairs Director Philip Weiden arranged for us to make “Hill visits.” We visited with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who is very supportive of our issues. We also met with staff members from Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s office and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. In a per chance moment we ran into Congresswoman Maloney as we were leaving her office, so it was great to share a few of our legislative items with her in person. We focused our discussion on NAR’s Legislative Agenda, including tax reform, the national flood insurance program, fair housing, net neutrality and transportation infrastructure. We also spoke to each representative about our local legislative priorities.

I had an opportunity to spend some time with HGAR President-Elect Ron Garofalo. We attended a well-attended roundtable discussion organized for presidents and president-elects. It was interesting to hear about how other associations address issues like consolidation and industry trends. Ron and I agreed that the session was informative, and we picked up a few ideas that could be shared with our membership.

The last morning of the Legislative Meetings was the Board of Directors meeting. The first item of business was the election of New Jersey’s Charlie Oppler as NAR First Vice President in a very close election. With 404 votes needed to win, Oppler captured 408, showing that every vote counts. The Board of Directors approved a dues increase of $30 for 2019, but an automatic dues increase for the following years was taken off the table prior to the Board of Directors meeting. NAR says that it will devote $17 of the increase to boost its political advocacy spending and the remaining $13 will cover a Realtor-owned transaction management platform for members, building maintenance and renovation, and programs devoted to professionalism, financial wellness and strategic business innovations.

All in all the five days in Washington were quite rewarding, and I look forward to attending again next year!

Editor’s Note: At the conference last month, California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s comments that sellers should be allowed to refuse to sell their homes to gay buyers caused an uproar and some backlash against the Republican representative at the NAR conference.

“Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone (if) they don’t agree with their lifestyle,” Rohrabacher told an Orange County Association of Realtors delegation at a May 16 meeting in Washington, D.C., according to a report in the Orange County Register.

According to the newspaper report, Rohrabacher later not only confirmed the statement, but also doubled down on his position, noting that homeowners should be able to “choose who they do business with.”

“We’ve drawn a line on racism, but I don’t think we should extend that line,” Rohrabacher said. “A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”

Those comments prompted the National Association of Realtors to withdraw its support of Rohrabacher from NAR’s President Circle. NAR in a prepared statement noted that the Congressman’s stance is contrary to the NAR Code of Ethics, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Barry Kramer
Barry Kramer is 2018 President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc