2015-2016 Legislative Report | The Wednesday Word

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The 2015-2016 legislative session came to a frantic end just past midnight on July 31st, 2016. The end of the two year formal sessions marks the deadline for any significant legislation to pass the House and Senate and on to the governor’s desk. Due in large part to the advocacy of individual Realtor® members across the commonwealth, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors® can highlight several notable victories:

LEGISLATIVE SUCCESSES

Successfully Opposed Mandatory Energy Audits and Scoring

The Senate’s Energy Diversity Legislation contained language from a stand-alone bill that would have required sellers to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing their home for sale and would also require the seller disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit. Additionally, the bill called for the Department of Energy Resources to design and implement an energy scoring and labeling system. Mandatory energy audits at or prior to the transfer of property would disrupt sales and would have a negative impact on the Massachusetts housing economy. Specifically, requiring energy efficiency scoring on homes in Massachusetts would have stigmatized our older homes, causing a substantial decline in home value.

 

Although the Senate included these proposals in their legislation, the House did not; therefore, they were subject to the conference committee appointed to negotiate the differences between the bills. More than 2,700 Realtors® took action and contacted their legislators to voice their strong opposition to the auditing and scoring proposals. That outreach, combined with our lobbying and marketing campaigns was successful in convincing the conference committee to leave those provisions out of the final bill, which was approved just hours before session ended.

 

Successfully Opposed Room Occupancy Taxes

The Senate’s economic development bill included provisions from stand-alone bills that would have extended the existing tax on hotels and motels to the rental of private homes. The House did not include the new tax in their economic development bill and it was therefore subject to a conference committee. Realtors® were successful in convincing the conference committee to exclude this new tax from the final bill.

 

Successfully Opposed Anti-Production Zoning Legislation

In May 2016, the Senate advanced a redrafted version of S.122 An Act promoting the planning and development of sustainable communities of by a vote of 23-15. After months of meetings, the Senate Committee on Ways & Means released a bill that was considerably improved from the original version but would still have negatively impacted housing production in Massachusetts at a time when the state is dealing with a severe housing crisis due in large part to a low rate of housing production that has not kept pace with population growth and needs. MAR successfully lobbied the House to not take the bill up before session ended and thereby defeated the proposal.

 

Successfully Opposed Real Estate Transfer Taxes

Legislators filed three different transfer tax proposals that would have created new transfer taxes on the sale of property in Provincetown, Nantucket, and one statewide effort. MAR successfully advocated against these proposals and none of them advanced before Sunday’s deadline.

 

Successfully Opposed Wetland Disclosure Legislation

This legislation would have required real estate licenses to research and disclose to prospective buyers the presence of any wetlands on a property. Such a requirement is far outside the scope of a real estate agent’s licensing and training. This proposal ultimately died in the House without a vote.

 

Successfully Advocated for Passage of Starter Home Legislation

MAR, along with other coalition members, advocated for the passage of legislation to encourage the production of “starter homes.” Communities will be able to voluntarily encourage the production of homes smaller than 1,850 square feet on lots smaller than a quarter acre. This will complement the current success that Chapter 40R has had with mixed-use and multifamily housing with the single family houses that young families are currently seeking. Importantly, this policy targets young families and other entry level buyers who are currently priced out of the market. Single family housing production continues to be far below the level that is required to meet demand, which results in increasing housing prices. The starter home program will help communities meet the demand by encouraging the production of affordable market rate single-family homes.

 

REMAINING ITEMS TO ADDRESS

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief

Legislation that would have exempted debt forgiven during a short sale from a homeowner’s taxable income did not make it to the Governor’s desk before time ran out this session. H. 3770 An Act relative to discharge of indebtedness of principal residence from gross income received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Revenue but was not taken up by either chamber before the July 31st deadline.

 

Scrap Metal

Both the House and Senate each advanced legislation that would have regulated the sale of scrap metal. Unfortunately, the chambers were unable to reach an agreement on which proposal should pass as the final bill and the proposal died.

 

The H.O.M.E. Bill

S.119 An Act improving housing opportunities and the Massachusetts economy focused on specific areas of Massachusetts zoning law that our members identified as provisions that could be changed to aid the production of much needed workforce and middle class housing. The Joint Committee on Housing recognized the importance of many of the provisions contained in the bill when it included S.119 in a favorable report of H.1111, another housing production bill. This action, unfortunately marked the end of the progress of that specific bill.

Thank you to Realtors® across the Commonwealth for advocating on these issues!

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; and Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel)

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill Recap| The Wednesday Word

13529139_10154887328297506_2101616727979380665_nOn June 21, 2016, over 400 Massachusetts Realtors® traveled to the State House to participate in the 31st annual “Realtor® Day on Beacon Hill.” Realtors® discussed key issues that impact consumers, housing and the economy. The 2016 keynote address was provided by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.

To read the full press release, please visit: https://www.marealtor.com/news/press-releases/2016/06/22/over-400-massachusetts-realtors-converged-on-beacon-hill-to-push-for-land-use-zoning-reforms-and-mortgage-debt-relief

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; and Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel)

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill Briefing: Energy & Environment Issues | The Wednesday Word

12802814_10154557034337506_7894024781621756710_nThe 21st Annual REALTOR Day on Beacon Hill is just three weeks away! To help you prepare to attend REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday, June 21, we continue with Wednesday Word blog posts that discuss the 2015-2016 Legislative Issues.

This is the second post in the series and reviews our positions on the following issues: Mandatory Energy Scoring and Wetland Disclosure:

Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring

S.1761 An Act relative to home energy efficiency

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy including an extension until July 1.

Why MAR Opposes S.1761: This bill seeks to require sellers or their agents to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing a home for sale and disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit at the time of the listing. Additionally, the bill commissions the design and implementation of an energy scoring and labeling system. Over and above having an enormous impact on an individual’s right to freely transfer land, such requirements would negatively affect the real estate industry in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is home to some of the oldest housing stocks in the country and mandatory energy scoring of such older homes would significantly stigmatize and potentially devalue an individual’s largest investment.

Oppose Wetland Disclosure Legislation

H.150 An Act relative to to the disclosure of wetlands on property

Status: Reported favorably by Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

Why MAR Opposes H.150: If passed, the proposed legislation would require real estate licensees to disclose to prospective buyers that a property to be sold is in its entirety or in part a wetland. Requiring brokers to investigate and report to buyers on the various wetland restrictions overlay maps, and provisions in each community would exceed the practice of brokerage as defined in Chapter 112.

As with any other condition affecting real property for sale, buyers are free to ask questions of the seller about wetlands on the property, create contingencies in purchase agreements that allow for an inspection for wetland areas, and research information through public records.  The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS believes that these methods of acquiring relevant information are far superior to legislatively mandating that brokers perform services beyond their areas of expertise and training.  For the foregoing reasons, MAR believes H.150 should not advance.

Please be sure to visit the MAR Government Affairs page and Day on the Hill Facebook event for additional information.

2016 MAR President Annie Blatz invites you to REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill, where REALTORS® will have a chance to network and learn about the key legislative issues that will affect the real estate industry and private property in 2016. Attend the REALTOR® Day on the Hill and make an impact on the legislative process.

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill is scheduled for:
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
10:00 to 11:00AM
Massachusetts State House, Great Hall

We look forward to seeing you there!

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

The REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo is Underway | The Wednesday Word

Massachusetts REALTORS(R) and Government Affairs Staff meet with Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in D.C.
Massachusetts REALTORS® and Government Affairs Staff meet with Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in D.C.

The annual REALTORS® Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo is fully underway this week. REALTORS® from across the country are meeting in D.C. to attend sessions and visit their members of Congress to advocate for federal issues affecting the real estate industry and private property rights.

Over 150 REALTORS® from Massachusetts are on Capitol Hill this week. Constituent REALTORS® as well as MAR Leadership, MAR Government Affairs Staff, and REALTOR® Federal Political Coordinators (FPC) will meet with members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation and U.S. Senate.  This year’s federal talking points include:

  • G Fees: Prohibit guarantee fees (G-fees) from being extended for unrelated government spending.
  • HR. 3700: Open access to condominiums and make other needed housing reforms by supporting the “Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act” (HR 3700).
  • Flood Insurance: Provide private flood insurance options.
  • Housing Tax Incentives: Preserve the Mortgage Interest Deduction and Like-Kind Exchanges.

REALTOR® FPCs will meet with their Member of Congress or Senator to present these talking points as well as district data and other federal issues. Click here to read more on the issues in your Congressional District.

The annual meetings bring REALTORS® to the forefront on Capitol Hill showing the effectiveness of the REALTOR® Party and grassroots advocacy. To see the full Hill visit schedule, visit the MAR website. Click here to see a full schedule of events in D.C. and be sure to visit the Realtor Action Center site for National legislative info and updates.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regilatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

The Wednesday Word | CFPB to Issue TRID Guidance

Logo0_@2On April 28, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced in a letter to industry partners that it is drafting a notice of proposed rulemaking on the Know Before You Owe rule, also known as “TRID.”  Since TRID went into effect on October 3, 2015, the industry has been working hard to understand and implement the rule, and many questions have arisen. Until now, the CFPB has provided only informal guidance to the industry through webinars and phone calls. Both the National and Massachusetts Association of REALTORS have urged the CFPB to draft written clarification on a number of issues, and we are hopeful that many of our questions will be addressed in this Rulemaking, The Bureau announced the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) would likely be issued in late July.

The National Association of REALTORS President Salomone made the following statement:

“The real estate industry has responded well to the implementation of “Know Before You Owe,” but there’s still work ahead. Today’s announcement from the CFPB is a recognition that there are lingering challenges to address, and I appreciate Director Cordray’s commitment to hearing those concerns.

“Realtors® continue to report issues in the post-TRID environment with gaining access to the Closing Disclosure, despite years of access to the substantively similar HUD-1. NAR remains committed to ensuring Realtors® have access to the CD so they can put their expert advice to work guiding clients throughout the homebuying process uninterrupted from beginning to end.

“We look forward to addressing remaining TRID-related concerns as part of the rulemaking process in the months ahead and thank the CFPB for an opportunity make the Realtor® voice heard on this issue.”

For further information and updates on the Know Before You Owe/TRID rules, please visit:

www.realtors.org/respa.

NAR Letter to House Financial Services Committee

NAR Newsline Blog for the Media

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill Keynote Speaker Announced! | The Wednesday Word

Karyn_Polito_official_portraitLieutenant Governor Karyn Polito

MAR is honored to announce that Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito will be the Keynote Speaker for the 31st annual Margaret C. Carlson REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill.

Karyn Polito was inaugurated on January 8th, 2015 as the 72nd Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, elected alongside Governor Charlie Baker.

Lieutenant Governor Polito is a lifelong resident of Shrewsbury, where she lives with her husband and two young children. She has been a REALTOR® for over 10 years and is an active member of the Central Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®.

Lieutenant Governor Polito began her public service in local government, serving as a member of the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen. She then expanded her work to the state level, serving as a member of the State Lottery Commission, and, beginning in 2001, was elected as State Representative for the 11th Worcester District (Shrewsbury and Westborough) for five terms.

In the Lieutenant Governor’s time as a State Representative, she was a leading advocate for the passage of “Jessica’s Law,” a bill that would establish tough mandatory minimum sentences for child sex offenders. Additionally, she worked relentlessly to secure increases in local aid, Chapter 70 School aid, Special Education aid, and Special Education transportation aid, as well as for local grant funding. The Lieutenant Governor has also worked hard to promote jobs and economic development, especially encouraging young people to explore careers in science and technology.

MAR is excited to welcome Lieutenant Governor Polito to the REALTOR® Day on the Hill. As a reminder, the 31st annual Margaret C. Carlson REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill is Tuesday June 21st, 2016 from 10:00 am-11:00am at The Great Hall, Massachusetts State House. REALTORS® will have a chance to network and enjoy a continental breakfast at 9:30AM before learning about the key legislative issues in 2016 that will affect the real estate industry and private property.

For more information on Day on the Hill, check out the MAR Facebook Page as well as the MAR Government Affairs page

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)