How a Bill Becomes a Legislative Priority

The 2015 session is finally in the rearview mirror and it was a good one for you and your clients. It took double overtime, but we successfully beat back a permanent 20% increase in the B&O tax which is a tax on your gross receipts. We were also successful in stopping several point of sale mandates, additional taxes on the sellers of second homes, businesses, and investment properties, continued funding for the Washington Center for Real Estate Research, and helped cities and counties gain flexibility in how they use their Real Estate Excise Tax Dollars in exchange for a ban on local point of sale requirements. All in all it was a good session for the Housing Industry.  If you are the typical REALTOR® you may like hearing about legislative successes, but you may also wonder how our association comes to a position on a particular issue, or to put it in a more “School House Rock” fashion, exactly how a bill becomes a Washington REALTOR® priority.  

Know the Members
Washington REALTORS® has over 17,000 members and affiliates spanning across all political beliefs, ideologies and priorities. There is no decision that will be embraced by 100% of the membership, but we ultimately strive to support issues that will help you and your clients prosper. We do this by getting to know our members and the issues that are impacting them on the ground. This allows our committees to make educated decisions on the positions we take in Olympia.

The Government Affairs Department does a survey of our membership about every other year. Sometimes we do a scientific sampling over the phone, but we always include an email survey component so that all members who wish to be heard can give us their input.

The similarities between the phone results and the online results are practically identical. Here’s what we know: Over the last four years, members who identify themselves as political “Independents” range from 28%-36% pretty consistently, so about one third of our membership considers themselves independent. Between 23%-27% of our membership considers themselves a Democrat while 37%-38% consider themselves a Republican.

These political numbers are why Washington REALTORS® has adopted the mantra of being the “REALTOR® Party” instead of Democratic, Republican, or Independent.  We care about REALTOR® Issues regardless of the letter after an elected official’s name.

2015 Issues

Know the Issues

Political party identification is helpful, but certainly isn’t the whole story. We go beyond that and ask our members to rate issues from 1-5, with 1 being the most important and 5 being of lesser importance. We ask members to rate the following categories: taxes on a real estate broker, taxes on buyers and sellers, legal liability of the broker, regulations on the real estate transaction, and zoning and land use regulations. While member’s prioritization of these issues tend to shift a little bit with the times (regulations on the transaction had much higher numbers back in the foreclosure/short sale years), they are pretty consistent throughout the years. In 2015, 454 out of 679 members who took the survey ranked “taxes on a real estate broker” as either the most, or second most important issue. 427 members ranked “taxes on buyers and sellers as either the most important or second most important issue.   From there it is a sharp drop off, 395 give legal liability the first or second most important rating, 359 give that rating to regulations on the Real Estate Transaction, and 294 give that rating to land use and zoning.

Know the Landscape

Numbers are helpful, but they don’t tell the whole story. We take these numbers to our Legislative Steering Committee which is made up of REALTORS® who help their clients buy and sell homes, vacant land and commercial buildings every day. They are geographically and politically diverse. These members help us put together our final legislative agenda keeping not just those rankings in mind, but also both the political and real estate landscape. This committee has the final say on positions and priorities, give staff their marching orders, and then we act accordingly.

It is a lengthy process, but in the end we settle on a REALTOR® agenda that reflects our mission statement, “Washington REALTORS® advocates on behalf of REALTORS® and their clients and provides services to help members prosper”.

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