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Louisiana

Louisiana REALTORS® Defeat a Proposed Tax on Services

The Louisiana REALTORS® weren’t exactly surprised when the state legislature recently started talking about implementing a tax on services to help close a major budget deficit.  “It’s something that comes up every couple of years,” says Kim Callaway, the REALTORS®’ Director of Legal and Governmental Affairs, who cites the economy and chronic structural budget problems as the chief reasons for the threat, which has always been defeated, but which her organization can’t afford to ignore.

“A tax on services would not just effect our members, as service providers,” Callaway points out, “it would have a huge impact on consumers paying for the services of home inspectors, termite inspectors, attorneys, mortgage brokers, and so on.  It would significantly increase the cost of getting in to a new home or business property, and we have a mandate to protect these consumers as best we can.”

While some of the REALTORS®’ legislative contacts assured them that the tax proposal wouldn’t pass, and that they were just reviewing all their options, the REALTORS® weren’t taking any chances. “It was happening fast, and we had to act, just in case it grew legs,” recalls Callaway. “The bill was filed on a Friday, the session started on Monday, and the House Ways and Means Committee heard the bill on Tuesday. Up at the National Association of REALTORS®, thank goodness, the REALTOR® Party team was able to spin on a dime.” She had seen the emails about the new Advocacy Everywhere program, and knew that was what the Louisiana REALTORS® needed, pronto. “We contacted them as soon as the issue came up, and asked, ‘How do we do this? We need it to happen now!’ ”

While Callaway and her team were on the ground in Baton Rouge engaged in essential lobbying at the statehouse, the Advocacy Everywhere professionals at NAR were setting up text mobile alerts and email Calls for Action to REALTOR® constituents of the Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee members. REALTOR® recipients responded at a click-through rate of 38%, and the bill was killed in committee. “We like to think that the number would have been even higher,” notes Callaway, “but it all happened so fast. We’re just grateful for those of our members who had a chance to respond, and did so.”

The legislators have still not been able to reach a consensus on how to resolve the budget deficit, and Callaway anticipates that they’ll have to hold another special session to address the matter prior to the start of the coming fiscal year. While the REALTORS® aren’t actively supporting any other revenue-generating solutions, she says, they’re not opposing any, either. Meanwhile, thanks to their vigilance, and to the REALTOR® Party, issues important to the real estate industry are being protected.

To learn more about how the Louisiana REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party resources to protect its members and prospective home and commercial property buyers in their state, contact Kim Callaway, Director of Legal and Governmental Affairs, at 225-923-2210.

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SafeCam Initiative a Game Changer for New Orleans REALTORS®

The New Orleans Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® (NOMAR) is no stranger to the grant programs of the REALTOR® Party.  Early in 2014, it used an Independent Expenditure Grant to support the re-election of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who had made great strides reducing blight and increasing access to affordable housing in his first term.  Later that same year, with a Smart Growth Action Grant, it sponsored a Better Block redevelopment project that was a highlight of the annual meetings of the National Association of REALTORS®

Then, early in 2015, Kelli Walker, NOMAR’s Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations, found herself at a meeting where the Chief of the New Orleans Police Department was talking about the benefits of SafeCam, a network of private security cameras on private property, and the fact that the city lacked sufficient funding to install cameras where they were most needed.  The SafeCam initiative, administered by the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation, is a voluntary registry of security cameras that enables police detectives to identify likely sources of crime footage, while the trail is still hot.  The program needed a way to engage the participation of more security camera owners—and it needed more security cameras.

“It was an ‘Aha! moment,’” says Walker.  “I thought to myself, ‘There’s got to be money in the REALTOR® Party for this!’”  She approached the Chief of Police and proposed, point-blank, “Let’s figure this out.”  Applying for a Game Changer Grant, Walker cited the city’s notoriously high crime rate, and the effect it was having, not just on public safety and morale, but on property values and the viability of selling homes in certain New Orleans neighborhoods. 

NOMAR sought and received a $15,000 Game Changer Grant to launch a grassroots promotion of the SafeCam initiative to its members, and to provide for the installation of more high-definition cameras through the city’s Adopt-a-Block program; in involving its membership at the grassroots level, NOMAR is also taking the opportunity to engage REALTORS® in conversations about crime and safety on the job.  Not content to stop there, the association used the grant as a catalyst to spur its members and the public to meet its “100 Camera Challenge,” with a goal of installing a greater critical mass of surveillance devices throughout the city.  “The homeowners who are in greatest need of cameras don’t have the resources to buy them, so it’s up to the wider community to step up and help,” says Walker, who is encouraged by the response to NOMAR’s challenge.  “There’s no reason we have to stop at one hundred!” she adds. 

On January 14, 2016, NOMAR held a press conference with the New Orleans Police Department and the Police & Justice Foundation to announce that the grant was used to purchase and install 34 high-definition security cameras in the most vulnerable areas of the city.  “Our members are really excited about it,” notes Walker.  “It’s a different way for REALTORS® to make a positive impact on a community, and a real public service.  We are so grateful to the grant committee for their support of our endeavor.” 

To learn more about how REALTORS® in New Orleans are helping to combat crime, increase safety and improve property values in their city, contact Kelli Walker, Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations of the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of REALTORS®, at 504-274-0705.  The press release issued by the New Orleans Police Department detailing the association’s game-changing support can be found online at http://nola.gov/nopd/press-releases/2016/20150114-new-orleans-metropolitan-association-of-r/.

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North Dakota Becomes Sixth State to Constitutionally Ban Real Estate Transfer Taxes

North Dakota recently joined Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana and Oregon as one of six states that now constitutionally abolish future real estate transfer taxes.  The 1,600-member North Dakota Association of REALTORS® (NDAR) used an Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR, funding from its own coffers and plenty of polling, advertising and leg-work to convince voters by a 75 percent margin that a constitutional ban on real estate transfer taxes was the way to go.

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REALTORS® in MD & LA Put Halt on Using Eminent Domain to Seize Underwater Mortgages

REALTORS® in Maryland and Louisiana ran successful issue campaigns to stop local governments from using their power of eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages.  The Maryland Association got a two-year moratorium on the practice while the state legislature studies the issue.  The Louisiana Association got an all-out ban on the practice.  These successful campaigns follow on the heels of NAR’s adoption of a policy strongly opposing use of eminent domain for this purpose.

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