Decisions are being made in Washington and Madison that affect the real estate industry and your bottom line like never before. These decisions include topics such as mortgage interest, zoning, capital gains, legal liability and much more. That’s why you need the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) as much as RPAC needs you. It’s a critically important investment in your business.
So what is RPAC all about? Perhaps you’ve heard the acronym tossed around by fellow WRA members or at the office with your fellow associates, but with your calendar full of appointments to list and sell, you just didn’t have time to look into the meaning behind the letters.
The purpose of RPAC is to help elect candidates who will promote and defend issues that impact homeowners, property owners and the livelihood of every WRA member. In short, RPAC exists to kill bad laws and pass good ones. RPAC is part of the political system we must work within to ensure that vital issues to the everyday life of REALTORS® are being addressed. Through RPAC, the voice of the real estate community is heard at the local, state and national levels.
Over the past several years, RPAC helped secure legislative victories that saved REALTORS® and property owners millions of dollars. These issues include:
Taxes: Defeating a proposal to raise taxes a staggering $15.2 billion to create a state government-run universal health care system with a four percent employee payroll tax and a 10 percent employer tax. This would have cost the average REALTOR® $510 per month. Could you afford this?
Requiring attorneys at all closings: Think about how different your job would be if attorneys were required at every closing, like they are in Illinois and Georgia. In other states, real estate licensees are not allowed to complete offers to purchase and other state-approved forms because state bar associations in those states actively lobbied their legislatures or successfully argued to their courts that only attorneys be allowed to complete forms related to a real estate transaction. But here in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed your right to use these forms, responding to an amicus filed by the WRA. This saves your clients hundreds of dollars on every transaction.
Prohibit REALTOR® opinions of value: In 2010, some appraisers and the city of Milwaukee attempted to pass legislation that would prevent real estate licensees from giving broker price opinions or other opinions of value unless they had an appraiser’s license. Fortunately, the WRA, with lots of help from individual REALTORS® across the state, defeated this legislation and preserved the ability of consumers to choose to hire an appraiser or real estate licensee to provide them with an opinion on the value of their property.
Joint and several liability: In the 2009 Wisconsin state budget, a provision was included that would have involved REALTORS® in never-ending lawsuits. Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposal would have forced a defendant, who was as little as 1 percent at fault in a lawsuit, to pay up to 100 percent of the damages if the other defendants were unable to pay. The WRA and allied business organizations successfully defeated this proposal.
Fraudulent misrepresentation: The WRA drafted and passed legislation to overturn a misguided court case that held REALTORS® could be liable for fraudulent misrepresentations made by a third party in a real estate transaction. Without this important legislation, REALTORS® would have been exposed to lawsuits for defects or other material facts concealed by sellers that only sellers could have known.
Extending levy limits to cover certain fees: Homeowners and property owners are now protected from large fee increases related to property-related services such as garbage collections, snowplowing, streetsweeping, and storm water management by discouraging communities from shifting such services from the property tax to separate fees in order to avoid current levy limits. All revenues generated by such fees are now subject to local levy limits. This is a big win for property taxpayers.
State preemption of the regulation of real estate brokers and brokerage services: Because the practice of real estate is already regulated by state and federal laws, local regulation of real estate brokers could result in the creation of laws in direct conflict of one another. A new law ensures that the regulation of real estate brokers will remain consistent and uniform throughout Wisconsin by prohibiting local communities from creating and enforcing their own regulations and fees in this area. Can you imagine the confusion if local governments could regulate brokerage services?
These victories were made possible because RPAC supports candidates for public office who support real estate issues. Every two years, voters decide who will represent them in Congress and the state Legislature, and REALTORS® have played a crucial role in helping elect pro-business and pro-real estate candidates.
Your contributions to and support for RPAC are critical to the success of your business. The only people we can count on to protect our industry’s interests are REALTORS® like you. That’s why your investment in RPAC is so vital.
Rob Keefe is the 2013 Chairman of the REALTORS® Political Action Committee.