The 2011 Legislative Session was historic in many ways, and presented many opportunities and challenges for the members of the Oregon Association of REALTORS® and the state of Oregon as a whole. The elections of 2010 had a profound impact on our state and served to set a very different tone for Salem. For the first time in our state’s history, the Oregon House of Representatives was divided evenly with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans. In addition, the state Senate was narrowly divided with 16 Democrats and 14 Republicans. This provided a stark contrast to the previous session, where a single party enjoyed super majorities in both chambers of the Legislative Assembly, in addition to the Governor’s office. Despite predictions of impending gridlock, the Co-Speakers of the House put partisan politics aside and delicately navigated a historic power sharing agreement. The Oregon Association of REALTORS® enjoyed considerable legislative success in this unique environment. In addition, numerous harmful legislative proposals to our industry were stopped in their tracks. The outcome is undoubtedly the direct result of a collective effort, perhaps best demonstrated by the over 600 REALTORS® from across the state who braved the elements and put the political grassroots strength of our association on display in Salem at REALTOR® Day at the Capitol.
The efforts of the Association were bolstered significantly by legislators from both major political parties, due in no small part to REALTOR® PAC’s commitment to support those candidates supportive of REALTOR® values and core issues. The dedication of RPAC to supporting REALTOR® Party candidates was the perfect match to a nearly evenly divided legislature. Just over 3,000 individual bills were introduced for consideration by the legislature, and the Oregon Association of REALTORS® identified 396 bills with a potential impact on real estate license law, land use planning, distressed properties, business and real estate taxation, mortgage lending practices, economic development and housing affordability and attainability. The Oregon Association of REALTORS® Government Affairs Key Committee, led by Chair Sue Curths, worked closely with the Public Policy staff, and put forth substantial effort to thoroughly analyze the legislative proposals and to provide invaluable insight and expertise into potential impacts on the real estate industry. The collective strength of our association was often on display during the 2010 elections and the 76th Legislative Assembly, and significant progress was made for our industry and state as a direct result.
REAL ESTATE & THE ECONOMY
HOME TAXES & AFFORDABILITY
The Oregon Association of REALTORS® provided enhanced protections and clarity for Oregon consumers involved in short sales. In enacting HB 2916A, introduced on behalf of PMAR member John Bacon, the legislature added a degree of certainty to the turbulent world of short sales. In effect now, HB 2916A provides that a lender or its assignee may not collect on a deficiency in a short sale transaction if a 1099-C is issued in connection with the sale. This is a significant victory for Oregonians, and allows sellers in financial distress to make fully informed decisions in the short sale process. The legislation will serve to reduce the number of foreclosures in communities throughout Oregon by eliminating a significant portion of the uncertainty in the short sale process for sellers. A short sale can provide a win-win situation, as financial institutions can avoid the costly process of foreclosing and the neighborhood can avoid the potential problems that can occur with vacant, foreclosed properties.
The Oregon Association of REALTORS® put a stop to the imposition of new, costly transfer taxes on the sale of real property. In effectively stopping HB 2518, the Oregon Association of REALTORS® ensured that the prohibition on local governments from imposing real estate transfer taxes remained solidly in place. It is important to note that this effort was part of a continual push to allow local governments to implement multiple layers of transfer taxes on a single transaction, as at least one bill has been introduced every session since the preemption was placed into statute. It is only through the Protect Oregon Homes campaign, which will be on the ballot during the November 2012 General Election, that the members of the Oregon Association of REALTORS® and our industry allies can permanently protect Oregonians from the damaging impacts of double taxation on real property.
The Oregon Association of REALTORS® helped to ensure that Oregon remained fully connected to incentives in the federal tax code to bolster job creation. In enacting SB 301B, the legislature reconnected with the federal tax code and ensured that Oregon businesses would enjoy the benefits of accelerated depreciation designed to stimulate investment. This was particularly important for commercial property owners, who enjoyed the benefit of accelerated depreciation on tenant improvements and provided direct incentives to put Oregonians back to work. Despite initial partisan posturing in the Oregon House, the passage of this legislation set a clear tone for the remainder of the session in stark contrast to the 2009 Session when the legislature disconnected from the incentives provided in the federal stimulus package for small businesses. The Oregon Association of REALTORS® teamed with industry allies to ensure Oregon has enough prime employment land available for companies looking to relocate, expand or startup in Oregon. In enacting SB 766B, the legislature allowed for the creation of state and regionally significant industrial areas, which will allow for expedited permitting to make sure employment land is readily available throughout the state. This legislation will help to facilitate bringing more high wage jobs to Oregon by limiting costly appeals on land previously designated for employment opportunities. The legislation will streamline the land use process and eliminate barriers and costly appeals that are hurting economic development opportunities in our state. As the land use system becomes increasingly more complex and cumbersome, SB 766B is a significant step in the right direction.
The Oregon Association of REALTORS® stopped increases to the document recording fee and stopped the limiting or elimination of the mortgage interest deduction. In stopping HB 2245 and HB 2351, the Oregon Association of REALTORS® ensured that additional fees would not be imposed on buyers and sellers of real estate. The Association was also successful in stopping two proposals that would have had a devastating impact on our industry and the economy of Oregon as a whole: HB 3008, which would have sunsetted (eliminated) the mortgage interest deduction (MID) in six years; and HB 3663, which would only have allowed $15,000 per year in interest to be deducted. The Oregon Association of REALTORS® stopped costly, mandatory energy audits at the point of sale. Once again, the Oregon Association of REALTORS® led the efforts to stop the imposition of mandatory energy audits at the point of sale in the form of HB 2839, HB 3400 and HB 3535. As an active participant in the Governor’s Task Force on Energy Performance Scores during 2009 and 2010, the Association sought to ensure that any energy efficiency rating system remained voluntary and incentive-based. The recommendations of the Task Force to strengthen consumer protections around energy audits, including the licensing of energy auditors were largely ignored in the quest to impose a costly, mandatory system. An overwhelming majority of the Task Force was opposed to a mandatory system due to the costs associated with mandatory audits, the lack of qualified inspectors and the stigmatization of older properties that such a mandate would create.
PROTECTING CONSUMERS & OUR INDUSTRY The Oregon Association of REALTORS® worked in conjunction with the Oregon Real Estate Agency to add significant protections for Oregonians from unlicensed or unethical real estate activity. In enacting SB 156 and SB 485, the legislature put in place much needed safeguards to protect Oregonians from unethical activities. Now in effect, the provisions of SB 485 allow the OREA the authority to issue cease-and-desist orders for the unlicensed performance of professional real estate activity, where the harm to the general public warrants immediate action. In addition, SB 156 proscribes affirmative duties that property managers owe to their clients, including the management of client trust accounts, which mirror a real estate broker’s duties to their clients. The Oregon Association of REALTORS® teamed with the broader business community to facilitate the creation of a viable Health Insurance exchange. With the enactment of SB 99A, the legislature put in place the framework for a statewide health insurance exchange, which is absolutely critical for independent contractors and small business owners. The exchange will allow consumers a transparent opportunity to compare and contrast insurance plans, and will use market forces to limit costs. There are few issues confronting the members of the Oregon Association of REALTORS® more profound than the access to affordable, quality health insurance and SB 99A lays the foundation for a successful program in Oregon.
LAND USE/NATURAL RESOURCES The Oregon Association of REALTORS® protected economic development in our larger metropolitan areas by stopping efforts to set additional arbitrary limitations on future growth. In spearheading opposition to HB 2339 and HB 2871, the Oregon Association of REALTORS® ensured that the urban and rural reserve process maintains needed flexibility to meet the urban development needs of residents over the next 50 years while still protecting abundant natural resources. A delicate balance was crafted in the negotiations between all stakeholders in the urban and rural reserve process (which achieved a near 10:1 ratio on rural to urban lands), and changing the rules and requiring artificial limitations on future development opportunities would have been detrimental to all aspects of our industry.
While the 2011 Legislative Session was certainly a success for the Oregon Association of REALTORS® and their clients, it was not without its disappointments. In the final days of the session, and with the rural areas of our state facing record unemployment, leadership in the Senate stopped a commonsense land use bill that had significant bipartisan support in both chambers. The bill, which was the direct result of recommendations made by the Big Look Task Force, was also supported by the Governor’s office. The Oregon Association of REALTORS® partnered with Oregonians in Action to advance HB 3615, which would have created a pilot project to allow local communities to petition for regional definitions of farm and forest lands. Unfortunately, Oregon’s one-size-fits-all land use system has left rural communities reeling under the effects of the recession. Recognizing the regional differences in our state with regard to farm and forest practices would have allowed local elected officials a better opportunity to address the economic vitality of their communities. Now that annual sessions are a reality in Oregon, work has already begun for the 2012 Legislative Session. The concept found in HB 3615 will be reintroduced in February, and efforts will not stop until the new bill is enacted into law. No doubt, our collective strength will once again be put to the test to ensure that the interests and values of the Oregon Association of REALTORS® and their clients are protected throughout this interim and beyond. It is only through our continued diligence and collective efforts that the American Dream of homeownership will remain within reach for Oregonians. ■
2011 Legislative Report