Well the spring 2010 legislative session is in full swing, and the strength of the REALTOR® lobby is being put to the test once again. The plain fact is that there are groups and constituencies who have an agenda to accomplish, and don’t know or care how their proposals affect property owners or real estate practitioners, while others simply view us as the enemy or part of the cause of their problems.

Fortunately, from your dues dollars supporting a seasoned and effective lobbying staff, to your grass roots participation in calls to action and the IAR Capitol Conference, our organization has the strength to meet these challenges.

The challenges are numerous. There’s legislation that seeks to remove provisions of the Real Estate License Act that we just fought so hard to put into place, like the bill that seeks to remove the definition of “regular employee” that was just added to the Act.  There are bills that inadvertently bring the activities of real estate licensees under the purview of other regulatory Acts, like those regulating debt settlement counselors.  Another bill attempts to allow counties to place yet another new recording fee on real estate transfers to fund “affordable housing.”  Others seek to usurp voter input on property tax increases by enacting new loopholes in the property tax cap law.

The tenants are in charge under other proposals, like one that would allow a tenant to test for radon and break their lease if an elevated level if discovered.  Then there are the bills that pummel real estate investors from both sides: one that allows problem tenants that invite violence onto their premises and violate their lease to stay on the premises if they claim “victim” status, while other bills allow local governments to hold landlords responsible for the criminal activity of their tenants.

Rather overwhelming, isn’t it?  Even more so when you consider that IAR, in most cases, is the only thing standing in the way of these proposals just flying through the process towards passage.

Meanwhile, the legislature continues to look to the Illinois Association of REALTORS® for guidance and counsel on fundamental questions of public policy relating to real estate. For example, we are pursuing legislation to ban the validity of private “transfer fee covenants,” a new concept taking shape on the West Coast whereby a property developer records a covenant requiring all future buyers of the property to pay a fee on the transfer of the property.

The Judiciary committees in each chamber are looking to us for input on everything from how non-condominium homeowner associations are regulated, to changes in the way the title insurance industry is regulated.  The legislature is also seeking our guidance on how short sales and foreclosures should impact property valuations for property tax purposes, and we have also been saved a seat at the table to tackle the emerging issue of bedbug infestation in rental property.

I wish that all of our members were aware of how extensive the challenges facing our industry in the public policy arena are, and how effective we are at meeting these challenges.  But we can only do so with the ongoing commitment of our members – and your support of all of our programs that enable us the have such a strong voice at the state capitol. It doesn’t take a huge commitment by our members to be effective.

Please do your part, and help spread the word…and we’ll continue to fight the fight on your behalf at city hall, in Springfield, and in Washington, D.C.