REALTOR® ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE
Take it to the Hill: Political Face time
By Carolyn Schwaar
All real estate is local, so the saying goes. Or is it?
Once a year, hundreds of Realtors® from across the country flood the halls of congressional buildings in Washington, D.C., to meet with their federal legislators and lobby for national laws favorable for real estate and homeownership.
These groups of association executives, presidents, political fund-raising committee members, and the like, crowd into small congressional offices to discuss real estate issues, thank members of Congress for their support, and apply pressure to those not yet committed to legislation backed by Realtors®.
"Our association conducts Hill visits because it demonstrates to elected officials that we care about issues that affect our ability to do business, and that we live and work in the communities they represent," says Cashion Drolet, director of governmental affairs for the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors®, S.C.
Whether it's banks in real estate, reforms to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or small-business health plans, members understand the vast influence that federal laws and rules have on their day-to-day business, explains Brian Bernardoni, government affairs director at the Chicago Association of Realtors®.
Because decisions made in Washington hit home, Realtors® from around the country bring their issues to the Hill every May as part of NAR's Midyear Legislative Meetings, and often several more times throughout the year.
"It's important that U.S. representatives and Senators hear from Realtors¨ from their home states and see the passion of our positions on particular issues," says Vicki Cox Golder, NAR Regional VP. "It also gives our elected officials the opportunity to ask us questions and receive our empirical data supporting our positions."
Although NAR's lobbyists are continually pushing the national association's agenda on the Hill, visits from hometown constituents often have more impact on elected officials.
"Politicians see lobbyists everyday, but voters are a different story," Bernardoni explains. "When members of the association are willing to travel the length of the country to see their members of Congress, those members will listen."
And that eagerness to roll up their sleeves and talk to their members of Congress one-on-one is having enormous impact on NAR's legislative priorities, says Jerry Giovaniello, NAR chief lobbyist.
According to NAR lobbyists, since the Realtors®' Hill visits this spring, some 30 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have added their names as co-sponsors of the Community Choice in Real Estate Act, HR 111, the NAR-backed bill to keep national banking conglomerates from entering real estate brokerage and management.
Golder says her Hill Visit resulted in Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., writing a letter to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley, R-Ohio, asking for a hearing on HR 111. "That would not have happened without our visit. There's nothing more powerful than our in-person verbal testimony on an issue that's timely," says Golder.
Hill visits are not only effective politically, but also rewarding for the members involved. "The whole reason they belong to the association becomes much more real to members when they're on the Hill," says Bernardoni. "Members can see where their hard-earned dues dollars are going and what they're protecting. When NAR Leadership takes a stand, our members march and feel part of something bigger then them."