Why do we spend so much time with the Legislature?
It's no secret that I'm a political junkie. I was raised to believe that excercising the right to vote was sacred. I still believe that's true. However, I also believe that civic responsibiliy doesn't end there. It took becoming a Realtor many years ago to learn that part.
Let me preface this by saying that I'm speaking specifically toward life in Utah . I'm not interested in debating the role of the NAR in my life as a Realtor. Yes, I'm a National Director, and yes NAR drives me insane. However, I think if all Realtors had to pick a State where it's good to be a Realtor, that State would be Utah!
Back in 1997, I was asked to attend my first UAR 'Legislative' Committee meeting. I attended in complete ignorance to what it was about. I was asked to read a Bill on banning cell phone use in cars. We've come full circle, as we have similar legislation this year as well!
At that time, we were a fairly ineffective group, with no real voice, no influence, and frankly speaking, not much knowledge or understanding of the way the political world worked. We'd look at a few Bills that might be related to Utah Real Estate or land use in Utah, take a position, then get on the phone with our legislators and try to sway them toward our position. Most of them were cordial enough, if you could actually get them to take your call. Life today is a bit different.
I'm writing this at roughly the half-way point of our 45 day Legislature. I'm still on the UAR Legislative Committee. That committee now is filled with 45-50 political nuts with a total focus on our Statement of Policy, based around those same things we fought so hard against a decade ago.
So, what's the difference?
The difference is one of approach. A decade ago, we started working hard to elect people to office that already have the same fundamental beliefs we do regarding property rights, land use in Utah, taxation on Real Property and Real Estate regulations. We discovered it's more efficient to get our voice heard that way, than to try to convince people to change their philosophy. What that means is that almost a third of the 104 Legislators in this State list Real Estate, development, commercial or residential building, or other Real Estate related industries as their actual occupation.
The length of our reach is a bit longer too. Last year, we took positions on over 100 different Bills. We were succesfull on well over 90% of those Bills, whether we were in support or opposition. We were 100% on Bills we opposed, such as taxes on our commissions, transfer fees, and agent liability on undisclosed meth contamination. This year, at the half way point, we are looking at over 50 Bills, with more added every day. We are batting 1000, and I believe that's where we'll end up.
We aren't alone as an industry in how we approach the Legislative session. There are many other groups that attempt to do what we do. So, why have we been so succesful? I think it's because we never ask for money! Seriously, our role has evolved over the years to one of being an information provider. The legislators know that what we give them, we believe in. They know that it will be based on our beliefs, and that we don't waver in those things. They also know we won't lie. Because, at the end of the day, it's about trust and relationships. Thats's taken more than a decade to build, and is really the key to the whole thing. No big secret.
So, the next time you hear someone complaining that the Realtors have too much influence in Utah, remind them of how much lower their property taxes are. Remind them about how they don't have a transfer tax when they buy and sell. It won't take you a decade to convince them, because the work's already been done! We're half-way there for this year!
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