One issue that even a divided Congress agrees on

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Professional headshot of Mark Lehman

07/21/2016 | Author: Mark Lehman

In Lehman’s Terms

We hear it over and over: Washington is broken.

The phrase is especially popular every four years, when both major political parties host their national conventions to officially nominate their candidates for president and adopt their party platforms.

It’s always interesting to see the deep divisions that characterize both parties. However, I find it intriguing that inherently both platforms and major candidates seem to always agree on one thing: the political system in Washington, D.C., needs fixing.

Regardless of a candidate's party or whether that party is in or out of power, each candidate seems to rail against "the system," calling it broken, bloated, and bureaucratically bankrupt. 

A challenging time for legislation
Adding to the malaise, the government almost comes to a halt during this period, as Congress adjourns for the summer and lawmakers return to their districts to focus on their constituents and re-election.

So, what happens if you need to get something done in Washington, D.C., during this do-nothing period? Conventional wisdom and every legislative insider will say, “Nice try, but don’t waste your time or mine when nothing is going to pass.”

This is the situation REALTORS® found themselves in during the closing days of the 114th session of Congress.

Fighting for homebuyers this summer
Hard-fought legislation known as H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act, was designed to make homeownership more accessible for many low-income and first-time homebuyers. The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives in February, but was stalled in the U.S. Senate as lawmakers and special-interest groups attempted to add their less popular legislation to this bill. 

So with only a few weeks left until the Senate recess, REALTORS® took matters into their own hands to get this bill out of Congress.

In less than one month, REALTORS® generated 139,660 supportive messages to members of the Senate. This included 13,973 calls, emails, and text messages to both Texas senators. Their message was clear: H.R. 3700 was too important to local economies and housing markets that are still trying to recover from recent economic downturns to become victim of insider power plays and manipulations.

The message was received loud and clear—the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the measure as one of its final actions before adjourning on July 15.

The good news continued on July 29 when the president signed this much-needed bill into law. 

Make the call to make a difference
In Lehman's terms, the unanimous passage of H.R. 3700 is an example of what can be accomplished when individuals make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are there to serve the public, and sometimes the public just needs to remind them of that … like almost 140,000 REALTORS® did over the last few weeks.

I believe the system works when citizens are willing to make the calls.   

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®. 

Categories: Governmental Affairs, In Lehman's Terms
Tags: governmental affairs, in lehman's terms, political affairs, legislation, legislative affairs, senate, call for action, national association of realtors, hr3700


Jaime Lee on 07/24/2016

@Gary A Marco: Sounds like you’re referring to misinformation that has been circulating online since the 2010 health care legislation was enacted.

The National Association of REALTORS® has info on clarifying this misinformation, including this article from 2012:

... and these FAQs:

And remember that Texas will never have a real estate transfer tax because voters approved a constitutional ban on the tax in the November 2015 election.

Hope this helps!
—Jaime Lee, TAR staff

Courtney Silver on 07/24/2016

Jaime Lee - thanks for your reply and the link to the info smile

GARY A MARCO on 07/24/2016

please advise on the new real estate tax
>  As a brief reminder for those who forgot or for many that didn’t
> know.
>  Here is what happened, quietly, on January 1, 2016
>  Medicare tax went from 1.45% to 2.35%

>  A 3.5% Real Estate transaction tax was added.
> .

Jaime Lee on 07/22/2016

@D A Henry and @Courtney Silver: Thank you for commenting. One of the bill’s most important provisions brings the FHA in line with market realities by increasing the number of condominiums eligible for FHA financing. Condos and mixed-use developments are popping up all across Texas cities and suburbs, and they’re often one of the only options first-time homebuyers can afford.

Another benefit of this legislation is a provision that speeds up processing of Rural Housing Loans (as much as four weeks in some cases) by eliminating an unnecessary procedural delay. These much-needed reforms are why the bill passed the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate unanimously and is now on its way to the president to become law.

You can read a rundown of the bill’s key points here:

—Jaime Lee, TAR staff

D A Henry on 07/22/2016

The commentary on how we get things done is fine but would have liked for you to give us a summary of the bill and the impact on homeownership.  Thanks

Courtney Silver on 07/21/2016

Where can I find the details on H.R. 3700? Of course, we want homeownership to be more accessible for many low-income and first-time homebuyers but I couldn’t find anything on how this legislation will do it.

John Harrell on 07/21/2016

Well-written piece, Mark. This demonstrates what can happen when good, like-minded people unite for a worthwhile cause.  Washington, D.C. does have some dysfunction and broken spots, but this successful initiative on behalf of homeowners isn’t one of them.

Thank you.

Paul on 07/21/2016

Mr. Lehman, as your friend I cannot allow you to retire anytime soon.  I can’t imagine what it would be like without “In Lehmans Terms”.  Keep ‘em coming!

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