Calls for Action

North Carolina REALTORS®’ Advocacy Spurs New Legislation for Small Business and Association Health Care Coverage

North Carolina REALTORS® knew that finding adequate and affordable health insurance was a challenge for the state’s small businesses, associations, and independent contractors. But when polling revealed that as many as 6,000 of its members were not covered, the REALTORS® took swift and certain action. With help from the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program, they led an aggressive campaign that brought about the passage of an Association Health Plan bill in August 2019.

The REALTORS® had only been actively involved in the health care coverage issue for about two years, explains Seth Palmer, North Carolina REALTORS®’ Director of Regulatory Affairs and External Communications.  Across the state, he says, they were hearing about the increasing difficulty of paying for health insurance, coupled with the worsening quality of that coverage. “Members were dropping coverage or forgoing other important expenses to cover insurance,” he notes.  Forming a coalition with 19 other membership associations spanning multiple industries, the REALTOR® team began work on a comprehensive plan that would ultimately become Senate Bill 86, which allows for small business and associations to have access to the same type of coverage as large employers. It was a preliminary membership survey that lit a fire under the effort: “As a membership association, 6,000 REALTORS® without health coverage was a hard number to see, and that is what emboldened our advocacy work,” says Palmer.

The Association Health Plan campaign began at an intensive one-on-one level, as North Carolina REALTORS®’ State Political Coordinators engaged their contacts in the legislature on the importance of the issue. Print ads and op-ed pieces in the state’s two largest newspapers raised awareness among the general public, with the added support of an active social media campaign.  In August, the Senate bill passed handily, and the House companion bill followed suit, both with strong bipartisan support. The REALTORS® reserved their call for action power for a strategic push after the bills’ passage: the hyper-sensitive, single point-of-contact call for action fueled by the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program directed messages from more than 7,045 unique individuals to Governor Cooper, urging him to sign the bill in to law. Neither formalizing the legislation with his signature, nor vetoing it, he allowed the Small Business Health Care Act to become law after a mandated ten-day period.

Asa Fleming, the president of North Carolina REALTORS®, thanked General Assembly members and the governor for allowing the bill to become law.

“Through this action, small businesses and independent contractors will now have an option for quality, affordable health insurance through Association Health Plans. This bipartisan legislation focuses on ensuring that hard-working citizens throughout our state are not allowed to fall into a gap which can’t be addressed in other programs,” he said, adding, “We look forward to working with our members to develop plans which address their needs and help provide coverage for the more than 6,000 who are uninsured and many more who are underinsured.”

Palmer notes that North Carolina REALTORS® is deeply appreciative of the help and support it received from the REALTOR® Party. “The response to our call for action just blew away the Government Affairs staff. It exceeded any of our projections, and clearly gave the governor an understanding of the seriousness of the challenges our members and other small businesses are facing when it comes to health care.” He also reports that, coming out of North Carolina REALTORS®’ recent Annual Conference, “Everyone is very excited about what we’ve accomplished, and eager to move forward and get the ball rolling!”

To learn more about how North Carolina REALTORS® is looking out for the well-being of its members and other small businesses across the state, contact Seth Palmer, Director of Regulatory Affairs and External Communications, at 919-573-0992.

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Delaware REALTORS® Win Legislative Victory with Advocacy and Research

For as long as anyone can remember, REALTORS® in the state of Delaware have paid licensing fees at the municipal level, a fee extending beyond the state licensing requirements that REALTORS® fully support.

Political subdivisions required additional business licenses of anyone listing property for sellers or representing property buyers. It seemed that the highly visible nature of their business made REALTORS® an easy target.

“Other professional service providers, such as insurance agents, were not being assessed a fee for operating in multiple districts” explained Sara Elalamy, Government Affairs Director and Chief Lobbyist of the Delaware REALTORS® (DAR).

For at least 12 years, the association’s Public Policy Committee had been talking to lawmakers about the unfairness of this requirement. The answer was always the same: The legislature would never agree to depriving municipalities of revenue.

A lack of government transparency meant that the REALTORS® didn’t even know which municipalities required the additional license to do business within their borders, let alone what kind of numbers were at stake. The key to solving the problem was straight-forward research and member engagement.

First, Elalamy called all 57 cities and towns in the state, unearthing 27 that were collecting the extra licensing fee. Requests by staff for data from these municipalities under the Freedom of Information Act revealed data that was surprising to all involved.

“Legislators had assumed we’d been talking about a million dollars, at least,” explained DAR’s 2019 President Beau Zebley. “To be honest, we thought it would be a significant number too. But, in fact, these fees have never exceeded $100,000 a year across 27 municipalities!”

While that revenue number was small, the burden to individual Delaware REALTORS®, who already pay business taxes to the state, averaged $2,600 per year, against the average annual income of about $39,000.

In the 2019 session, REALTORS® from across the state worked with Representative Bill Bush (D), a newly elected legislator, to pass HB 235: Elimination of Municipal Business Licenses for REALTORS® in Delaware. Desite strong resistance from the League of Local Governments, the new legislation passed in both the House and the Senate, where it was sponsored by the president pro-tempore and won support from a solid two-thirds majority.

“It was an amazing team effort,” says Elalamy.

Zebley agrees. “Our members played a huge role in getting this done. They responded in force to our Calls for Action, contacting their representatives in the House and Senate and mobilizing on social media. Our Public Policy Committee and RPAC team all did a great job, using their relationships with legislators to get the common-sense message across,” Zebley added.

On July 23, 2019, Governor John Carney signed the bill into law. It will take effect in July 2020, freeing Delaware’s REALTORS® from the onerous double-licensing fees.

To learn more about how the Delaware REALTORS® have eliminated a longstanding unfair licensing fee required by many local municipalities, contact Government Affairs Director and Chief Lobbyist Sara Elalamy, at 443-567-8319.

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Call For Action (CFA) Reports

Call for Action (CFA) reports are available and updated daily during active national CFAs. In addition to offering results by state, CFAs also offer results by local association.

Thank you for all of your ongoing hard work and incredible support.

Click here to help promote a Call for Action.

2018 CFA Results

2017 CFA Results

2016 CFA Results

2015 CFA Results

2014 CFA Results

* This CFA was only sent to commercial REALTORS® and not to the full NAR membership. Does not count towards President’s Cup.

2013 CFA Results

2012 CFA Results

 

Questions? Contact Melissa Horn at 202-383-1026.

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