Issues Campaign

Oklahoma City REALTORS® Help Shore Up Their City and Secure Property Values

Oklahoma City is experiencing a huge downtown boom, but its infrastructure has not kept up: roads, sewers, and parks are in dire need of improvement, and growth on the outer edges of the metropolis has been stretching available funds away from the city center. As a major General Obligation (GO) Bond and a temporary penny-sales tax approached a renewal vote this year, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® (OCKMAR) joined the city in promoting meetings to help craft new bond proposals to shore up critical infrastructure and provide a much-needed infusion of support for the police and fire departments. With a REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant, OCKMAR helped get voters to the polls for the special election, and those voters overwhelmingly supported the bonds that would strengthen their city and protect its future property values.

While Oklahoma City voters have traditionally renewed their support of the GO bond and the more recent penny sales tax extension every decade or so, what made this round of municipal funding so successful was a completely new approach by the City Council, explains Gary Jones, OKCMAR’s Government Affairs Manager.  “In the past, major players on the council staff would put together their best guess at a proposal that would win public support.  What was so smart this time,” he reveals, “was that the council put a lot of effort in to finding out what the community wanted and needed, before the proposal was put on the ballot.”  Between town hall events, a city-wide survey and numerous exploratory meetings, he says, by election day, there was already a high level of community buy-in, and no serious opposition to the fifteen line items proposed. 

As a member of the Board of Advisors of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, OKCMAR had been involved since the early stages, over a year ago, when the city began figuring out where to make its investments in infrastructure.  Several OKCMAR members worked closely with their council members to develop the ballot proposals, and two testified in support before the Council.  On behalf of the coalition called Citizens for a Better OKC, created to support the ballot proposals, OKCMAR secured an Issues Mobilization Grant to fund a direct mailing to targeted voters; OKCMAR also opted to add its entire annual Corporate Ally Program allotment to the cause.  Because this was a special election, says Jones, the concern was that people might not bother to vote.

But, vote they did:  On September 12, in addition to renewing the GO Bond and the temporary penny-sales tax that were up for renewal, Oklahoma City voters authorized the city to collect an additional quarter-cent tax on every $100 in purchases, to be used to enhance the municipal police force and fire department.  The three bond initiatives approved by the voters will go a long way toward improving infrastructure and the viability of neighborhoods throughout the city, says Jones.  “It goes without saying that not just the quality of life, but the future of property values are directly tied to those improvements,” he notes.  “We are very proud of the REALTORS®‘ role in this success for the city, and grateful for the overwhelming support from the REALTOR® Party that made it possible.”

To learn more about how the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® has forged a role for itself in crafting municipal funding priorities and getting them approved at the polls, contact Gary Jones, Government Affairs Manager, at 405-841-5322.

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North Bay Association Tackles Rent Control Ordinance in Santa Rosa, California

In the North Bay region of California, which counts Napa and Sonoma among its counties, agriculture and tourism are big—and so is the shortage of affordable and work force housing.

When Santa Rosa, the region’s largest city, recently attempted to pass rent control and just cause eviction legislation, the 3,200-member North Bay Association of REALTORS® (NorBAR) joined forces with a strong coalition of business alliances to protect the rights of property owners—and to encourage government to meet the demand for affordable housing.

NorBAR does not deny that there is a shortage of affordable and workforce housing in the region; rents in Sonoma County have risen nearly 40% in the past four years. But denying apartment owners the ability to charge full market value for the use of their property, and limiting circumstances under which owner can evict a problem tenant, undermines basic private property rights, says Tracy Huotari, NorBAR’s Chief Executive Officer. To solve the real problem, she notes, the city will have to allow development of more affordable housing.   

The issue had been brewing for several years, when in August 2016, the Santa Rosa City Council passed a permanent rent control and just cause eviction ordinance. The next day, NorBAR and a coalition it had formed with the California Apartment Association began collecting signatures to prevent it from being enforced. They were successful in halting the ordinance, only to have the Council place it on the ballot for voters to decide, in a special election in June 2017.

NorBAR turned to NAR’s Campaign Services Team for help; it had already contributed funds from its own Issues Mobilization fund, and secured a grant from the California Association of REALTORS®. In addition to a major grant, the REALTOR® Party’s Campaign Services Team provided focus groups and polling to determine the campaign’s viability, identify voters and craft the campaign messaging.  The “No on C” campaign was both a get-out-the-vote effort and an educational force. “Our REALTORS® were deeply involved,” says Huotari, “they were out knocking on doors, registering voters, putting up lawn signs and making a big push on social media. Our coalition, ‘Citizens for Fair and Equitable Housing,’ was amazing, uniting the chamber of commerce and groups from across many local industries. Its website,, remains a great resource.” In addition to four targeted postcard mailings, door-to-door canvassers and TV, radio and online advertising, the ‘No on C’ campaign benefitted from the support of the influential local newspaper, The Press Democrat

On June 6, the ordinance was defeated by 52% of the vote.

The next step, says Huotari, will be sitting down with legislators and getting them to solve the real problems. “The bottom line is that we need to fix the supply shortage,” she explains, noting that the REALTORS® will be working with local units of government to look at removing obstacles to affordable and workforce housing. “We’ve got a number of understanding legislators in office, and we’ll continue to work hard and use our PAC funds in the local elections process to support even more.”

Meanwhile, the success of the campaign is having an apparent impact beyond Santa Rosa.  For months, says Huotari, the rent control issue was being discussed in another nearby community, also within the North Bay Association’s jurisdiction; it now seems to have “fallen off the agenda” in the weeks since the voters in Santa Rosa defeated the measure.

To learn more about how the North Bay Association of REALTORS® is protecting private property rights in the counties north of San Francisco, while keeping the focus on solutions to increase affordable and work force housing, contact Chief Executive Officer Tracy A. Huotari at 707-522-8169.

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Indianapolis REALTORS® Spearhead Expanded Public Transportation Funding

The Indianapolis metropolitan region is the 33rd largest in the nation, yet funding for its transit services ranks way down at 86th.  For years, the 7,500-member Mid-Indiana Board of REALTORS® (MIBOR) has been working to shrink this gap, and with two recent REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grants, it has just succeeded.

MIBOR Vice President of Government and Community Relations Chris Pryor states that the REALTORS® are committed to improving transit for greater access to jobs, education, healthcare, recreation and housing.  But it’s more than a simple quality of life issue for the community, he says: “Adequate transit is also the key to keeping greater Indianapolis economically competitive, in terms of being able to attract business and accommodate a talented workforce.  Transit is a critical factor in the region’s future prosperity.”

In 2009, MIBOR was instrumental in forming the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, which identified significant need for increased transit services in the region, and then developed a plan for an expanded bus network and the creation of three new rapid transit lines.  Establishing a local funding source for the improved infrastructure required the blessing of the Indiana General Assembly, a process that took five attempts in six years before finally passing in 2014.  The next step was getting a local referendum passed to adopt a 0.25% income tax that would be dedicated to funding mass transit.  A major Issues Mobilization Grant funded a coalition effort called ‘Transit Drives Indy,’ a campaign combining phone banks, radio and online advertising, and a website urging voters to pass the ballot initiative for a dedicated transit fund.

On Election Day 2016, the referendum passed with nearly 60% of the vote, winning 19 out of 25 city council districts.  Already, MIBOR and its coalition partners were looking ahead to the final  hurdle:  ensuring that the Indianapolis City County Council would vote to approve the tax. 

MIBOR had secured a second Issues Mobilization Grant to support the coalition’s post-referendum strategy, which focused on getting pro-transit voters to apply pressure to city councilors to enact the tax.  After a few intensive weeks of targeted patch-through calls from constituents, the City County Council approved the tax in a vote of 17-to-8.

Lacey Everett, MIBOR’s Government and Community Relations Strategist, says “The campaign we put together was key in getting us over the top, and we couldn’t have done it without the support and resources of the National Association of REALTORS®.  Beyond the funding, the Issues Mobilization team was a great sounding board for lots of ideas, and responded quickly to challenges that arose during the campaigns.”  By 2018, she says, the newly established transit fund will begin building a system that will double employment within a half-mile of frequent routes; triple service to families in poverty, seniors and households including someone with a disability; and expand economic opportunity by providing access to three urban college campuses.  

Pryor notes that the urgency of the region’s transit funding needs was heightened by the nationwide power shift following the elections, which made federal funding that the region had been expecting, uncertain, at best. “Although we still don’t know whether we’ll be receiving a Federal Small Start Grant, at least Indianapolis will be able to move ahead with its much-needed transit plan, once the new tax kicks in this fall.”

To learn more about how mid-Indiana REALTORS® are helping to promote economic development and a greater quality of life in their region by taking the lead on supporting mass transit expansion, contact Chris Pryor, MIBOR’s Vice President of Government and Community Relations, at 317-258-5805; or Government and Community Relations Strategist Lacey Everett, at 317-956-5252.

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Wyoming REALTORS® Derails Tax on Services Threat with Timely Advocacy

The Wyoming Association of REALTORS®  (WAR) is careful to use Calls For Action (CFA) sparingly, sending a few out each year to keep members in practice, but “never so many that they feel like we’re asking for help every time they turn around,” says Government Affairs Director Laurie Urbigkit. “Our members know that if they get a CFA from me,” she says, “it means the world is coming to an end!”  

Early in 2017, just such an extreme situation developed in the Wyoming statehouse, and when Urbigkit put out the call, the REALTORS® responded accordingly. The end of the world, in this case, was the threat of a tax on all services that had suddenly appeared on the agenda of the House Revenue Committee, without debate or public testimony. The bill bore the benign title, ‘HB 243 School Finance-Capital Construction Funding,’ but would have imposed a comprehensive sales tax on services provided by all professionals, from barbers to babysitters.  For the real estate industry, it would not only have added to an agent’s commission, but to the appraisal, title insurance, closing fee, loan fees, inspections, repairs, surveys and legal fees.  WAR was keenly aware that, in addition to burdening the operation of real estate brokerages as small businesses, these added costs would effectively block many first-time home buyers from the market.

The association had actually been keeping an eye out for such threats to the industry. In recent years, as Wyoming’s mineral-based economy has been driven down by low oil and gas prices, explains Urbigkit, the state’s general revenue has been substantially reduced, putting pressure on the Revenue Committee to find sources elsewhere. In fact, this bill had died in committee just last September for lack of a motion, “because no one would touch it,” she says. But the committee had experienced a turnover in seven-out-of-nine seats since November’s election, and the chairman decided to revisit the proposal.

Urbigkit leapt to action, alerting all WAR members who are constituents of Revenue Committee members that it was time to make their voices heard. “The REALTOR® Party Hub email communications system is great,” she says. “I can target our members by committee, or by district, and engage them very easily in our advocacy efforts.”  Just as Urbigkit is careful not to ‘cry wolf’ with too many Calls for Action to her members, she also guards the Wyoming legislators from undue bombardment. In order to protect the value of their messages, her members are only asked to contact representatives of their own districts. “Our legislators know that when the REALTORS® are concerned, they’re getting messages from their own constituents, and that carries much more weight than flooding their in-boxes indiscriminately.”       

In response to the urgent CFA regarding the tax on services, a concentrated blast of emails to the House Revenue Committee ensued, complementing WAR’s in-person lobbying efforts. The bill was defeated in a 0-9 vote. “We’re very fortunate to have tools like this at our disposal!” says Urbigkit, adding, “The technology is so precise and effective, and our members are right there with it.”

To learn more about how Wyoming REALTORS® are protecting the real estate industry and keeping homeownership accessible for first-time buyers, contact Laurie Urbigkit, Government Affairs Director of the Wyoming Association of REALTORS®, at 307-851-1191.

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Oklahoma City REALTORS® Improve Public Schools & Prevent Urban Flight

Public schools in Oklahoma were struggling.  Nationally, the state ranked 49th in per capita spending for education, and in Oklahoma City, the public school district received a grade of “F” from the state.  As any Oklahoma City REALTOR® could tell you, the resulting flight from the public schools was already having a detrimental impact on local communities, and would eventually threaten the economic viability of the city itself.  But things are looking up:  in the November election, citizens voted in favor of a $180 million bond to pay for school building maintenance, technology, and transportation.  Aided by an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® (OKCMAR) led the coalition that supported passage of the bond.

Gary Jones, OKCMAR’s Government Affairs Director, explains that cuts to the school budget were a result of Oklahoma’s economic downturn caused by the decline in oil prices.  “Our school year begins August 1, and our schools were struggling without functioning air conditioning, let alone a dependable fleet of buses or any new technology in the classrooms,” he says.  “The need was huge, but so was the challenge of tacking a bond measure on to a presidential election ballot, when voters tend to dismiss such expenditures with a ‘no’ at the polls.”

Raising awareness among the voting public was going to be key.  Although the proposed school bond would not affect property taxes or millage, and initial polling was encouraging, the coalition formed by the Chamber of Commerce to improve the state of the school system didn’t have much time to get the word out.  Maintain OKC Schools, as the group is called, planned an energetic campaign to approve the bond, and OKCMAR took the lead by tapping in to the REALTOR® Party’s Issues Mobilization Grant program.

The grant process, says Jones, was not only user-friendly, but helpful:  “The level of detail required by the application caused the coalition to re-think its campaign strategy as it determined the best way forward,” he says.  NAR’s Campaign Services team provided valuable feedback on the proposal created by the local firm retained by OKCMAR to design the campaign.  “We were very grateful for the funding and for that expertise!” says Jones. 

The grant from the REALTOR® Party was used for a highly targeted direct mail program, focusing on voters who had supported school bonds in the past, and reminding them about the current measure on the ballot.  “We got lucky in that the measure was placed on a separate ballot, which happened to be printed on yellow paper,” notes Jones, explaining that the ‘YES the Yellow Ballot’ slogan with an image of a school bus made for powerful campaign branding.  OKCMAR engaged its members in a compelling get-out-the-vote campaign, and many brokers posted bright yellow signs outside their offices.

The bond measure was issued as three separate ballot initiatives: school building maintenance, technological enhancements and transportation equipment.  Although all three passed, the votes were close enough to show Maintain OKC Schools that its efforts were essential to the victory.  “We’re now working to create change on the School Board,” says Jones.  “With the bond resolution in place, we’re optimistic that the right leadership can bring about the transformation we need for Oklahoma City’s schools.”

To learn more about how Oklahoma City REALTORS® are helping to improve their region’s school system with the help of the REALTOR® Party, contact Gary Jones, OKCMAR’s Government Affairs Director, at 405-641-1921.

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South Padre Island REALTORS® Uses Land Use Initiative to Overturn Short-Term Rental Registration Ordinance

Located off the southernmost tip of Texas, South Padre Island is such a popular resort area that when a new Short-Term Rental Registration Ordinance was adopted by its City Council last year, it affected the vast majority of the island’s residential properties. Thanks to the REALTOR® Party’s Land Use Initiative, the South Padre Island Board of REALTORS® (SPIBOR) was able to overturn several provisions of the ordinance it found overly restrictive. In doing so, not only did the 120-member board succeed in protecting the rights of property owners, but it gained new respect from the city, which now looks to the REALTORS® as the voice of real estate in the community.

Lindsey Martinez, SPIBOR’s Association Executive, admits that as a relatively new board, she and her team were caught off-guard by the new ordinance; fortunately, their field rep from the Texas Association of REALTORS® (TAR) had their backs. “He was super-involved,” says Martinez, “and he clued us in to how detrimental these short-term rental ordinances could be.”  For her part, she quickly got up to speed by reading the standards established by the national and state associations, and with the guidance of the field rep and Government Affairs staff at TAR, applied to the REALTOR® Party for a Land Use Initiative review. 

SPIBOR submitted the approved ordinance to Robinson & Cole, the law firm retained by the National Association of REALTORS® to advise state and local associations on land use legislation.  Martinez was amazed by the speed and thoroughness of the response.  “We received the review back much sooner than expected, and it was perfectly clear and easy to follow,” she says. “Not only that, but they caught a number of issues that we hadn’t noticed.  For a small board like ours, with limited resources, the Land Use Initiative provided invaluable expertise.”

Armed with the legal review, SPIBOR met informally with members of the City Council, who were also impressed by the value of the Robinson & Cole comments. The situation wasn’t adversarial at all, notes Martinez, but more about opening lines of communication. “While we would have preferred to have had the entire ordinance repealed,” she says, “it wasn’t feasible at that point, so we focused on issues of safety and fees. They were very receptive.” In fact, reviewing the objections together, she recalls, the Council Members said about one after another, ‘Hey that wasn’t our intent!’

All eight members of SPIBOR’s board of directors joined Martinez at the City Council meeting on October 19, when the amendment proposing its requested changes to the ordinance was on the agenda.  Another REALTOR®, one of several who are property managers, spoke during the public comments. The amendment was easily approved, and the City Attorney commended the REALTORS® for their public-spirited assistance in what he called “clean-up and clarification” of the ordinance.

SPIBOR’s success in amending the Short-Term Rental Registration Ordinance benefits all the property owners of South Padre Island, including the many who live elsewhere and may not be paying attention to local politics and policies. The victory has also boosted the small association’s confidence in its own powers of political advocacy. In upholding NAR’s Core Standards, SPIBOR was already working hard to be the island’s voice for real estate by posting market statistics on social media and drafting articles for the local newspaper. But thanks to its involvement in revising the problematic ordinance, the city now regards the REALTORS® as valuable partners. “The day after the October City Council meeting, the City Manager, who is new in the position, invited us to meet with her; moving forward, she’ll be looking to us as a resource,” says Martinez, noting that Council Members also expressed the hope that SPIBOR would continue to be involved in city business.

“We have such great leaders at TAR, and we could not have done this without their hard work and guidance—or without the resources of the REALTOR® Party,” she says. 

To learn more about how the South Padre Island Board of REALTORS® used REALTOR® Party resources to protect the rights of rental property owners in its small resort community, contact Association Executive Lindsey Martinez at or 956-772-1940.

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Washington REALTORS® Support One of Their Own for County Council

For the 1,700-member Clark County Association of REALTORS® (CCAR) in southwest Washington state, supporting John Blom for County Council was a no-brainer.  As REALTOR® Champions go, there could hardly be a more obvious choice:  Blom is the current President of CCAR, and has served as co-chair of its Government Affairs Committee for the past three years; he is a director of Washington REALTORS®, and serves on multiple Presidential Advisory Groups for the state association, as well as its Legislative Steering Committee; at the national level, he serves on the National Association of REALTORS®’ Land Use Committee.  An RPAC Major Investor since 2013, Blom has been integral in helping CCAR achieve record-breaking annual investment. When John decided to run for office, the REALTORS® were there to support him.

Jo Ann Johnston, CCAR’s new Chief Executive Officer, received invaluable guidance from Washington REALTORS®’ Government Affairs Director Nathan Gorton as she applied to the   REALTOR® Party for help through the State and Local Association Independent Expenditure Program.  The first grant was support to help John win his primary race.  Blom successfully made it past the primaries, but the defeated incumbent reacted by stirring up partisan resistance to Blom’s campaign.  CCAR applied for and received an additional grant from the REALTOR® Party to help in the general election.

What makes the independent expenditure effort especially sporting, explains Johnston, is that Washington state, like many others, prohibits any communication between a candidate and an independent expenditure campaign. “It’s been a wild ride, these past few months, being so involved in John’s candidacy for County Council, but only communicating with him in his capacity as our association President,” she laughs. CCAR has special bylaws in place that allowed Johnston and a special leadership committee to approve the grant requests, and the release of substantial RPAC funds of its own, without the Board of Directors’ or John’s knowledge. During the primary, the candidate learned of the REALTOR® Party support when his wife called him from home to say, “There’s someone at the door asking me to vote for John Blom!”

In addition to the intensive grassroots door-knocking effort, CCAR also engaged in a major web advertising campaign, targeted mailings and social media blasts featuring a video it had produced about its candidate.   

Although they’re not talking with each other about it, the support from the REALTORS® is allowing Blom to focus on the issues of the campaign.  His platform includes fundamental community benefits, including support for public safety, affordable housing, traffic and transportation projects, job creation and mental health care.  The County Council will also be wrestling with several steep challenges, such as updating the Comprehensive Plan to provide the growth needed to support affordable housing, as well as working through unfunded development mandates.  These are issues that Blom understands and is well equipped to manage; he can also be trusted to heal the recent partisan strife on the Council, says Johnston.  “Ultimately, if John wins, it’ll be good for the whole community,” she states.  “He’s the missing piece in our City Council.”

With the high voter turn-out expected this presidential election year, every vote is going to count, notes Johnston.  “A victory for John will be thanks in large part to the grants and support we’ve received from the REALTOR® Party.” 

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Clark County, Washington are supporting their REALTOR® Champion for County Council, contact Jo Ann Johnston, Association Executive of the Clark County Association of REALTORS®, at or 360-695-5980.

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Hays REALTORS® Use Land Use Initiative to Fine Tune Comprehensive Plan

The city of Hays, Kansas has an area of just under eight square miles, and a population of just over 20,000.  In the past few years, Hays has been updating its existing zoning and subdivision regulations to align with the Comprehensive Plan it adopted in 2012.  With its expertise in the field of real estate, and in defense of public property rights, the 80-member Hays Board of REALTORS® tapped in to the power of the REALTOR® Party to help bring clarity, vision and fairness to the process. 

The Comprehensive Plan, itself, was not objectionable, explains Doug Williams, who chaired the committee the Hays Board established when the zoning regulation revisions began.  The plan articulated a vision based on Smart Growth principles that allowed for residential and commercial growth. It was the revision of the zoning and subdivision regulations that became problematic: “The city had hired a consultant from Houston who drafted the new regulations using boilerplate material that had been developed for other communities, but which were not necessarily appropriate for Hays,” says Williams.  At more than 400 pages, the proposed regulations were confusing and complex. 

Laura Sadeghi, who is now President Elect of the Hays Board, and its MLS President, also served on the board’s zoning committee. “As members of the National Association of REALTORS®, we receive the information it sends out about the programs that are available to us,” she recalls. “We knew we had an issue that would qualify for a Land Use Initiative review, so we decided to use REALTOR® Party resources, the first time we’d ever done so.” Working fast to comply with the city’s time frame for public comments, the Hays Board submitted the proposed regulations to Robinson & Cole for review. The 26-page analysis was returned quickly, revealing redundancies, inconsistencies, illogic, contradictions and aspects that were arbitrary and vague.  The Hays Board hit the ground running, sharing the report with city officials and pleading its case with local stakeholders at numerous public planning meetings.  

“Once we got involved with our recommendations from Robinson & Cole, the city became much more receptive to removing many of the problematic sections of the proposal,” notes Williams.  At that point, the Hays Board is glad to report, the scope of the grant changed, as there was no need to launch a media campaign.  “The city was grateful for our constructive criticism, because those who were truly committed to the cause, wanted to get it right,” says Williams.  There are still concerns with some points of the revised regulations that were approved by the city commissioner and implemented in August.  “We got most of the bad stuff out,” he concedes, “but we know, and the city knows, that it’ll have to be fine-tuned.”

The Hays Board is grateful that, though a small organization, it can affect real change in the community, thanks to the resources of the REALTOR® Party.  Says Williams, “It’s important for other boards to recognize that this resource is available to them, and to use the benefits that NAR offers to protect against overzealous regulations, and protect private property rights.”  Sadeghi, agrees, adding, “Small boards like us can plug in to practical, significant resources that can create real goodwill with the city.  We simply couldn’t do that without the REALTOR® Party.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Hays, Kansas are helping to ensure that their community’s zoning code is rational and fair, contact the Hays Board of REALTORS®’ President Elect, Laura Sadeghi, at; Doug Williams, its Zoning Committee Chair, at; or Association Executive Marilyn Luetters, at or 785-625-8155.

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Split Decision on School Funding for Baldwin County REALTORS®

Public school supporters in Alabama, especially in Baldwin County, aren’t looking forward to the possibility that the state legislature might make significant cuts in funding education in the state.

Baldwin County residents’ votes resulted in a split decision on two public school funding issues in March 2016. A three-mil property tax, first passed in 1920, won renewal, but a one-mil property tax renewal, also first enacted in 1920, went down to a close defeat.

Sheila Dodson, the chief executive officer of the Baldwin County Association of REALTORS® (BCAR), said the loss of funding will have a negative effect on public schools in the state, and in the county. “The 3 mil measure, which was renewed, will bring in $3.7 or $3.8 million per mil, depending on property values. The state will match that. The one-mil that failed was a local discretionary funding match. It was approximately $4 million. Failing to renew this tax will cut the fund in half when it expires in 2017.”

The three-mil renewal needed only a simple majority in order to pass. It received more than 56 percent of the vote. But the one-mil renewal needed to receive at least 60-percent of the vote. It garnered 59 percent plus, but not enough to pass. BCAR and other groups worked hard to get both measures renewed.

“We fell only 78 votes short last March,” Dodson said.  “That’s only 3.1 percent of the population of the county. No election date has been scheduled for the one-mil ad valorem tax yet. We need to get a grassroot effort, a good grassroots push, in order to get this back on the ballot. We need to get groups like the Chambers of Commerce, the REALTORS® and other groups involved in this. Hopefully, we can get in back on the ballot, but it will take a campaign to do so.”

Dodson hopes the campaign to put the one-mil tax back on the ballot will be supported by the REALTOR® Party. “They helped us out last March,” Dodson said. “We really need to talk with NAR about this. We need to get NAR’s help. We need to move forward on this with our membership.”

Baldwin County, which is in the southeastern part of the state, is the largest county in Alabama and is one of the fastest-growing counties in the country. It has about 31,000 students attending 45 public schools.

“We’re facing a loss of infrastructure in the schools,” Dodson said. “Many of the schools in the county are overcrowded. This is the fastest-growing county in Alabama. Baldwin is being inundated with people. We need to have money to build the infrastructure for the schools.”

“The one-mil tax needed a 60-percent yes vote and it got 59.7,” said Kevin Corcoran, a Broker-REALTOR® in BCAR and a community advisory task force chairman. “Anywhere else in politics, 60-40 is a landslide. I don’t see going anywhere right now. It may go back on the ballot later.”

“It will be up to the Board of Education to put it on the ballot. Any effort has to come from community and civic groups.” Corcoran said the Board of Education was sharply criticized by many people for spending public money on the campaign to renew the three-mil and the one-mil taxes in March

“Keeping the tax is only going to happen if civic and community groups get on board,” Corcoran said. “We will also need help from the National Association of REALTORS® and the Baldwin County Association of REALTORS®.”

Corcoran, though, is more concerned that the state legislature will fail to renew a one-cent sales tax which helps fund public schools in the state. “A larger threat is the sun setting on a one-cent sales tax in March or May of 2018,” said Corcoran. “It brings in $38 million to the school system.”

Corcoran noted that the Baldwin County public school budget is currently about $360 million. “Without the revenue from the one-cent sales tax, there will have to be severe cuts in extracurricular, maybe even the closure of some small schools,” he said. “We’ll have to start making cuts in the 2017-18 school budget right now, in case the state is not willing to extend the tax.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Baldwin County, Alabama, are helping to secure school funding, contact the Baldwin County Association of REALTORS®’ Chief Executive Officer Sheila Dodson at or 251-947-3777.

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Missouri REALTORS® Form Coalition to Fight Sales Tax on Services

In the past seven years, no fewer than twelve pieces of legislation that could have led to a tax on services, including those provided by the real estate industry, were proposed in the state of Missouri.  “The threat is real,” says John Sebree, CEO of Missouri REALTORS®, whose organization has been swatting back each one, with the strong support of the National Association of REALTORS®.  This year, it seized an opportunity to shift from a defensive to an offensive strategy.  Its attempt to amend the state constitution to ban a sales tax on services is ambitious, and possibly unprecedented in the nation, but by appealing to the general public, first to get the referendum on the ballot, and then for votes in its favor, its Missourians for Fair Taxation coalition is finding strength in numbers.

This is not the first time that Missouri REALTORS® has led a charge to amend the state constitution.  It formed the Missourians for Fair Taxation coalition six years ago, to oppose a threatened transfer tax initiative; the Missouri constitution now prohibits such a tax.  That was seen as a largely real estate issue, explains Sebree, but the current referendum on the November 8 ballot banning a sales tax on services is everyone’s issue, he says, and the Missouri REALTORS® are feeling a groundswell of support for their effort to amend the state constitution for a second time.

“The general public may not have strong feelings about a tax on real estate services,” says Sebree, “but in this service-oriented economy, they definitely get it when you talk to them about how a tax on services will increase what they have to pay for daycare, and haircuts and car repair.”  The Taxpayer Protection Amendment, as the ballot initiative is called, opposes what would effectively be a ‘birth-to-death’ tax, he says.  The scope of services that might be affected is reflected in the Missourians for Fair Taxation coalition, itself, which began as a handful of real estate industry organizations, and now comprises twenty-four professional service groups, including those representing the state’s optometrists, broadcasters, cattlemen, interior designers, grocers and funeral directors.

With major backing from NAR and Missouri REALTORS®’ own state-level advocacy fund, the coalition is in the midst of an energetic campaign it hopes will make the Taxpayer Protection Amendment a legal reality.  In its first phase, the campaign was focused on polling and planning.  During phase two, the coalition secured tens of thousands of voter signatures in order to get its amendment on the ballot.  Gearing up toward Election Day, in addition to launching a barrage of paid radio, television and print ads, the cause has garnered an abundance of free media coverage thanks to the rallies held by Missouri’s 34 local REALTOR® Associations.  According to Sebree, social media has also been buzzing: “REALTORS® are naturals at using technology to get the word out; factor in NAR’s incredible resources for targeting likely voters, and that makes for some powerful communication.”  

The outcome is too soon to call, says Sebree, “but we have incredibly positive momentum at this point.  In any event, I’m happy to state for the record that we never could have gotten this far without the great team at NAR, and the support of the REALTOR® Party.”  Julienne Uhlich, NAR’s Campaign Services Manager, points out that the Missouri REALTORS® are pioneering a course that has national relevance.  “As states seek new or increased sources of revenue, the imposition of a tax on services is something that could become an issue for all REALTORS®.  Missouri’s pro-active effort to make it a constitutional impossibility, if successful, will be a great model.  It will not have been cheap nor easy, but this is the kind of action that could save lots of repeated defensive campaigns down the road.”

To learn more about how Missouri REALTORS® are taking the national lead on prohibiting sales tax on services by pursuing an amendment to the state constitution, contact CEO John Sebree at or 573-445-8400.

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