A Message from the President with Mike Theo: Keep Reading

 Mike Theo  |    May 07, 2014

Keep reading this article! ‚Ķ Don‚Äôt stop because I mention ‚Äúpolitics.‚ÄĚ This is a good news piece.¬†

If you‚Äôre like most people, in Wisconsin and in the rest of the country, the launch of a new ‚Äúpolitical season‚ÄĚ likely makes you a little nauseated. That‚Äôs understandable. Our politics and our government at all levels have become increasingly partisan, polarized and petrified. The electorate is as divided as those they elect, drifting further and further apart in a spirited fundamental disagreement over the very role of government in our lives and direction of our public policies. Legislative district boundaries drawn to create safe seats for each party have forced lawmakers to move to the ideological extremes, with conservatives fearing challenges from their right and liberals fearing challenges from their left, requiring them to spend more days campaigning and fewer days governing.¬†

One upshot of this is that the political middle has all but disappeared, and compromise is rarely found or even attempted. Important issues are either left unresolved or passed after contentious debates on partisan votes, which leave large parts of the public disenfranchised and disillusioned. 

But I said there is good news, and here it is. In the midst of this increasingly toxic political environment, the WRA last month was able to conclude one of the most successful legislative sessions in our 100-plus year history. More importantly, that legislative agenda passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Eighteen of 19 separate, non-budget, priority bills introduced at the behest or support of the WRA, passed the legislature with bipartisan support. Eleven of those 18 bills passed unanimously! The remaining six bills on our priority list were included in budget bills, which historically pass on partisan votes, with the majority party voting yes and the party in the minority voting no.

This is a record to be proud of ‚ÄĒ not just because it was bipartisan, but because the reforms encompassed in these new laws help real Wisconsin homeowners, property owners and REALTORS¬ģ. These include making home and property ownership more affordable by providing hundreds of millions of dollars in property tax relief accomplished by permanently removing certain costs from the property tax as well as meaningful income tax cuts. The new legislation removes regulatory barriers to owning, developing and investing in real estate by creating vested rights for development; encouraging higher density development through effective shoreland zoning after annexation as well as restoring balance to landlord-tenant laws. It removes regulatory barriers to real estate transactions, such as preempting local laws that regulate real estate transactions and brokers as well as improving access to land and utility information. It protects consumers and improves the level of professionalism in the real estate industry by requiring sales experience before obtaining a broker license, defining rules for licensing convicted felons and sensible regulations of out-of-state real estate licensees practicing in Wisconsin. And finally, it involved creating incentives for economic development and job creation through new venture capital laws and tax credits for rehabilitating historic properties.¬†

What‚Äôs equally important is that this broad legislative support didn‚Äôt just happen on its own. This level of success was achieved by a very dedicated lobbying team committed to working with all lawmakers, regardless of their party and majority status, and all interest groups whose members and interests would be affected. Our efforts are guided with the marketplace expertise and input from a dedicated group of REALTORS¬ģ who make up our Public Policy Committee and leadership team. The hallmark of our lobbying efforts is not only to combine the knowledge and competency of this team of members and staff, but also their ability to listen carefully, accommodate when possible, and stand firm when necessary.¬†

This lobbying/legal team is also backed by an active and engaged membership that gets to know lawmakers and communicate with them frequently, but particularly when we issue Calls to Action at critical moments in the legislative process. This involves members communicating directly with their elected officials and discussing the impact of pending laws. Mobilizing a broad-based, community-involved, diverse membership to communicate the importance of specific legislation at specific times is another vital key to our ability to pass good laws and defeat bad ones.

Getting members involved in our grassroots lobbying efforts frequently begins with members who make political contributions to RPAC, the REALTORS¬ģ Political Action Committee, and the Direct Giver Conduit program, helping to fund the expensive political campaigns of those elected officials and candidates who support homeowners, property owners and REALTORS¬ģ.

REALTOR¬ģ financial support for the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance also greatly helps inform and mobilize the general public, beyond REALTORS¬ģ, regarding important legislative issues that impact homeowners and property owners and others interested in preserving and promoting the rights of all citizens to own, freely transfer and enjoy property in Wisconsin. As part of its support for grassroots lobbying efforts, many of these public issues are discussed during an election year, starting our lobbying efforts for next session as early as possible.

In total, the WRA and its members are engaged and invested in helping pass good laws and helping defeat bad ones. We do that through a talented lobbying team, backed by an engaged membership, that gives financial support to candidates who understand our industry, and speak directly to the general public through grassroots issue advocacy efforts during an election year and during legislative sessions. We seek common ground and work hard to work out legislation that can garner the support of both political parties and many other interest groups. This is the way our government is designed to work ‚ÄĒ and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., Madison and local governments of every size should follow our lead.

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