Wish Laws Were More Favorable to Your Business?
James Madison once said, “It seems indispensable that the mass of the citizens should not be without a voice in making the laws which they are to obey, and in choosing the magistrates who are to administer them.” As one of the preeminent founders of our country, he understood perhaps more than anyone how critical it is for citizens to be involved in the public policy making process and to have a voice in their government.
Local REALTOR® associations across the country are heeding Madison’s call for citizen participation in government. Many associations are doing more than just providing excellent member benefits. They are giving their members a voice in the public policy making process by forming Government Affairs Committees (GAC). Why? Because they know that REALTORS® have a constitutional right and civic responsibility to advocate for laws that are favorable to the real estate industry and real estate consumers.
For what right do REALTORS® have to be dissatisfied with the laws that regulate the real estate industry if they are not a part of their formulation? That is the underlying foundation upon which local REALTOR® associations are forming GACs made up of member volunteers (some Associations refer to them as Legislative or Public Policy Committees or similar). These representative bodies are responsible for making public policy recommendations to elected officials on behalf of the membership.
The Lehigh Valley Assn. of REALTORS® (LVAR) in Bethlehem, PA formed its first GAC in January, 2006 with the mission of supporting legislative initiatives that preserve the rights of private property owners and promote the free enterprise system. Pursuing this mission requires developing and maintaining high quality relationships with elected officials, as well as reviewing and proactively monitoring legislative actions that impact the real estate industry. Perhaps the biggest responsibility of the GAC is to formulate public policy recommendations and determine the appropriate strategies to accomplish the legislative and political objectives of the association.
It is important to note that the GAC does not, and should not, operate in a vacuum. In fact, for any GAC to be effective and accurately represent the views of their entire membership, it is essential that they adhere to a process that ensures transparency and the involvement of association leadership. To do that, LVAR’s GAC follows a four-step process.
- First, when a real estate related issue is brought before the committee, a draft policy statement or proposed course of action is prepared in consultation with government affairs staff and input from committee members. The goal is to achieve a consensus on what position or action to take.
- Second, after careful review and re-drafting when necessary, the committee approves the final policy statement or course of action.
- Third, the committee-approved policy statement or course of action is brought before the association board of directors for final approval.
- The final step is implementation of the approved policy statement or course of action. This responsibility is generally left to the government affairs staff along with member volunteers, and it is crucial that regular updates be communicated to the general membership.
“To me, the government affairs committee is one of the most important committees within our Association,” said George Raad, Broker/Owner of Harvey Raad REALTORS® in Allentown, Pennsylvania and chairman of LVAR’s GAC. “Through the Committee, we are communicating the REALTOR® perspective to elected officials on issues that impact our industry,” Raad concluded.
When discussing the importance of REALTOR® involvement in government affairs and politics, I often liken it to a game. In the game of politics and government affairs, just as in any game, there are winners and losers. REALTORS® must be players in the game to have any shot at being winners. Think about it in terms of baseball. If one team doesn’t show up to the field, the other team wins automatically by forfeit, without having to even break a sweat.
REALTORS® cannot afford to sit on the sidelines (or not show up to the game), because if they do not show up to advocate for laws that are favorable to the real estate industry, you can be assured that there is another group out there setting public policy for the industry. And, in many cases, they are doing so at the expense of the real estate industry. A government affairs committee gives REALTORS® an opportunity to be players in the game and have a voice in the public policy making process.
(Ryan Conrad is the Government Affairs Director for the Lehigh Valley Association of REALTORS® in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy (Albany, NY). He can be contacted at Ryan@lvar.org or 1-800-893-9969.)