Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Grassroots Gusto: IREM Members Lobby Legislators for a Washington Win. (Feature)

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Grassroots Gusto: IREM Members Lobby Legislators for a Washington Win. (Feature)

Article excerpt

Nearly 200 IREM[R] members headed for the Hill to urge their congressional leaders to support legislation on several key issues favorable to the real estate management industry. During Capitol Hill Visit Day, held in conjunction with the Leadership and Legislative Summit in April, members demonstrated their grassroots activism by making their positions known on several real estate issues including terrorism insurance, bankruptcy reform, energy and the role of banks in real estate management (background information and official IREM positions on these issues can be accessed at www.irem.org/sopindex.htm).

IREM members participated in more than 120 visits with state senators and representatives. Armed with the voting records of their local congressional representatives as well as "talking points" on the key issues of interest to real estate managers, IREM's members were well prepared.

More than just a lesson in politics, the Hill visits were successful in making a difference. In some cases, congressional leaders were informed about positions they were not aware of; for others, the visits served to reinforce the representatives' voting decision.

A Washington Win

During the same week IREM's members lobbied their legislators, the real estate industry had a major win in the form of Senate passage of the Securing America's Future Energy Act of 2002, a comprehensive national energy bill that seeks to balance energy production and efficiency. Three important objectives of the energy act include diversifying fuels and technologies for adequate and affordable supplies of energy in the future; improving the efficiency and productivity of energy transmission and use, including the efficiency of energy use in vehicles, industry, commercial equipment, appliances and buildings; and addressing important policy goals such as infrastructure security, protection of the environment and global climate change.

IREM supports energy conservation and positive incentives for conservation activities such as energy tax credits and an increased emphasis on energy-efficient technology. In addition, IREM favors deregulation policies to ensure rate and system stability as well as tax credits for energy efficient building improvements and construction.

The Senate energy bill provides consumers a tax credit of up to $300 on projects improving energy efficiency in existing homes. Rental properties would receive a tax deduction of $2.25 per square foot for buildings 50 percent more efficient than the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards.

In addition, the Senate bill encourages installation of highly energy-efficient windows to prevent seepage and provisions to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings. The bill also includes incentives for purchasing energy-efficient appliances and hot water heaters that reduce electricity usage. An amendment to the bill further encourages installation of individual water meters at multifamily housing complexes with a tax incentive of $30 per water meter installed. Currently, just three percent of multifamily dwellings have individual water meters.

Senator John Breaux (D-LA) said financial incentives to increase energy production and cut consumer energy costs are key provisions of the Senate energy bill. "The solution to our energy problems lies in a sensible balance of conservation and production," he said. "A balanced energy policy must include conservation, alternative fuels and renewable energy. But more domestic drilling and exploration are also essential to reduce our dependence on foreign energy, a trend that puts our nation at risk."

The bill, which includes $16 billion in tax incentives to increase production of oil, natural gas and renewable energy resources, provides more choices in electricity providers and new technologies and encourages utilities to adopt technology that will give customers real-time information about their energy usage, empowering them to make smarter decisions, with a smart metering incentive. …

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