The 2012 legislative regular session ended at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, June 4th. This session focused primarily on education reform, state retirement issues and the state budget. Louisiana REALTORS was active on your behalf passing, amending and defeating legislation in an effort to improve your ability to represent clients and customers and to protect real estate investors. We would like to thank all REALTOR members that attended the 2012 REALTOR Day at the State Capitol and those that sent messages or contacted their legislators during the session. The information contained below recaps the session's major issues and information on the state budget as well as a listing of important real estate related legislation that was considered and monitored by your association.
A $25.6 billion budget proposal for 2012-13 will finance the operations of state agencies and public colleges. The final version of the spending plans for the fiscal year that begins July 1 was drawn up by the Senate, which patched in more than $300 million in one-time money to make the plans work, against the wishes of a group of House conservatives who wanted deeper reductions to state spending. Even with piecemeal funding, colleges face significant cuts next year. Nearly $205 million from the state's "rainy day" fund will be used to fill a budget deficit this year.
Gov. Bobby Jindal won passage of a historic overhaul of public education in Louisiana. The changes will make it harder for teachers to gain tenure while establishing a statewide voucher program for private school tuition and multiplying the ways to create charter schools. Critics promised lawsuits. Parents and teachers may notice few immediate changes to the education system in the upcoming 2012-13 school year. Vouchers will be available to as many as 5,000 new students to attend private schools with public tax dollars in the fall; the program is expected to grow in later years. New charter schools will take at least a year to get through the application and approval process. The earliest a teacher can lose tenure under the new evaluation system is spring 2014.
Lawmakers rejected Jindal's proposals to push back the retirement age for 55,000 rank-and-file state workers and public college employees and to charge them more for their pensions, even after the bills were heavily rewritten and watered down. Also scrapped by lawmakers were Jindal's attempts to make it much tougher for retirement systems to pass cost-of-living adjustments for retirees and to calculate the monthly retirement payment on an employee's top five years of salary instead of three years. The only significant retirement bill pushed by the governor that received final passage will create a cheaper investment account similar to a 401(k) plan for state employees hired after July 1, 2013, instead of a monthly retirement payment based on their salaries.
Louisiana voters will decide whether to toughen the state's constitutional protections for weapon owners and whether to remove a provision that gives the Legislature explicit authority to limit concealed handguns.
Louisiana's economic development secretary could be able to offer new tax breaks to businesses the state wants to keep or attract. The bills will give the state's economic development chief limited ability to offer rebates for payroll and relocation costs. But the tax rebate agreements will have to be approved by a joint House and Senate budget committee. The tax breaks include a payroll tax cut ranging from 6 percent to up to 15 percent for creating high-paying jobs with health care benefits and a 25 percent rebate over five years on relocation costs for certain companies that move their corporate headquarters to Louisiana.
HB 601 by Representative Harold Ritchie (Bogalusa) "Exception for Prohibited Acts for Title Insurance Agents"
This REALTOR-supported legislation was filed to ensure that title attorneys could continue teaching quality real estate continuing education courses to agents and for local and state REALTOR entities and associations. HB 601 also would allow for title insurance companies to provide normal marketing activities. In the end, HB 601 was not needed, as Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon revised his November 30, 2011 bulletin to reflect the language contained in HB 601.
HB 774by Representative Eric Ponti (Baton Rouge)
This REALTOR-supported legislation would have provided a basis in the law and outlined specifics on what property and information shall be relinquished by an agent to a broker when the agent leaves the real estate company. HB 774 was not pushed forward because the Louisiana Real Estate Commission agreed to make changes in its current rules and regulations that address the issues contained in HB 774.
HB 1014 (Act #429) & HB 823 by Representative Frank Hoffmann (West Monroe) and Representative Hunter Greene (Baton Rouge) "Appraisal Management Companies"
Both HB 1014 and HB 823 would enable the Louisiana State Appraisal Board to enforce standards of competency, appraisal review and assure reasonable appraiser fees within the industry. Both bills seek to provide more clarity and give the state appraisal board more ability to regulate Appraisal Management Companies to ensure that quality appraisals are being conducted in Louisiana.
LEGISLATION OPPOSED BY LR:
SB 425 by Senator Dan Claitor (Baton Rouge) "Settlement Service Providers"
Senate Bill 425 would have prohibited the required use of a settlement service provider in residential real estate transactions. LR opposed SB 425 because Section B of the bill may be unenforceable because of federal RESPA laws. SB 425 also would not have allowed for discounts or rebates to be provided to consumers. Louisiana REALTORS along with the Louisiana Homebuilders and Bankers led the efforts to defeat this proposed legislation.
SB 393 by Senator Ed Murray (New Orleans) "Eviction Issues"
Senate Bill 393 would have caused unnecessary delays in the eviction process. SB 393 would have allowed a tenant to live in a unit longer without paying rent to the detriment of the property owner. SB 393 could have caused more costs to be placed on tenants.
MISCELLANEOUS LEGISLATIVE ISSUES:
LR also supported several bills that we believe will help consumers and REALTOR practitioners:
HB 302 (Act #77) by Representative Herbert Dixon (Alexandria)
A local pilot project for Rapides Parish, which will allow the local tax collector to accept quarterly payments of estimated property taxes owed by property owners. If this program is a success, LR may look to support this concept statewide.
HB 48 (Act #164) by Representative Lance Harris (Alexandria)
HB 48 enacted into law would provide more penalties and jail time for individuals convicted of stealing copper from property and structures. HB 48 jopefully will deter individuals from stealing copper and better protect the interests of property owners statewide.
A SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL REALTOR MEMBERS THAT PROVIDED THEIR TIME, ENERGY AND VOLUNTARY FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO ENSURE THAT THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY REMAINS VIABLE AND THOSE LOUISIANA REAL ESTATE INVESTORS CAN ENJOY EASY ACCESS TO ENTER THE MARKETPLACE.