Written by Kim Callaway, Director of Legal & Governmental Affairs

The fourth and fifth week of the 2019 Louisiana Legislative Session was focused on changes to the Homestead Exemption and the Louisiana Real Estate Commission.  The House Committee on Ways and Means and Commerce heard bills seeking to address areas that sought to provide for those changes which are detailed below.

REALTOR® presence at the State Capitol was felt on REALTOR Day as we celebrated 100 years of Louisiana REALTORS® history while legislative talking points focused around the homestead exemption issue. 2019 REALTOR Day Talking Points. Interaction and conversations between legislators and REALTORS were key to the success we saw in this week’s session.

On Tuesday, April 25th, 2019, the Senate and House both passed resolutions commending and congratulating the officers and membership of Louisiana REALTORS® upon the celebration of our centennial anniversary.

BUT HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU AS A REALTOR®? 

House Bill Nos. 12, 238 and 439

What:  These bills would have proposed a constitutional amendment to allow parishes the option of setting their own homestead exemption rather than the current $75,000 homestead exemption that is the same statewide.

Position:  Against

Status:  House Bill No. 12 failed in the House Ways and Means Committee. House Bill Nos. 238 and 439 were not heard following the vote on House Bill No. 12.

Why:  On Tuesday, April 23rd over 200 REALTORS® appeared at the Louisiana State Capitol and informed legislators that any change to the homestead exemption should meet at least these three standards:

• Be part and parcel of changing Louisiana’s outdated system of how local governments

are funded

o   The state's funding of vital services and projects sets a significant number of

roadblocks for local governments. Changing the homestead exemption does not address

this issue in its entirety.

• Provide predictability for the homeowner

o   Property owners deserve to know their homestead exemption will remain the same

for a long period of time if changed from the current statewide exemption.

• Provide for stability in the real estate market

o   In order to maintain a stable real estate market for our communities, homebuyers need a predictable tax climate when making decisions on a home purchase.

OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST IN WEEK FOUR:

House Bill No. 353, Representative Emerson

What: This bill would have required a real estate licensee to renew his or her license with the Louisiana Real Estate Commission by October 31st.  If a licensee failed to renew by that time, he or she would have had a delinquent renewal two months prior to the expiration period. This would have then allowed any licensee who failed to timely renew two months to remedy the delinquency without the license being expired.

Position:  For

Status:  The bill failed to pass in the House Committee on Commerce. 

Why the Committee Did not Allow the Bill to Pass:  The committee members questioned whether there would be adequate time to notify licensees of the change and the wisdom of requiring the renewal by October 31 rather than July 1st or by the licensee’s birthday as required in other professions and occupations.

Why Louisiana REALTORS® Supported the Bill:  This would have allowed a real state licensee who failed to renew his or her real estate license with the Louisiana Real Estate Commission two months to remedy the delinquency without the license being expired. Louisiana REALTORS® supported this bill and will work with the Louisiana Real Estate Commission and legislators to find a solution to help the industry.

House Bill No. 299, Representative Carmody

What:  A continuing education vendor would be able to bypass the standard continuing education course approval process and instead go directly to Executive Director of the Louisiana Real Estate Commission to request approval for the class to be offered for continuing education credit if the course is:

(1)    A live course offered once a year in any one location and in conjunction with a conference, meeting, forum, or similar event held or sponsored by a state or local real estate trade association, or any affiliated Institute, Society, or Council.

(2)   Offered to obtain certifications or designations awarded by the National Association of REALTORS® or its affiliated institutes, societies, and councils.

A state entity could also use this simplified process in seeking approval of any course it would like to offer to real estate licensees for continuing education approval.

Position:  For

Status:  Passed House Committee on Commerce, Pending House Floor

Why:The hope is that this fast track process will assist your state and local real estate associations in offering timely and interesting courses for you to attend to meet your continuing education requirements.

House Bill No. 340, Representative Paul Hollis

What:  This bill would allow an appraiser to perform an evaluation on property for a federally insured depository institution if federal law or rule permits them to do so.

Status:  Passed House Floor, Pending Hearing in Senate committee

Position:  For

Why:  The proposed change would allow appraisers to perform services that they are currently prohibited from offering.

State law currently prohibits a licensed real estate appraiser from performing an evaluation on property for a federally insured depository institution.  This bill would change that and allow an appraiser to perform an evaluation for these institutions if federal law or rule permits them to do so.

Senate Bill No. 191, Senator Norby Chabert

What:  Proposes time limitations in which appraisers can be sued for their work.

Status:  Passed Senate floor, pending House Referral

Position:  For

Why:  Louisiana REALTORS® is in favor of this bill because it would allow for appraisers a to have some certainty that they will not be sued for their work after a certain period of time.

Currently there is no time limit on when an appraiser can be sued for issues arising from an appraisal he conducts.  These bills would limit the time in which an appraisal professional could be sued for issues arising from an appraisal.

House Bill No. 372, Representative Kirk Talbot

What:  House Bill No. 372 contains changes laws that govern many aspects of personal injury lawsuits in the hopes that, if implemented, lead to better auto insurance rates for Louisiana individuals, families and businesses.

Status:  Passed House, Pending Senate Judiciary A Committee

Many believe some Louisiana laws about personal injury lawsuits are written in such a way that encourage the public to focus on high dollar verdicts rather than accident victims obtaining justice.  Many believe this litigious climate is one cause for our high insurance rates and one of the primary reasons businesses decline to locate here.

In an effort to change the laws that may drive this culture, Representative Kirk Talbot filed House Bill No. 372.  LABI explains that House Bill No. 372 contains “numerous common-sense reforms to Louisiana’s broken legal system, that will hopefully lead to better auto insurance rates for Louisiana individuals, families and businesses.”  Click here for more about the bill from LABI:  https://labi.org/newsroom/hoping-for-cheaper-auto-insurance-house-committee-advances-legal-changes

In a recent survey of members of Louisiana REALTORS®, you told us that keeping up with technology was your biggest operational concern, but the top second and third concerns were the potential for litigation and insurance costs. If this bill becomes law, the hope is that your potential for litigation will be reduced and your insurance costs will go down.

House Bill No. 83, Representative Jimmy Harris

What:  Would extend the sunset of the tax credit for rehabilitation of nonresidential historic structures to January 1, 2026.

Status:  Passed House, Pending Senate Finance

Position:  For

Why:  This program has helped preserve many historic buildings throughout Louisiana. 

The tax credit for rehabilitation of nonresidential historic tax structures is now set to expire on January 1, 2022.  House Bill No. 83 seeks to extend the tax credit until January 1, 2026.  An amendment was added on the House Floor that would limit the amount of tax credits awarded in a calendar year to $150 million and providing for the awarding of the tax credits on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism reports that these credits not only offer an incentive to preserve historic buildings, but also act as a major force in economic development. The use of tax credits encourages private sector rehabilitation of historic buildings and is one of the most successful and cost-effective community revitalization programs. These programs generate jobs and create commercial, residential, and industrial spaces within historic buildings.

House Bill No.  317, Representative Howard

What:  Authorizes the creation of a Louisiana REALTORS® special prestige license plate

Position:  For

Why:  Louisiana REALTORS® asked that this bill be filed so you can show your REALTOR® pride while also helping the Louisiana REALTORS Relief Fund.

Status:  Passed House, Pending Senate Transportation, Highways, and Public Works

House Bill No. 372 was reported out of the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works on Monday, April 15th. The bill would allow a special prestige license plate to be made available for members of Louisiana REALTORS®.  All members could purchase the plate for their vehicle from the office of motor vehicles upon paying a $10 annual fee that would benefit the Louisiana REALTORS® Relief Fund and a $3.50 production fee.  However, it will likely be a few years before the plate would be available as the office of motor vehicles is undergoing a complete renovation of their motor vehicle registration system.