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REALTOR Party and 2019 Federal Policy Priorities

The REALTOR® Party is a powerful alliance of REALTORS® and REALTOR® Associations working to protect and promote homeownership and property investment. Last week at the REALTOR® Party Training Conference, NAR outlined the top policy priorities for the organization in 2019 and trained Association leaders and REALTOR® volunteers on ideas on how to get members involved.

NFIP Extended A Week to Prevent Lapse

Congress pushed back its deadline to deal with the National Flood Insurance Program by at least a week, passing yet another short-term extension of the program late Thursday.

A deadline to avoid a lapse in the federal program, which underwrites most flood insurance coverage in the country and covers a half-million Louisiana homes, had been looming at midnight on Friday. The short-term deal is the eighth temporary extension for the program since it first came up for periodic renewal more than a year ago.

Update on Tax Reform & Provisions of Interest to REALTORS®

The National Association of REALTORS® has moved the tax reform bill in the right direction through it's advocacy efforts and the REALTOR® members who responded to Calls for Action. The conference committee has made some important improvements to the House and Senate legislation that ultimately will benefit some homeowners and communities. You can view the Provisions of Interest to NAR and its Members along with additional information

Congress Approves Short-Term Extension for National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

Congress extended the National Flood Insurance Program by a fortnight Thursday as part of a broad but temporary federal-government funding deal.

The flood insurance provisions will keep the program operating as normal through Dec. 22, buying lawmakers time to work on a longer-term reauthorization for the important but beleaguered federal program.

Call For Action: Help Improve Tax Reform for Homeowners

REALTORS® are once again being asked to continue to be advocates for homeowners in the latest Call for Action from the National Association of REALTORS®. The REALTOR® voice helped positively influence tax reform in some key areas.  REALTORS® still have an opportunity to influence Congress to help make the tax reform bill more favorable to homeowners and consumers. 

NFIP Reform Bill Passes House With Bipartisan Support

The House on Tuesday , November 14 backed legislation that will increase flood insurance premiums for many property owners to help firm up a program under stress from ever-more frequent and powerful storms. The bill's passage was secured when sponsors made a variety of changes to accommodate lawmakers determined to protect constituents from even steeper rate hikes or from being booted out of the program altogether.

Call for Action: Tax Reform

The National Association of REALTORS® and Louisiana REALTORS® strongly encourages REALTORS® to TAKE ACTION on Tax Reform. 

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Re-Authorization

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is set to expire on September 30th without Congressional action. NAR estimates that past lapses of the NFIP have delayed or cancelled 1,400 transactions a day. The program presently is in debt to the United States treasury by approximately $25 Billion. This certainly creates a concern for the sustainability of the program. During the past month, there has been a lot of activity on Capitol Hill. Here's what information you need to know

2017 Legislative Session Recap & Wins

The Legislative Session ended last month with no tax increases and without passing a budget. Read a summary of activities or view REALTOR® and homeowner wins. As state issues settle, REALTORS® need to turn their attention to the national stage as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is set to expire on September 30. It is imperative that we stand ready to respond to Calls for Action and what is happening in Congress

New Penalties for Unlicensed Real Estate Activity

Louisiana REALTORS® sponsored Senate Bill 108 by Senator Bodi White passed the Senate and House of Representatives and has been signed by the Governor.  This legislation is an amendment to an existing statute and adds criminal penalties for a violation. The amendment becomes effective August 1, 2017. 

Legislative Session Report

The 2017 Legislative Session was great for REALTORS and for homeowners. LR was successful at preventing new sales tax on services as well as passing legislation that penalizes those that practice without a license. Norman Morris, CEO provides a short recap of those wins in this last legislative session report. 

Regulatory Reform Roundtables - Financial Services & Real Estate

The. U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy is hosting a series of roundtables seeking input from financial and real estate services. The purpose of each roundtable is to hear directly from local small businesses about what regulations concern them. This will be an opportunity for small business leaders to educate Advocacy and federal agencies through first-hand accounts of how federal regulations impact their small business.

Louisiana Sales Tax Proposal Is Dead

Louisiana sales tax proposal for Netflix, landscaping, massages, other services is dead
The Times-Picayune • New Orleans, La • May 15, 2017

By: Julia O’Donoghue

Louisiana legislation to start taxing a variety of products and services -- everything from Netflix and Spotify to landscaping and massages -- is dead for the current legislative session, its sponsor says. Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, pulled the sales tax bill from consideration by a House committee on Monday (May 15) after delaying it for weeks. 

"At some point in time, you have to deal with reality," said Reynolds, the House Democratic Caucus chairman. "I didn't want to waste time and have my political capital spent" on legislation that wasn't going to pass. 

It was another blow to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' efforts to maintain public services without huge spending cuts to help close a projected $1.3 billion budget deficit in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2018. Reynold's House Bill 655 was the last major, remaining piece of Edwards' tax package, after other elements were voted down by the House Ways and Means Committee or abandoned by sponsors before that panel could vote on them. 

Expanding the sales tax to new areas has been suggested for Louisiana by liberal and conservative tax experts alike, and was one of the strongest recommendations made earlier this year by a task force that was set up by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Reynolds' bill was meant to generate revenue that could replace existing money produced by Louisiana's current sales tax rate. The general concept is to lower the sales tax but apply it to more goods and services.

The proposal would have applied the sales tax to streaming entertainment services such as Netflix, Hulu, satellite radio, Spotify and Amazon Prime. A number of other of services -- massages, landscaping, certain types of debt collection and insurance appraisals, among them -- also would have been newly subjected to the sales tax. The expanded tax was supposed to go into place Oct. 1. 

It would have produced about $153 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1. In budget years after that, it would have produced about $202 million, according to an analysis done by the legislative fiscal office. 

That would not fully replace the $880 million lost when the state sales tax falls in mid-2018 from 5 percent to 4 percent. It would have covered slightly less than one quarter of the sales tax revenue reduction. 

Louisiana wasn't the only state to look at taxing Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Spotify and similar services. Pennsylvania implemented a similar tax last year. Several California cities and Alabama have also considered "Netflix tax". 

The proposal to expand the sales tax to these services is an attempt to adjust to consumer purchasing patterns. People used to buy or rent videos at a retail store and pay sales tax on the transaction. Now, they are streaming that content online and not paying sales tax. 

"Most state sales tax laws are really old and outdated. They were written in the 1930s," said John Buhl, media manager with the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, conservative think tank during an interview in April. "As the economy changes, we are seeing states' sales tax bases shrink."  

Outside of streaming services, here are some other items that the Reynolds' bill would have taxed: 

·      Massage parlors, escort services, Turkish baths, steam baths

·      Debt collection, though this would not include child support debts or some debts collected by attorneys. Exceptions would also be included for some trusts.

·      Credit reporting services, including services that assemble credit histories and ratings for individuals

·      Insurance services, including the assessment of insurance losses, damage and appraisal. This also would include insurance inspections, investigations, analysis and research, as well as insurance claims adjustments and processing.

·      Landscaping, lawn maintenance and rubbish, solid waste and garbage collection. Janitors, custodial services and pest control also would be taxes.

·      Data processing, including some payroll and some business accounting services. This also would apply to word processing, data entry, data production and data search, whether done by a human being or machine.

·      Security services

·      Telephone answering services

·      Information services, including electronic data retrieval and specialized news services such as those for financial information. Newspaper, radio and television stations approved by the Federal Communications Commission would be excluded.

A Win for Real Estate & Homeowners

Due to the proactive efforts of the Louisiana REALTORS' Legislative Team, a successful REALTOR Day event, and over 2,000 REALTORS that responded to a Call for Action HB 655 was deferred. This is a great win in protecting homeownership in Louisiana!

No Clear Direction on Louisiana Tax Policy

No clear direction on Louisiana tax policy as Legislature reaches halfway point

The Louisiana Legislature's 2017 regular session reaches its midpoint Tuesday (May 9) with no clear direction on how lawmakers will rewrite the state's tax laws, if they can reach agreement at all. Some signs of progress emerged Monday as the House tax committee started advancing proposals for consideration, but without any promise that lawmakers on the committee would support the ideas on the House floor.

Out of more than 900 bills filed for the session, none has reached the governor's desk. Portions of Gov. John Bel Edwards' legislative agenda have run into significant opposition, with his main tax bill already jettisoned.

The two-month session must end by June 8. Here's where things stand:

Tax overhaul
Edwards said a tax overhaul is needed to stabilize Louisiana's finances, end years of budget shortfalls and compensate for the expiration of $1.3 billion in temporary taxes in mid-2018. But the Democratic governor's main revenue-raising proposal, to charge a new tax on businesses' gross receipts, failed to gain any traction, and he's since shelved the idea.

Awaiting debate on the Senate floor are measures that would lessen tax breaks. But with most tax bills required to start in the House, senators have only modest work they can do.

House Republican leaders have yet to rally around a specific package of bills. On Monday, the House Ways and Means Committee started advancing measures to change laws governing corporate taxes, individual income taxes and various tax break programs. The panel didn't vote on concepts but simply forwarded them to the full House for consideration while negotiations continue behind the scenes.

State budget
Although House GOP leaders haven't embraced a specific plan for tax policy, they have adopted their approach to next year's more than $29 billion state operating budget. They propose to spend 2.5 percent less than the full forecast of what Louisiana is expected to collect in general state tax dollars, to hedge against concerns the forecast could come up short and force midyear cuts.

House Democrats and Edwards say leaving $235 million on the table could force damaging and unnecessary cuts across government in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Republicans say the Edwards administration is using scare tactics.

Almost all Democrats opposed the budget proposal approved by the House last week. Negotiations shifted to the Senate on Monday.

Governor's agenda
Beyond taxes, other Edwards-backed proposals appear to be in trouble. An effort to raise Louisiana's minimum wage hasn't yet received a hearing, and the governor's push for new equal pay laws in Louisiana hit a roadblock in the House labor committee, which killed one of his proposals. The full Senate will debate a second measure requiring private businesses to pay the same wages to men and women who perform the same work. But if it advances out of the Senate, it will head to the House labor committee.

Proposals to rewrite Louisiana's criminal sentencing laws, the goal being to lessen Louisiana's tops-in-the-U.S. incarceration rate, are advancing. But some already have been watered down amid resistance from district attorneys, and more revisions are expected.

Contentious debates

Besides financial haggling, lawmakers have embarked on other contentious debates:

·       The House will debate a measure aimed at protecting Confederate monuments by requiring voter approval before they could be removed from public property

·       The Senate will consider whether to ban use of the death penalty in Louisiana.

Some bills already have been shelved:

·       The House voted down a bill to shorten the wait for a divorce when the married couple has children younger than 18.

·       A House committee rejected a proposal to restore the voting rights of convicted felons on probation or parole

·       Senators refused to require TOPS students to live in the state for several years or reimburse Louisiana for part of their tuition costs

Legislative Session Update - Call for Action & REALTOR® Day

Louisiana REALTORS® held a successful REALTOR® Day in conjunction with the SPRING INTO ACTION Conference last week. Over 500 attendees representing all areas of the state attended the one-day event in Baton Rouge and the presence at the Capitol was noted by the legislators. We would like to extend a THANK YOU to all the local boards and volunteers that took part in the day's activities.