By, Brent Ellis
Each year on the day we visit Capitol Hill, REALTORS® from the Peach State have a luncheon with our senators in the Russell Senate Office Building. We are fortunate in Georgia, we have the only REALTOR® in the senate as one of our senators. Senator Johnny Isakson is an invaluable asset to not only Georgians, but to the entire real estate industry. During a time in our history when real estate is at the forefront of our economic situation, Johnny is often sought out by members from both sides of the aisle on any issue involving housing, we have a ‘seat at the table’ with Johnny representing the REALTOR® Party. Senator Saxby Chambliss is our second senator and a long time personal friend of Senator Isakson’s, dating back to their college years. These two senators work great together and Saxby often jokes with comments such as ‘When it comes to housing issues, I just do what Johnny tells me to do.’ Of course Senator Chambliss says that tongue-in-cheek, but it demonstrates the relationship and how much he values Johnny’s direct insight into our industry.
Our luncheon was kicked off by Georgia Association of REALTORS® (GAR) 2013 President Robin Lance by thanking all of us for making the trip to DC and taking time away from our businesses. Rhonda Nesmith, 2013 GA RIAC Chair, led us in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by 2013 GA RPAC Chair Linda Durrance giving us the Inspirational. Last up from GAR was Linda Cook, 2013 GA RPIC Chair, again thanking us for coming to DC, reminding us of the importance of why we were here, and some last minute tips for meeting with our Congressmen.
Part of the luncheon is the networking we do with our peers from all around the great state of Georgia. At my table was Jennifer Lundy, GAR Manager of Political Affairs, Shannon Klein, Legislative Correspondent for Senator Isakson, Shaun Graham, Southeast Mortgage, and REALTORS® Susan West, Cherokee AOR 2013 President, and Bill Miltiades from the Savannah Board. The conversation ranged from UGA football to tour advice to housing issues, and it was great to get to spend some time with the senate staff to help foster our relationship.
Senator Chambliss was scheduled to talk with us first but he was called into a committee meeting, so Senator Isakson kicked things off. Senator Isakson led off with a brief discussion of meetings with POTUS, the ‘group of 12′ recently mentioned in the media have been meeting with the president to discuss the budget. He then discussed the Qualified Mortgage and the Qualified Residential Mortgage, and concluded with discussion of the GSEs. It is so refreshing to hear an elected official speaking our language and demonstrating such a deep understanding of our industry and the issues that revolve around our industry.
A quick summation of Senator Isakson’s general comments: every tax treatment on the table should be evaluated on a cost vs benefit analysis, we need to incent the private sector to get builders building again, and my biggest take away was a bit of advice for us as we met with our Congressmen…don’t focus on ‘Don’t take our MID,’ instead focus on what the impact of not having it will be. Put it in numbers, to include things such as number of mortgage holders in our district, how many of those take the MID, and what financial impact the reduction or elimination of the MID would have.
Senator Chambliss was able to join us and explained why he was late. As we all know, the senators can be called upon at anytime for a vote, a committee meeting, etc. and we have to be flexible. In this case, Senator Chambliss sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and as you can imagine, those items directly impact our national defense and this was a situation where they needed to address a few items that have been going on with media leaks. The biggest news the senator shared with us is the passing of a water bill, which will help the Port of Savannah.
The relationships we have with our senators are quite strong and our annual luncheon resembles more of a reunion than a meeting.