Capitol Update: Impacts on the Apartment Industry on and Beyond Capitol Hill

Dear Apartment Industry Colleagues,

It has been a tough month since the last edition of the Capitol Update. Much has occurred both inside and outside the halls of the Congress that impacts the apartment industry on levels both personal and political. 

The Boston bombings affected the apartment industry on a very personal side. One of those seriously injured by the bombings is one of our own. Roseann Sdoia of National Development is a member of the Rental Housing Association (RHA) of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and NAA. She has already undergone three surgeries and her recovery will not be easy. Learn more about Roseann's story.

We are also seeing impacts from the events in Boston on the immigration debate taking place in Congress. What was previously pretty steady movement forward in the Senate towards consideration of comprehensive reform has slowed down significantly. Several Senators want a full evaluation of the facts in the Boston case before proceeding -- specifically, if and how U.S. immigration failed in this instance. While no one disagrees with getting a complete picture of what occurred, those attempting to advance immigration reform do not want Boston to become an excuse for derailing reform efforts altogether.  For more information on NAA's position on comprehensive immigration reform, go to the Government Affairs webpage.

Another important event was the Senate vote on gun control legislation. That legislation had no direct impact on our industry; however, it did put a spotlight back on related issues regarding the carrying of firearms by residents in apartment communities. Specifically, members are grappling with balancing private property rights of owners with second amendment rights of individual residents. Several states (e.g. Missouri, Texas) have successfully struck a balance between these two concerns. Lauren Boston, staff writer for Units magazine, has authored an excellent article on this topic for the May issue. You can also find it online.

Finally, the playing field on two of NAA's most important issues – housing finance reform (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) and tax reform – shifted dramatically. The two Senators who chair the committees that will lead the legislative effort on these issues announced that they would step down at the end of 2014. Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, will retire next year, opening up two highly coveted and important Committee leadership positions in the next Congress. But these decisions have immediate implications as well.

Without re-election work to take up their time, both men are unfettered in their ability to focus on the legislative task in front of them. Moreover, they are beholden to no one, so they have a freer hand to take legislation in whatever direction they like – with the support of their respective committees and the U.S. Senate, of course. Whether that is a benefit or a hazard to our efforts in these two areas remains to be seen.

There are also political ramifications from these two retirements. With Senators Johnson and Baucus added to the list, that makes six retiring Democrats in the Senate. Three of those (Johnson, Baucus and Rockefeller (D-W.V.)) are from red states which increases the likelihood that Republicans can take those seats and get halfway towards their goal of retaking control of the Senate (they need to net six seats). It is by no means an easy "get" for the Republicans and there are some strong Democratic candidates waiting in the wings who could keep these races competitive.

Interestingly, the issue which was absent from the Congressional dialogue recently was anything related to the budget, deficit or debt limit. Moreover, the next month is sure to be dominated by national security concerns as well as continuing to move the ball forward on immigration reform. The deal on the 2013 budget agreed to by the President and the Congress in March has created a respite from the fiscal wars. Any bets on how long it will last?

That's all for this month. As always, contact me if you have questions, concerns or just a viewpoint to share.

Greg