Apartment Industry Colleagues,
Happy New Year! I hope this missive finds you safe and healthy so far in 2015.
The new Congress has been sworn in, freshmen are figuring out where the cafeteria, the WC and Committee chambers are located (not necessarily in that order) and the party caucuses are organizing for many battles to take place over the next two years. For the GOP, the hope was to start fresh with no extraneous baggage from the last Congress getting in the way of their goals as they take control of both chambers. Alas, it was not to be. Congress left the reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) undone before the end of the 113th Congress so now they must dispense with that before they can dig into other priorities.
As you know by now, former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), in his final act of contrarianism, refused to allow the TRIA reauthorization go forward in an expedited manor. Senate Democratic leadership would not take the additional week it would require to run out the clock on Senator Coburn (which would have kept the Senate in almost to Christmas) and therefore TRIA expired on Dec. 31, 2014. The reaction from a broad coalition of industries, trade associations and private companies was shock, disappointment and anger and it was not long before House Republicans issued not one but two statements committing them to the immediate reauthorization of TRIA when the 114th Congress opened for business in January.
It is up for debate as to whether Congress can move as quickly as it would have us believe to reauthorize TRIA. Moreover, there are elements in both the House and the Senate who did not like the reauthorization proposal that was on the table last year and would love to start over and get the product they much prefer. Undoubtedly, that product would significantly reduce the federal government’s role in insuring the availability of terrorism insurance coverage placing in question the ability of members of the apartment industry (and other industries) to get coverage at all, let alone at affordable rates. Regardless, NAA and our coalition partners are working hard to impress upon Congress the critical need for them to move fast on a reauthorization of TRIA.
Signals have been mixed from insurers to this point as to how they will deal with the expiration of TRIA. Some are taking the hard line and notifying policyholders that without TRIA they (a) cannot continue to provide coverage at all or (b) cannot continue to provide it at present rates. Other providers are taking a “wait-and-see” approach and extending their current coverage for some limited period in anticipation that Congress will act quickly to reauthorize the program. What is your provider telling you? I’m interested in your experience so please drop me a line (my email address is at the end of this column) and give me your story.
Setting aside the TRIA debacle for the moment, Congress will spend the next 30 days or so getting organized both within the respective political parties and within individual committees, setting their agendas for the year. Soon after that, Committee Chairmen will release their draft schedules for hearings and perhaps even markup of relevant legislation. At the same time, individual Congressmen will be moving bills of their own through the process. Some will reintroduce bills from the 113th Congress that did not pass the finish line (most of the bills introduced) and others will craft new pieces of legislation reflecting their particular policy priorities. We will be sifting through all of these for the good, the bad and the…well you get the point.
The apartment industry will have issues of its own to bring before Congress in March during the 2015 NAA Capitol Conference. Those issues are being determined now and will be announced right around the beginning of February. I hope everyone reading this plans to attend the conference and make their voice heard. We need your support! I encourage you to register now – hotel rooms are subject to availability after Feb. 20.
There are more than 70 new members of Congress, many of whom likely do not know much about the apartment industry. Whether it’s at the Capitol Conference or at home, we need you to meet these leaders and make them smart on our business. If you already know that you have a relationship with one of these new members of Congress, please let us know. If you don’t, but want to develop that relationship, let us know that too and we will help you make that connection. If you’re not sure who the new members are, contact me and I will get you a list of those members in your community or state.
That’s it for now. As always, you can give me a proper thrashing over the content of this column by email me at email@example.com. I also welcome accolades and shameless pandering.
Have a great month and once again, Happy New Year!