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MAR finalizes legislative agenda, preparing to present it

The Mississippi Association of Realtors has finalized its list of priorities for the 2008 legislative session and will soon present it to lawmakers.

Among the issues the group will pay close attention to are:

Eminent domain

This has been a hotly debated topic since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling that says private land could not stand in the way of an economic development project. MAR says it is opposed to any legislation that would repeal the Mississippi law that currently provides procedural requirements and rights for property owners. The association does, however, favor any legislation that clarifies the public purpose of eminent domain and clarification that the taking or damaging of private property for the purpose of increasing tax revenue not be considered public use.

Impact fees

MAR, like it has in the past, says it will continue to oppose impact fees in any form and under any condition. The fees, paid by developers to gain approval of a project, result in an increase in construction costs, drive up the costs of existing properties, prevent developers from pursuing viable projects, reduces quality of projects and decreases availability of low-income housing. “It’s a tax,” says Angela Cain, MAR CEO. “This was a big issue right after Hurricane Katrina, because cities and towns needed a way to fund the building of new roads and infrastructure.”

State income tax credit for first-time homebuyers

In its legislative packet, MAR says home ownership is the best way to build wealth and that real estate has produced the most consistent positive return over any investment over the past 40 years. Those are the reasons MAR will support efforts to provide a state income tax credit for first-time homebuyers during the 2008 session. Such an incentive, MAR says, would help more Mississippians become homeowners.

Employer down payment/closing cost assistance

MAR supports legislation designed to allow employers and employees a tax incentive for down payment assistance and/or closing cost assistance in the purchase of a home.

Allowing licensees to sit for licensing
examination without sponsoring broker

MAR supports allowing an individual to sit for the state’s salesperson licensing exam prior to obtaining the sponsorship of a broker. As is the practice in other states, this measure would allow those interested in taking the salesperson-licensing exam the opportunity to take and pass the test before pursuing a sponsoring broker. Individuals who have passed the exam would not be allowed to practice real estate, however, until a broker sponsors them.

Health insurance for self-employed
and for independent contractors

According to MAR, almost one-third of Mississippi’s 7,000 Realtors are uninsured, which means many are unable to seek necessary medical attention and/or face significant financial burdens when they or their dependents need medical care. Without changes, problems with the availability and affordability of health insurance will undermine the ability of some real estate professionals to continue in their chosen careers. Mississippi Realtors support the passage of legislation to correct the inequities inherent in health insurance delivery systems, including enacting measures that will address the problems that the self-employed and small businesses face when looking for health plan coverage.

Gov. Haley Barbour unveiled a proposal during a health insurance summit earlier this month that would provide for easier access to health insurance for the self-employed and for employees of small businesses.

Cain says her association’s legislative committee would meet this week to assess Barbour’s proposal and form an official position on it. “But I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t be in favor of it,” Cain says.

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .

About Clay Chandler

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