On Tuesday, March 12, dozens of BOMA members gathered on Capitol Hill to meet with their lawmakers as part of BOMA International’s 2019 New Congress Fly-In. Members from 17 different BOMA local associations across the United States traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with 64 legislators or their staffs to discuss BOMA’s top legislative issues. Nearly 20 percent of members of the U.S. Congress were new as of January, so establishing relationships with lawmakers early and conveying the message that BOMA members represent jobs and economic growth nationwide are critical.
Members focused their efforts on BOMA’s top three legislative issues: fixing qualified improvement property (QIP); extending or making permanent the Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction (179D); and ADA lawsuit reform. Additionally, with President Trump’s budget published just the day before the fly-in once again calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program to convert to a fee-based system, BOMA was able to quickly address the need for congressional appropriations to continue to fund the much-used, much-needed public program at its current levels. More than 500,000 buildings use ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager® platform to benchmark their buildings’ energy, waste and water usage. Many state and local ordinances requiring this data rely on Portfolio Manager to collect it.
BOMA’s ability to pivot and respond with boots-on-the-ground lobbying is what makes the New Congress Fly-In so important. These meetings help ensure both new and veteran members of Congress are fully informed of the legislative priorities of the commercial real estate industry as they set their legislative agenda.
Early in the day, BOMA participants were given a legislative briefing tailored to biographies on each legislator they were meeting with and talking points on the main issues. Many of the legislative offices were supportive of BOMA’s positions and a handful even offered to co-sponsor relevant legislation when it was introduced. The feedback that the fly-in participants supply on these issues to their lawmakers is crucial to BOMA’s advocacy successes.
BOMA’s busy day on the Hill paid off two days later with the introduction of a stand-alone bill to correct the error on QIP. The Restoring Investment in Improvements Act of 2019 (S. 803) was introduced on March 14 by Sens. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). A mere two weeks later, a whirlwind pace by congressional standards, the House of Representatives introduced an identical companion bill. H.R. 1869 was introduced by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) on March 26. The bills have gained significant traction since their introduction: The Senate bill currently has 27 co-sponsors and the House bill has 91. Both bills are supported by both Democrats and Republicans evenly. Even though a stand-alone bill will probably not make it to the president’s desk on its own, these efforts highlight the importance of and support for this issue, creating a strong chance that it will be included in a larger package of legislation.
The impact of BOMA’s New Congress Fly-In was felt immediately and will have lasting effects on how Congress addresses the commercial real estate industry’s most pressing issues.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2019 issue of BOMA Magazine.