On the national front, the GOP was able to solidify its majority in Washington, keeping control of the White House and strengthening its numbers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. While the outcome of this may bode well for real estate, it’s important to note that the Republicans’ gains in the Senate still only give them 55 Republicans to 44 Democrats (with 1 Independent who often votes with the Democrats) – five votes short of the 60 votes necessary to avoid a filibuster.
On the Democrats’ side of the aisle, some key leadership changes have taken place as a result of the defeat of Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD). Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) will now fill that role, while Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) will fill Reid’s former minority whip job, the No. 2 position in the minority leadership. Reid, considered more moderate than his predecessor, claims that his leadership style will be different than Daschle’s. Some Republicans in the Senate say that Reid will find it easier to reach across the aisle to compromise and work together. And while Reid is somewhat soft-spoken, this will be balanced by Durbin’s more aggressive liberal style.
The state legislative elections did little to change the political landscape across the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Democrats held a slight edge in gaining political ground, picking up control in a few more legislative chambers than their GOP counterparts on Nov. 2, 2004. Democrats now hold 12 more seats nationwide than Republicans at 3,662 to 3,650.
So, what impact will these election results have on real estate’s agenda? Already, the administration and Congress have stated that several of BOMA International’s key issues – including tax policy, tort reform, and national energy policy – will be on their plate early in the session. The expiration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, which expires at the end of 2005, will also be on the agenda this year.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) has said that he will continue trying to close tax loopholes and make permanent the tax cuts enacted by the 108th Congress. The climate may be ripe for BOMA to finally see extended action on leasehold depreciation and capital gains reforms. Many Republican leaders, including the President, have said they feel it’s time to simplify and reform the tax code.
BOMA is expecting to see tort reform back on the agenda in both the House and Senate in January. Largely a partisan issue, the measure passed the House last year without incident and was twice held up in the Senate by one vote. The additional four seats won by Senate Republicans in the election should be enough to put tort reform on a winning path and possibly bring a stronger bill, more in line with the House-passed version. Yet without 60 seats, Senate Republicans will still find it difficult to defeat filibuster threats if they don’t stick with a measure that will appeal to the few Democrats on-board in 2004.
National Energy Policy
A priority when President Bush first took office 4 years ago, Republicans have yet to pass comprehensive energy policy legislation. Though they came close in the 108th Congress with both the House and Senate passing differing versions, agreement broke down in the end. The Republicans appointed to the conference committee were able to work out a compromise that won passage in the House, but failed in the Senate. Following that failure, efforts were made to pass “standalone” non-controversial measures, with no success. Congress now plans to start anew and has already announced plans to revisit the highly polarizing issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in January.
The issue of extending the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA) has strong bi-partisan support that was not altered as a result of the election, and BOMA believes the timing is right to see action in early 2005. The House of Representatives was poised to extend the act (which expires at the end of 2005) at the end of the 108th Congress, but the Senate is opting for a slower approach and plans to hold hearings early in the 109th Congress.
On January 26 and 27, representatives of the commercial real estate industry will go to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators to promote real estate’s agenda. Please join BOMA for this important event! To find out more about BOMA International’s National Issues Conference, visit BOMA International’s website (www.boma.org).
For more information on these issues, contact BOMA International at (202) 408-2662.