Washington, D.C. – In January 2001, President George W. Bush was taking office amid great controversy, a new cabinet was taking shape, and both Houses of Congress held a Republican majority, however slight. Now, just one year later, how the world has changed! The President’s approval ratings continue to soar in the midst of war and recession, and the Republican-controlled House finds itself severely challenged in its ability to work with a Senate now under the Democrats’ control.
So, what does this mean for commercial real estate? During the first session of the 107th Congress (Jan.-Dec. 2001), optimism ran high that issues impacting the real estate industry would make forward progress in Congress. Several issues made considerable headway, only to be put on the back burner when new priorities emerged following the September 11th attacks. Here are some of the issues BOMA expects to see on the legislative and regulatory front in 2002:
• Tax issues. With federal deficits predicted for the foreseeable future, further tax reductions for business seem to be a remote prospect. At this point, barring further downturns in the economy, minor tax simplification is our best hope in 2002.
• Energy. In 2001, legislation to enact a national energy policy was pushed by the Bush Administration and actively debated in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has publicly stated that the issues will be addressed in the Senate early in 2002. The shift in focus on the issue of energy security as a result of the September 11 attacks will almost certainly result in the passage of legislation in 2002.
• Environment. Though due for a vote on September 11, the final version of a significant brownfields effort was pushed from the legislative calendar by more pressing national concerns. The legislation was then sidelined in a dispute over the imposition of a federal wage law known as the Davis-Bacon Act. In late December, however, a wage agreement was reached and the House passed the bill. BOMA expects the Senate will soon consider and pass the legislation.
• Building Codes. The focus on a single national model code will shift primarily to the state level in 2002 as the International Code Council (ICC) and its industry allies make a strong push for adoption of the International Codes series. Meanwhile, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is expected to publish the NFPA Building Code (NFPA 5000) in August and ramp up efforts to have this competing code series adopted. The NFPA 5000 is a direct challenge to the ICC International Building Code, as are the plumbing and mechanical codes developed by NFPA’s partners, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). Expect to see NFPA and IAPMO make a maximum effort to try to halt adoption of the ICC codes wherever possible and get widespread state and local adoption of their codes.
• Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The long-awaited final rule outlining changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) from the U.S. Access Board is anticipated in late spring 2002. This is the first major revision of the rules in a decade and will spark a renewed focus on accessibility in second-half 2002.
• Security. The wide array of security issues that have arisen are a direct result of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and promise to percolate at all levels of government and within the codes arena. Already, the U.S. Congress is addressing energy security and many states are following suit with proposals of their own. Expect security issues to continue to top the agenda in Washington, D.C. in 2002.
• Terrorism Risk Insurance. In late November 2001, the House passed legislation (H.R. 3210) that would provide federal coverage for property and casualty losses that result from terrorist actions. H.R. 3210 would provide this federal backstop over the next three years in order to avert the economic damage that is likely to result if commercial insurers drop terrorism coverage from their policies. At press time, it was unclear if the Senate would pass a bill prior to adjournment. If not, action is expected to resume in early 2002.
Be part of the team! BOMA International will continue to aggressively advocate on these issues on your behalf, but needs assistance from the commercial real estate industry to voice its views and concerns to policy makers. Join BOMA’s grassroots team – REACT – and help your industry by making your voice heard. For more information, contact BOMA’s advocacy team at (202) 326-6365. For other general legislation and industry issues, visit BOMA’s website (www.boma.org).