Washington, D.C. – At BOMA International’s Winter Business Meeting (Jan. 11-14, 2004), BOMA’s Government Affairs Committee prioritized BOMA’s “Tier 1” issues and approved two new advocacy positions – setting the stage for BOMA to aggressively advance commercial real estate’s agenda before Congress, federal agencies, and code-making bodies.TransportationA new transportation policy was necessary due to the reauthorization of a major transportation bill that is under consideration. The roads and surface transportation legislation, known as TEA-21, was originally set to expire in September 2003. Congress decided to delay a full-blown debate and opted instead to extend it by five months. This means Congress will have to deal with transportation issues early this year before it once again expires.In the new policy, BOMA International, on behalf of America’s commercial building tenants, calls upon the federal government to enact a national transportation policy that ensures all citizens access to an adequate transportation infrastructure. As commercial real estate professionals, BOMA members have an interest in the ability of office building occupants to reach the workplace conveniently, safely, and in a timely manner. Transportation policies should promote quality of life and the quality of the community while ensuring the preservation of property values. The federal government must implement a transportation policy consistent with the following principles:The federal government must provide adequate funding for transportation programs and/or allow new ways of raising revenue to ensure our country’s infrastructure needs are met, and that existing highway systems are maintained.State and local governments should have the flexibility to meet the local transportation needs of their citizens.Congress and the state and local governments are encouraged to support public-/private-sector transportation improvement legislation and implementation initiatives.National programs to support infrastructure should be responsive to federal sprawl and air quality initiatives but should not preclude full funding to the states.Congress should not dictate land use patterns in funding transportation initiatives, but state and local governments are encouraged to better coordinate land use and transportation planning.Transportation legislation should provide for balanced funding of highways and transit to include alternative modes of transportation and commuting.The time it takes for environmental assessments should be reduced, without compromising the environment. BOMA International should partner with government and the private sector in efforts to educate the public and, in particular, office workers in the properties that BOMA members own and manage on the available transportation options.BOMA International encourages its members to develop and participate in “smart commuting” programs.Tort ReformTort reform is another issue that is in play early this session. BOMA International was asked by the Bush Administration to support this issue, when the Administration agreed to drop the tort reform language that was included in terrorism insurance legislation in an effort to pick up more support from the Democrats. Once the Administration agreed to accept separation of the two issues, the terrorism insurance legislation won passage, and stand-alone tort reform legislation was introduced early in 2003.While easily passing the House of Representatives, the tort reform legislation finally gained momentum in the Senate during the last few months of 2003. In the new tort reform policy, BOMA International, on behalf of commercial building owners, managers, and tenants, calls upon the federal government to enact a national tort reform policy. The viability of commercial real estate is directly linked to the profitability of its tenants. As businesses are hurt by excessive lawsuits, those who lease building space are forced to downsize space or default on leases. BOMA International calls upon the federal government to implement a policy that would discourage frivolous lawsuits without curbing corporate accountability or discouraging citizens from pursuing legitimate lawsuits. Such legislation should include:Moving class action lawsuits to federal courts if members of the class and the defendant are from different states.Limiting punitive damage awards.Ensuring the bulk of compensation for damages is passed on to victims instead of the attorneys.Settling ongoing legal issues by creating a compensation fund for settlement of asbestos-related claims. For more information on BOMA International’s advocacy issues, visit the BOMA website (www.boma.org).