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The BOMA winter business meeting happens in DC every other year and offers an opportunity to review critical legislative issues and communicate the concerns of commercial real estate to Congress. Essentially BOMA members get to speak directly to our elected officials. This post contains photos and observations from the BOMA International Winter Business meeting 2016.
Our first stop was the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. Senator Feinstein has served California in this role since 1992 and formerly served for nine years as a San Francisco County Supervisor. She became mayor of San Francisco in 1978 following the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
Upon entering the meeting room, our BOMA group was greeted by the Senator’s staffers and sat down at a long wooden table to await the presence of Senator Feinstein. The air was a little tense and you could feel the electricity of excitement in the room.
The door opened and the Senator took control of the room. As she individually greeted our BOMA contingent, she handed out coins and told us what she would like to drink. It is a military tradition to hand out a signature coin as a token to new acquaintances whom then, the next time they see you, are indebted to buy you a drink. The next time I see Senator Feinstein, I owe her a cosmopolitan.
After exchanging the pleasantries of meeting an elected official, Ken Cleaveland of BOMA San Francisco, got down to business.
There were three items in which BOMA California was tasked with bringing to the attention of our representatives. The list below is an overview of the issues important to the owners and managers of commercial real estate from California:
1) A request for the Senator’s support of a 15 year sprinkler retrofit depreciation allowance (HR 3591/S 2068). This would incentivize building owners to install automatic sprinkler systems in older properties and create thousands of jobs in the construction industry while providing greater safety to the public.
2) A request to reform the 179d energy tax credit program to make it more flexible and useful to California property owners. Currently the energy tax credit isn’t helpful to California building owners because our own Title 24 energy code requirements have elevated our energy efficiency upgrades to the point that a 50% increase in energy efficiency is an impossible threshold to meet in all but the rarest circumstances. The energy tax credit needs to be flexible and graduated so that all energy efficiency upgrades are rewarded with an appropriate tax incentive.
3) Our request that the Senator look into introducing legislation that would address the continuing issue of “drive by” ADA lawsuits. As was pointed out at our meeting, the opportunistic lawyers who are filing these lawsuits are no longer filing in state court, but are filing directly in Federal court, bypassing the process established under state law for proper notification and verification of the accessibility barrier and allowing the defendant a certain amount of time to “cure” the problem. The Senator has been a rational voice on this issue for many years. We look to her to help create legislation that would reduce the legal costs involved in these cases and allow those funds to be better used toward removing barriers for the disabled. There are two bills currently in the House that address this issue, and which have bipartisan support. (HR 3765, HR 241)
The Senator’s staff took notes and asked our contingent to follow up with information regarding the “drive by” ADA lawsuits that are being filed directly in Federal court and assured us that they will look into our other concerns. As the meeting wrapped up, Ken Cleaveland thanked the Senator and her staff for their time, and our California BOMA group was on to the next meeting with more elected officials.
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