Dear Apartment Industry Colleagues,
The shutdown is over, the debt limit was extended another three months and Congress is returning to business as usual. Right now, “usual” means another round of negotiations to find a deal addressing the federal government’s budget and fiscal challenges and avoid another situation such as what occurred in October. This was mandated by the agreement made to reopen the government and extend the debt limit, but expectations are not high for the success of this newest effort at a “grand bargain.” Working in our favor is the continuing specter of sequestration that looms large and will land on the federal budget – especially the defense budget – with both feet in January absent Congressional action. No one wants to see that happen and the best way out is a negotiated deal.
“Yeah, about that…”
In history there are phrases that come from the mouths of Presidents that become embedded in our minds. You might remember, “There you go again,” used effectively by Ronald Reagan in Presidential debates with Walter Mondale. Or, the infamous “Read my lips: no new taxes,” that helped derail the re-election campaign of George H.W. Bush. And finally, “It depends on what your definition of “is” is,” delivered by Bill Clinton during his Monica Lewinsky deposition. President Obama may have made his own contribution to the Presidential lexicon (and not even known it) when he said back in June 2009 in regards to the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If youlike your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period.”
It turns out that is not entirely true as reportedly more than two million Americans are finding out now that their current insurance plans will be discontinued because they do not meet the minimum standards required under the ACA. Whether it’s a good thing to have higher standards for health care is irrelevant. One of the law’s major selling points was that while there would be a mandate (or tax according to the U.S. Supreme Court) for all individuals to have insurance, no one would be forced to leave a plan they liked. I would look for more Congressional hearings in the near future on this issue as the law’s opponents continue to shine a bright light on its shortcomings.
“It [is] the best of times. It [is] the worst of times.”
This is a month of highs and lows for the Republican brand in America. On the low side, the party lost in its bid to win the Governor’s mansion in the Commonwealth of Virginia as ultra-conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was defeated by long-time political operative Terry McAuliffe. Virginia is a swing state and many political observers felt that Republicans could have won with the right candidate, especially against someone like McAuliffe. At least in Virginia, the most aggressively conservative aspirant in the field is not always the right choice when the GOP picks its candidate.
The high came from the Garden State where Governor Chris Christie was re-elected by a monster margin becoming the first Republican statewide candidate to win more than 50 percent of the vote since 1988. The Christie victory certainly illustrates that Republicans can win in otherwise blue states (or at least in New Jersey), despite being conservative. The Governor’s no-nonsense approach, accessibility and public perception as a bipartisan leader have worked well for him. It is reminiscent of George W. Bush who was also a very popular governor, also had a reputation as being bipartisan and was incredible one-on-one. In two years we will see if Governor Christie will be as successful as the former President in using those attributes to win the White House.
The broader point from these two campaigns is that they illustrate the struggle between the two halves of the GOP. The two candidates are actually closer in substance then they might appear, but their style and strategy could not be more different. The Cuccinelli model tends to win more primary votes while the Christie model is likely to play better in the general election. Deciding which model to adopt is what faces the GOP in 2016.
“It’s March Madness baby!”
No, I am not getting on the college basketball bandwagon early. I am, however, getting fired up about the next NAA Capitol Conference! We are a mere four and a half months away from the 2014 Conference and it’s time for you to start planning. The conference takes place from March 9 to 12 in Washington, D.C., and is the one time each year that the apartment industry gathers together to lobby Congress on behalf of owners, operators and developers of rental housing. If you’re looking for one good reason to go, I’ll give you two:
1. If you don’t educate Congress on what to do when it comes to issues impacting the apartment industry, they might make the wrong choice. That would be bad. Come to the Capitol Conference and help Congress make good choices.
2. You might know a lot about advocacy, but we can help you know more. The Capitol Conference schedule is packed with educational sessions, expert speakers on policy and politics, a briefing on the issues for Lobby Day and more. Come to the Capitol Conference and get smarter.
Helping Congress make good choices and getting smarter. Great reasons to come to the Capitol Conference! Registration is now open (as of Nov. 8) and available at http://capitol-naa.naahq.org/ along with highlights of the Conference program. More information is coming soon. Be a part of the team from your community and state to make the apartment industry’s voice heard!
That is it for this month. As always, send me a note with questions, quips or disquiet about what I have written here at email@example.com. Thanks!
To enter the Sweepstakes, Like our Facebook Page and then look for the Sweepstakes tab (image shown below) located on our Facebook Page to enter. Sweepstakes ends December 31, 2013.
For mobile users ONLY, like our Facebook Page, and then click here to enter!
Apartment Industry Advocates,
As I write these words the clock is ticking down to the first shutdown of the federal government in 17 years. House Republicans want to defund, delay or otherwise defang the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in exchange for extending funding for the federal government through December 15th. Senate Democrats and the White House refuse to consider any legislation that touches the ACA. If neither side relents, the government will shut down.
The inevitable blame game is in full swing. All of the usual media suspects are releasing polls showing who will face the greater public wrath – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or Republicans in the House of Representatives. So far, it appears the President has the advantage as polling indicates that the GOP will shoulder most of the blame for a shutdown and any economic fallout that results. All of this depends on the length and depth of the shutdown as well as its impact on individuals and families (especially those who make the evening news).
Ultimately, this fight is a warm up for this fall’s main economic policy event – the debt limit increase. As of October 17, the United States will hit its borrowing limit and the Congress will have to authorize additional borrowing authority. That authorization is where House Republicans feel they have leverage over the President to make a deal on other policy priorities. Thus far, their list is topped with a one-year delay of the ACA. It also includes approval of the Keystone Pipeline, rescission of new EPA rules on construction of new coal-fired power plants and a number of other items. I will resist the temptation to use a “kitchen sink” metaphor at this moment.
The Administration maintains that it will not negotiate on increasing the debt limit while House Republicans assert that if the President wants the increase, he will have to negotiate with them. Who wins on this one has much to do with what happens with the government shutdown debate. If the shutdown goes badly for the Republicans, their position in the debt limit fight could be severely weakened.
Thinking big picture for a moment, GOP leaders need to tread carefully so as not to endanger their hold on the House of Representatives overall. Economists of every philosophical stripe, Wall Street analysts, academics, and my neighbor who day-trades in his pajamas agree that a default on the debt would have immediate and lasting negative impacts on our economy. The 2014 mid-term elections are only 13 months away. Presently, the Democrats have a pretty slim chance of retaking the House while Republicans have a decent shot at taking back the Senate. If the GOP indeed takes the blame for fallout from a government shutdown or default on the debt, the odds could turn against them.
Based on everything above you might think that it’s all blue skies and roses for the President. As it turns out, frayed intra-party relationships are not the sole purview of the GOP. Congressional Democrats have complained for some time about the lack of a relationship with the President. So far, that has not translated into actual policy losses. However, within the past month the President has been turned down by his own party on two major requests. It certainly could be read as an end to the nearly automatic support from a large majority of House and Senate Democrats.
First, the President asked Capitol Hill to back his plan to attack Syria and enforce his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons. House and Senate Democrats rebuffed him. This put the President in a position of abiding by Congressional opposition and being viewed as weak on the national stage or ignoring the Congress and executing the strike anyway. That is a move fraught with all sorts of danger.
The second instance was during the process of selecting a nominee to replace Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The President floated a trial balloon for Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary and past Chairman of the President’s National Council of Economic Advisors. Janet Yellen, Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, was also a potential candidate although it was well known that Summers was the President’s first choice. This time a small group of progressive Senate Democrats pushed back and ultimately, Summers withdrew his name, leaving Yellen as the President’s likely nominee.
Is this just another bump in the rocky road of the Administration’s relationship with Capitol Hill or something deeper? Time will tell, however, it does seem to indicate that the power of the office and the role as leader of the Democratic Party are not enough anymore to ensure the President gets what he wants out of Democrats in Congress. For someone who does not focus too much time building relationships with members of either party in Congress, this could have big implications for the President’s last three years in office.
The apartment industry has a significant stack of policy issues at play in the remaining 15 months of the 113th Congress. Immigration, housing finance, tax reform and energy issues all are in play. The outlook for these and many other legislative initiatives will depend greatly on what happens with the twin fiscal fights of the federal government’s budget and the debt limit. Here’s hoping that a resolution in both cases is swift and definitive so we can move on.
That’s it for now. As usual, tell me what you think of these scribblings by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk to you next month.
By Greg Brown, NAA Legislative Affairs
Apartment Industry Colleagues,
The August Congressional recess is coming, which means it’s time for everyone to make their annual call to their members of Congress to schedule some time to talk about issues impacting the apartment industry. Each year we do these meetings on the home turf of our Representatives and Senators to impress upon them that what they do in Washington impacts apartment owners and operators, which impacts their communities and their constituents. We do this to ensure that when it comes time to make the big decisions, they remember us and act accordingly.
This August the issue under discussion is immigration reform. While seemingly a 100,000-foot-level project, it will have very specific impacts on apartment owners, operators and developers of all sizes and shapes. Action on immigration reform has already taken place in the Senate while the House of Representatives is still working on its version of reform legislation. While the House may not complete its work before the August recess, we will at least have a good sense of the direction in which they are headed. Your federal legislative team in Washington has been working throughout the legislative process to educate members of Congress on our priorities for immigration reform. In August, as it is in every year, the focus shifts to you to communicate the concerns and desired outcomes of the apartment industry for immigration reform to the Congress in constituent terms.
On a strong vote of 68 to 32, the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” legislation passed the Senate at the end of June. The bill doubles that the number of border patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border to almost 40,000 and commits nearly $50 billion to a host of new border security measures, including surveillance towers, cameras, drones, helicopters and other technologies to track individuals entering and exiting the country. Further, the legislation reforms the legal immigration system and creates path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently in the U.S. Finally, the bill implements mandatory use of the “e-verify” system for employers with a four-year phase-in period, requiring photo-matching be done for non-citizens.
The Senate compromise bill cleared the upper House of Congress without any poison pill amendments that could further endanger negotiations with the House Republicans on a final bill. I say “further endanger” because the two Houses start from a place of significant difference on the goals and strategies for reform of the nation’s immigration system. The depth and breadth of those differences will become clearer in the next 30 days as the House legislation takes shape.
From the apartment industry’s perspective, border security is very important as is establishing a clear path to citizenship. Additionally, limitations on the number of workers in the construction trades that are allowed into the country are of great concern to us. According to research from the University of Utah, more than half of all new households in the next decade will be renter households. That means we will need to build a lot of new apartment units; estimated at 300,000 per year, minimum. If there are not enough workers available to meet this demand, we will be hampered in meeting this demand and the nation will not have the number of apartment units it requires.
Having a reliable system for verifying the immigrant status of prospective employees is also a significant concern for apartment industry members. The “e-verify” program established at the federal level to perform this function has not always been reliable. Any proposals that mandate or otherwise require the use of e-verify must also include assurances that this system will function as advertised and that employers will not bear the fault for inaccurate responses.
Information on setting up and executing your meetings plus background and talking points on immigration reform is available at www.naahq.org/governmentaffairs. There is a narrow but open window for Congress to get something done this year. The only thing standing in the way is the Congress itself and the unyielding positions of some on both sides of the debate. That window of opportunity could remain open for compromises on other critical issues – tax reform, the debt limit, GSE reform – depending on how the immigration reform negotiating process plays out.
As always, please keep us apprised of any meetings you set up for the August recess. You can email details on any meetings to Katelin McCrory at Katelin@naahq.org. Also, please take a photo of your group with the Representative or Senator so we can share and promote your meetings with all NAA members.
That’s all for now. Talk to you next month.
Supreme Court to Hear Housing Discrimination Case
Digested From “Supreme Court to Hear Housing Discrimination Case”
Los Angeles Times (06/18/13) Savage, David G.
On Monday, the Supreme Court opted to take up a politically volatile housing discrimination issue that the White House had gone to great lengths to keep away from the court. The justices voted in favor of hearing a New Jersey city’s appeal arguing it could not be held liable for housing discrimination in redeveloping a depressed area of town and reducing the number of homes that are available to Latinos and African Americans in the process. The core issue is whether the Fair Housing Act forbids actions by cities or mortgage lenders that end up having a “discriminatory effect” on minorities. This will be a first for the Supreme Court, as it has never ruled on whether the Fair Housing Act extends to discrimination claims where there may be no proven intent to discriminate, but rather a statistically demonstrated “discriminatory effect” or “disparate impact.”
More High Density Apartments Coming to California Market
Digested From “More High Density Apartment Complexes Coming to Pleasanton”
Pleasanton Weekly (06/06/13) Bling, Jeb
Pleasanton, Calif., continues to see its local apartment sector thrive. St. Anton Partners is close to receiving final approval from the Pleasanton Planning Commission to build a 168-unit apartment community there. The City Council has already approved the project. However, the California-based multifamily development and investment firm is also seeking a development pact that will “memorialize” some of the commitments St. Anton has made in return for a longer expiration date on the project approval. St. Anton Partners’ apartment community is the third in a string of high-density apartment developments approved by council members, with two similar proposals on track to follow shortly. In 2012, the council approved a BRE Properties proposal for high-density apartment communities with 498–units all in the Hacienda Business Park. The developer is expected to break ground on those rental units by the end of this summer. Earlier this Spring, the council gave the green light to a new multi-story, high-density apartment community and adjoining retail center for a section of California Center. The project will include a total of five residential buildings containing 305 studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments.
By Linda T. Hollenbeck, Esq.
In March, 2013 the Los Angeles Courts consolidated twenty plus local branch courts into five “Hub” Courts. Effective March 18, 2013, Downtown Los Angeles, Lancaster, Long Beach, Pasadena, and Santa Monica Courts will be the only courts taking Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) filings, including all motions/money judgments/trials, etc. Effective on June, 14, 2013, reductions in state financial support for the California judicial branch force the Court to eliminate 511 budgeted positions. As a result, 539 Los Angeles Superior Court employees will be affected, including 177 employees who will be laid off.
These changes are wreaking havoc on the UD Court process. Most of the courts have changed their policy to allow only three filings at one-time. If a Court Runner has more than three cases to file, they must return to the end of the line and wait to process any additional cases, in an effort not to exceed the new policy implemented. The Downtown Los Angeles Courthouse has limited this to two filings.
The lawsuits have already begun. There are claims that due process is not being provided to Unlawful Detainer tenants, as they are being shut out of the court process by not being able to get to a Courthouse. All of the UD Courts in the San Fernando Valley are gone. Cases that use to be filed in Santa Clarita, Chatsworth and/or Van Nuys are now being filed in Pasadena and/or Santa Monica. There is no more court access in the Valley.
Some of the immediate changes affecting the UD process are as follows:
In Pasadena, we were informed of the following: when a Defendant files a motion, generally a Demurrer/Motion to Strike, they would try to waste time by setting the motion out thirty (30) days or more. While the motion is pending, we cannot take any action to move the case forward. In order to speed the cases along, we would file an Ex Parte motion to ‘shorten time’ to have the motion advanced to the date of the Ex Parte, thus saving anywhere from three to six weeks. We were informed recently that the Pasadena Courthouse will no longer allow us to file those Ex Parte motions. If we file them, they will be denied. The Courts are saying they just don’t have time to process these extra motions. I think once defendants and the tenants’ rights groups catch wind of this, they will be filing them on every case they have, setting the motions as far out as possible. I have not heard this particular issue yet from the other courthouses, but I imagine they are not far behind.
In the Downtown Los Angeles Courthouse, they have laid off the ‘money judgment’ clerk as well as all ‘law clerks’. The ‘money judgment’ person processed the post possession default cases for money only. I’m not sure yet what this means, other than indefinite delays in an already slow process. The law clerks were the people that processed the ‘noticed motions’ as well as the ‘ex parte motions’. This will leave it up to the Judges to read and research their own motions. This court is down to two lines for the court runners and public to use for filing cases. For default filings, there is now a line for ‘drop offs’. Where in the past, a court runner could just hand drop-offs to the clerk and take-off. Now they must wait in a line to do this, and this line is separate from the new case/motion filing lines.
The Long Beach Court is no different. The lines circle the building in the morning (with the addition of 8 courts). Most courtrooms do not begin their morning calendar until approximately 10:00 a.m., waiting for everyone to gain entry into the courthouse, thus making a formerly quick morning, into an all morning ordeal.
In both Downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach (and probably other Courts), when a ‘default’ clerk goes on vacation, there is no one to fill in for that person. That means that if you file a default on a day that there is only one clerk, while the other is on a two-week vacation, your default paperwork will just sit on that desk until that clerk comes back. When the clerk does come back, not only will they have their current work to contend with, but they will have two weeks of backlogged work to catch up on. A process that might have taken 4-6 weeks, may very well take 6-10 weeks to obtain a lockout on a ‘defaulting’ case.
Santa Monica Court – the line is usually long. It takes approximately over an hour to get to the front of the line. If you have more than three claims to file, you have to get to the back of the line. If new cases are dropped off, it can take up to four days to get your complaint back with a case number.
By Rich Singleton
Santa Monica Rent Control Board approved a rent increase of 1%, the lowest in 30 years, and is exercising for the first time the new formula to calculate the annual general adjustment.
Under the new formula, approved by Santa Monica voters last November, the amount of the annual general adjustment will be based upon 75% of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The new process also allows the Board to impose a dollar amount cap on the monthly rent increase.
Housing providers may now increase their tenants’ rent effective on September 1, 2013. As a reminder, you must give your tenants at least thirty (30) days written notice of the increase. These forms will be available and at your local AAGLA office.
Previously, at its May meeting, the Rent Control Board held a public hearing where it considered increasing the annual Registration Fee by 15% to $180 per unit. The Registration Fee was last increased to $156 per year in 2006.
The Registration Fee is intended to cover the Board’s operating expenses, and the Board claimed this increase was necessary to cover the Board’s projected operational deficit, which happens to be the $529,000 in annual retirement contributions and obligations the Board faces.
The Board’s own staff report showed the agency’s workload has decreased significantly, and that its staff has been reduced from 50 in 1995 to 25 at present. The Board’s proposed annual operating budget is $4,620,000, with nearly 86% of that, or $3,970,000, going toward salaries, wages and retirement contributions.
For the past 30 years, the Registration Fee was required to be paid in advance by housing providers, who can then pass through the fee at $13 per month and could recover 100% of the Fee from renters over a 12-month period.
However, as part of the discussion to increase the Registration Fee, the Board was now considering forcing the housing provider to pay a part of the Registration Fee, reasoning that other cities only allow housing providers to collect a small portion of the fee.
And perhaps the most laughable argument for forcing the housing provider to pay a portion of the Fee was the Board’s claim that housing providers benefit from rent control and should pay for it.
At that May Rent Control Board meeting, representatives from AAGLA expressed disappointment and outrage regarding the amount of the rent increase, as well as the proposed Registration Fee increase and plan to make the property owner pay some of it.
AAGLA representatives reminded the Board the purpose of the new formula was to calculate the annual increase and reduce staff time spent on the increase process, in an effort to save paying outside consultants to review and analyze data.
In addition, we pointed out the minimal 1% rent increase would actually be wiped out if the Board decides to make property owners pay a portion of the Registration Fee, and that forcing housing providers to pay a portion of the registration “tax” would possibly violate the provisions of Proposition 13.
When the Board met again in June to consider increasing the Registration Fee and forcing housing providers to pay a portion of it, and also whether it should impose a dollar ceiling or cap on this year’s rent increase, AAGLA representatives also appeared to speak against these issues.
The Board was considering a ceiling, or maximum increase of $17 per month for the upcoming general rent adjustment, which would only have applied to units renting for $1,650 or more.
Those units typically are occupied by renters who would most likely be able to afford the 1% increase.
During the public hearing, an AAGLA representative stated that the 1% increase failed to even consider significant increases in costs experienced by housing providers, including increased water rates and fire inspection fees, to name a few.
That argument persuaded the Board to not impose a ceiling or cap on the rent increase, but the Board said it would reserve the right to implement a ceiling or cap in the future, noting that in 19 out of the past 23 years a ceiling or a minimum rent increase – or both – had been approved.
With respect to the proposal to increase the rent control Registration Fee, the most controversial aspect was the proposal to redistribute the Registration Fee between housing providers and renters, where in the past the Registration Fee has been passed through 100% to renters.
There was at times heated discussion during the public hearing about the need for an increase in the Registration Fee and, in particularly, whether a portion of it should be redistributed to housing providers.
One AAGLA representative pointed out that the combination of the low 1% annual rent increase, along with the burden of having to pay part of the Registration Fee, would fail to provide housing providers with the lawful fair rate of return they are guaranteed.
He went on to give examples of large increases in water rates, that in some cases had increased by up to 48%, with City Fire Inspection fees for some having increased by 104%, while others have even seen increases of 323%.
And he reminded the Board that when housing providers’ expenses increase significantly and the Board only grants them a small increase, they have to tighten their belts, while the Board refuses to do the same thing.
In the end, the Board approved a Registration Fee increase from $156 to $174.96 per year – or $1.58 per month – with $156 of it being passed through to renters at $13 per month, and housing providers being levied $18.96 per year, or $1.58 per month.
By Steve Carlson & Tim Coyle, Sacramento Lobbyists
What They Didn’t Tell You in Civics Class
It’s likely that few people know much of Otto Von Bismarck, but most of them who follow politics are probably familiar with the most famous of his many quotations: “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” Similarly, it’s all but certain that everyone has at least heard of the great Greek philosopher Aristotle. But, it’s less likely they’re aware that it was he, more than three centuries before Christ was born, who said “While everything changes, everything remains the same…”
Better than two thousand years separated the lives of these historic figures. And, while their respective imprints on world history are indelible, their observations of human behavior are equally timeless – they’re as telling today as they ever were. Exhibit A is the California state legislature in the year 2013 and a bill we care an awful lot about – AB 1229 by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).
AB 1229 would authorize local governments to require developers to discount rents on a certain number of apartments they intend to build as a condition of getting their projects approved. If the bill were to be enacted, local governments would no longer be obligated, as they are now under California law (the Costa-Hawkins Act of 1995), to work with rental housing developers to help make projects pencil out – offering concessions like increased densities or reduced fees and parking requirements.
It was only two years ago that AB 1229’s identical twin, then SB 184 (Leno), was soundly defeated largely thanks to the half-dozen or so Democrats who refused to vote for the bill. But with the profound political changes in Sacramento wrought by the election of 2012 – that delivered to both houses of the Legislature the super majorities that Democrats now enjoy – the sponsors of SB 184 decided their prospects for winning had significantly improved and, accordingly, would take another run at passing the previously vanquished bill.
That sound you hear is the faint echo of Aristotle musing about history repeating itself.
One can also hear in the distance the rattle of Von Bismarck’s sausage-making observation as the path that AB 1229 has been following is recounted. Indeed, Von Bismarck would have readily agreed that how AB 1229 ultimately passed the state Assembly this past Spring met his definition of lawmaking.
In remarking about the legislative process, Von Bismarck revealed the unsavory role of politics and the ingredients they require to produce success. Too bad our public schools don’t append their civics curricula to include a little Von Bismarck. Surely, students should know that it’s not all about differences over public policies. And, just think how much more enlightening the “How a bill is made” chart would be if by it students were instructed to follow the parallel path a sausage link takes as it is being created.
(Authors’ note: Von Bismarck’s infamous review about the similarities between lawmaking and pork delights appears to presume laws, like sausages, are somehow tasty. Our experience, however, is that rarely are laws made in Sacramento appetizing. Furthermore, while the implication of sausage-making is of how unappetizing pieces of a pig are used to grind out an appetizing final product, the story of how AB 1229 is progressing so far is less about exotic ingredients and more about machine operators, who overrode the fundamental mechanisms of lawmaking to squeeze out the particular product they desired.)
On the morning of May 30th of this year, the state Assembly decided to reject AB 1229. The bill fell well short of the number of votes it needed to pass. The prevailing view of the nearly half of the chamber’s lawmakers who voted against AB 1229 or otherwise refused to vote for it was that there was no need for the bill and that the potential harm it would do to rental housing was unacceptable. That’s before the sausage-making started.
Thanks to her position as the second-highest ranking Member of the Assembly, bill author Atkins by the afternoon had successfully transformed this otherwise failing public-policy change into a referendum on the body’s leadership. The sausage factory’s knobs had effectively been turned and previously right-minded lawmakers were consequently squeezed – hard enough so that the requisite number changed their NO votes into AYE votes, just enough to break the 41-vote barrier required for bills to pass.
This situation of manipulation prevails at the state Capitol and lobbyists have come to fear it most. There is an antidote to the problem, however. It’s grassroots advocacy. Because no matter how tightly the leaders of a legislative body turn the knobs to help them accomplish a preferred outcome, a lawmaker will rarely if ever vote against his local constituents, and leaders know it. That lawmaker just need to hear you.
Meanwhile, as long as politics survives (Reagan used to call it the second-oldest profession in the world) sausage-making at California’s Capitol will continue. Great philosophers of the past understood that – which is why individuals like Aristotle said it.
And, as we shake our heads and reflect on bills like AB 1229, we recall the words of another great philosopher, former New York Yankee steward Yogi Berra, who once said: “It feels like déjà vu all over again.”
By Woody Hill, Vice President , Employers
Rental property owners and operators, like most small businesses, usually wear many hats and lack the luxury of having a dedicated risk manager on staff. Therefore, it is easy for them to overlook a crucial aspect of running a successful business that can play a huge role in helping it thrive – workplace safety.
Strategic risk management and workplace safety play important roles in maximizing the performance of a small business. Not only does it protect a business’s most important asset – its employees – it can also result in real bottom line operational and cost benefits. There are many benefits to be gained by managing workplace safety risks strategically: workers’ compensation costs can decrease significantly, fewer overtime costs or economic sanctions may accrue, and productivity from your employees may increase. As businesses struggle to do more with less, these benefits are not trivial.
On the Job
Whenever property managers or other employees are on the job, whether they are dealing with issues reported by residents, showing units or making building repairs, they are exposed to many potential hazards that could present significant risks. For example, employees can slip, trip or fall while on the job due to wet spots, oil and/or grease, polished floors, loose flooring or carpeting, uneven walking surfaces, clutter and electrical cords. In fact, slips, trips and falls are among the leading causes of injuries and deaths in the United States according to the National Safety Council.
The severity of injuries is one of the primary factors that determine the cost of a workers’ compensation claim. These incidents can present businesses with serious financial burdens. For example, in 2008 and 2009 alone, the average workers’ compensation cost for a slip, trip or fall was $41,531. This exceeds the average cost of all other injuries by approximately 14%.1
What Property Managers Can Do
The following are simple, proactive measures property managers can take to implement an effective workplace safety program:
• Develop a culture of safety that starts at the top. Lead by example and encourage employees to make safety a priority.
• Encourage employees to point out hazardous situations to their supervisors. Empower supervisors to address potential hazards to prevent accidents from happening.
• Ensure all employees have a good understanding of the hazards in their workspace. Address potential issues during new employee orientation and reinforce safety policies throughout the year. Ensure employees receive proper training in the range of activities they may be expected to complete, whether making repairs or managing hostile behavior.
• To reduce the risk of injuries, ensure the correct tools and safety equipment are used for each job.
• Keep hallways and grounds clear of debris and immediately clean up spills and leaks.
• Use caution signs to warn employees and residents of slippery surfaces or work areas.
• Communicate with your insurance agent or workers’ compensation carrier and request ready-made safety materials. These materials often include resources like safety posters, payroll stuffers and even written safety policies.
Risk management and workplace safety are about establishing a culture in which employers actively care about employees and help them maintain a safe working environment. By focusing on injury and accident prevention, property managers can simultaneously keep their most important assets – their employees – safe and maximize long-term business performance.
1National Safety Council Injury Facts 2012 Edition.
Woody Hill is Vice President, Loss Control at EMPLOYERS®, America’s small business insurance specialist®. For more information, please contact Woody at email@example.com or visit www.employers.com.