Again this year, the CAI-MN Legislative Action Committee (LAC) was hard at work at the Minnesota State Capitol lobbying on behalf of the interests of the roughly one-fifth of Minnesotans who live in common interest communities. This year’s legislative session was another busy one, with many bills affecting our industry. The LAC worked hard to track all bills that pertain to common interest communities and issued position statements, met with lawmakers and other interested parties, and testified at hearings in the House of Representatives. Following is a recap of the LAC’s work over the 2012 legislative session.
Before the session had even begun, the LAC was working on fundraising efforts in order to retain Lobbyist Bill Amberg of Ewald Consulting. Because of the influx of proposed legislation affecting our industry in the past few years, it became apparent that the support of a professional lobbyist would be necessary to increase CAI’s presence on the hill and keep tabs on bills coming down the pike. LAC members sent out letters to board members at community associations they manage asking for their support in our legislative efforts. The LAC set a goal of raising $7,000 to help fund the lobbyist’s contract. With funding coming from CAI advocacy support fees, the Minnesota chapter of CAI, homeowners’ associations, association management companies and a one-time grant from CAI National, we were able to surpass that goal and sign Bill Amberg on part-time.
With our lobbyist in place, we got to work at the Capitol, meeting with legislators in the House and Senate to let them know who we are and what CAI does. Our main goal was to increase visibility among lawmakers so they would know that CAI is the foremost authority on community associations and to educate legislators and their staffs on association issues, answer any questions they have and offer guidance on policy matters that affect our industry. LAC members met with several legislators prior to session beginning including Representatives John Lesch, Sheldon Johnson, Torrey Westrum and Joe Atkins and Senator Warren Limmer. We also attended an informal hearing with the House Civil Law Committee regarding HF 1254, the so-called "flag-pole bill” that we began working on last year, and had a lengthy discussion with the author of the House file, Kurt Bills, regarding CAI’s opposition to the bill and our concerns regarding its consequences.
HF1254, and its companion, SF 926, was introduced in spring of 2011 and had several provisions, each of which was damaging to community associations’ ability to govern themselves and serve their members. The bill had been tabled in the House Civil Law Committee in May 2011, but was expected to reappear early this session. In its revised form, the bill sought to revoke a community association’s authority to enforce rules and regulations within the association as they may pertain to the installation of flagpoles and political signs in areas where a homeowner has exclusive use. More devastating yet, the bill also would have removed the association’s ability to foreclose a lien on a property for fines for rule violations. This would have severely diminished an association’s ability to enforce the association’s governing documents, even though each owner in an association voluntarily agreed to abide by them at the time of purchase. After much work, including an impressive grassroots effort by CAI members to contact committee members regarding their opposition, the bill was referred without recommendation from the House Civil Law Committee by Representative Mary Liz Holberg to the House Commerce Committee, where it died due to a lack of hearing.
In January we learned of a proposed amendment to MN Statute 515B (MCIOA) that would have made it more difficult for an association to commence litigation for construction defect claims. A position paper outlining our concerns with the proposed language was forwarded to the party proposing the changes and we were able to avert the bill from moving forward at its early stages.
Utility shut-off: The LAC is still working to pass legislation that would provide notice of a pending utility shut-off to an association so that heat could be maintained in a vacant unit to prevent frozen and burst pipes and the water damage that they cause. We learned of a proposal to set up a call center for utility shut-off notifications to banks that are foreclosing their mortgages. LAC member Dea Price sat on a work group on the issue and worked with Senator Bakk trying to get language included that would provide notice to CICs. The bill did not make the hearing deadline in the House this year, but we will be working in the interim on getting language for CICs added and hope to have a bill reintroduced next session.
Late in the session we learned of SF2137, which was a bill on weather related insurance claims practices regulation. The LAC had a number of concerns with the bill and went to work trying to get language removed from the bill that would have prevented contractors from negotiating on behalf of homeowners in insurance claims. The bill was passed as amended, with the removal of provisions of the bill that were of concern.
Each year, the Minnesota Revisor of Statutes drafts a bill to correct erroneous, ambiguous, and omitted text and obsolete references, to remove redundant, conflicting, and superseded provisions, and to make miscellaneous corrections to laws, statutes, and rules. The 2012 Revisor’s Bill, enacted as 2012 Minnesota Session Laws Chapter 187, makes several corrections to MCIOA. Most of the changes are technical in nature and are beyond the scope of this article. However, the 2012 Revisor’s Bill makes one significant change that applies to all condominiums, cooperatives and planned communities created under MCIOA on or after August 1, 2010. The 2011 amendment to MCIOA inadvertently changed Section 515B.1-102 (Applicability) to provide that Section 515B.3-116 (Lien for Assessments) applies only to common interest communities created before August 1, 2010. The 2012 Revisor’s Bill amends Section 515B.1-102 to remove this limitation. Thus, all common interest communities that are subject to MCIOA will have a statutory lien for assessments under Section 515B.3-116.
The LAC is keeping an eye on an issue known as the Cooperative Act, which seeks to carve cooperatives out of MCIOA by creating a new statute to govern them. The statute would apply to new residential cooperatives, and existing cooperatives could opt-in if they chose. HF2955 and SF2543 did not pass this year, but we expect similar bills to reappear next year and will be tracking them.
We also expect solar panel and other energy-related bills to be a big issue in upcoming sessions and will be monitoring for activity on these issues as well.
As you can see, the LAC was very busy this session watching out for potential legislation that affects our industry. We will continue to work hard between sessions by building relationships with lawmakers and looking out for future bills of interest and/or concern. Please keep watching for action alerts that will be sent out as needed as new issues arise. Thank you for your past and continued support!
Questions? Contact Dea Price, firstname.lastname@example.org, 952-224-2666
Thanks to the Legislative Action Committee volunteers who have dedicated resources toward these legislative accomplishments:
John K. Bouquet, Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC
Walt Burris, BEI Exterior Maintenance Corp.
Joseph Crawford, Crawford Management, Inc.
John R. Dorgan, Dorgan Law Office
Michael Klemm, Dougherty, Molenda, Solfest, Hills & Bauer P.A.
Gregory Pettersen, Reserve Data Analysis
Dea Price, New Concepts Management Group, Inc.
Charles Schneider, Community Development Inc.
Cheryl Selinsky, Woodbridge Townhouse Association
Gene Sullivan, New Concepts Management Group, Inc.