On the Hill

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 | posted by Mindy Knudsen 1:58 PM

Article by Michael Johnson, CMCA, AMS, PCAM; LAC Chair and CEO at FCS Community Management AAMC.

On Thursday, March 9th – the last day of the 2017 Utah General Legislative Session – I was in a Seattle meeting room fulfilling my responsibilities as a member of the CAI National Faculty. As I flew out to Seattle the evening prior, I thought about the thousands of volunteer hours contributed by members of the Utah LAC and other industry partners and friends, throughout the previous 45-day legislative session. I would venture to say, more time at the Capitol during the session, than any other time in the history of LAC.

My classroom of new community managers attending the Seattle M-100 course had barely finished introductions when I noticed SB154 move up the board as it awaited its turn for its hearing in the House (having already sailed through the Senate on March 1st). I had previously told the students we would be getting some practical training of property rights, governing documents and roles and responsibilities of association boards and owners, by viewing the live stream of the SB154 debate. (A side note to thank our state government for providing live audio of committee hearings and live video streaming of senate and house floor debates.)

But before I get to the end of the story, let me tell you how we got to March 9th (and this is an example of the process for most controversial bills) . . .

Back in 2015, yes 2015, Representative Lowry Snow, St. George, began communicating with LAC member (St. George attorney) Bruce Jenkins about a solar bill for community associations. Unfortunately, the understanding of what kind of bill Representative Snow would introduce in the 2016 general session, did not match with the bill (HB 451) that was eventually introduced. Through committee testimony from a handful of LAC members, the 2016 bill died a quick death in the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee. Our argument was simply the State of Utah should not interfere in the previously known contractual relationship provided in community associations through the CC&R’s. The committee agreed.

During 2016 there was casual conversation between the solar industry (as the bill is really more of a special interest bill than a property rights bill) and the community association industry. In May 2016, a solar town hall was held in the Salt Lake area and on November 2nd a solar town hall was held in St. George. The St. George event was very well attended and Representative Snow heard loud and clear from his constituents that they were not interested in the state government dictating solar policy that would override each community’s CC&R’s. As a result, Representative Snow dropped his sponsorship and Senator Fillmore (South Jordan) became the principle solar legislation sponsor.

Thank you Southern Utah for coming strong, with articulate and passionate objections to the bill – it made a difference!

Now let’s be honest, our objections to this bill were like my son’s third grade Bingham Youth Football team playing the Superbowl Champion New England Patriots. Solar access in community associations legislation was going to pass – the only question is what would it look like at the end. Our goal has always been to protect the previously agreed to contractual rights established by CC&R’s. Our objections have nothing to do with the solar industry.

If you look at only the end result, it looks like we lost but if you look at all the events leading up to the final vote, we had many victories:

  1. Southern Utah constituents coming out in force and forcing Representative Snow to drop sponsorship – WIN;
  2. Amending the original bill language to remove applicability to attached townhomes (and any association maintained roofs whether attached or not) – WIN;
  3. Stretching out the final debate until the last day of the 2017 legislature – WIN;
  4. The House of Representatives passionately debating all sides of the bill for an incredible 45 minutes on the last day of the 2017 legislature – WIN;
  5. Increasing our database of email addresses from less than 300 to over 30,000 – WIN; and
  6. Increasing the legislature’s knowledge of our industry, our principles and our industry’s voice represented by the Utah LAC – WIN!

 

Take 45 minutes and do what myself and my Seattle M-100 class did on March 9th, and watch the Utah House of Representatives debate the Solar Access bill – http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=21569&meta_id=694727 (doesn’t work in Chrome). While you may be disappointed in some of the absolute untruths told and believed by some misinformed representatives, in the end I hope you are like me, and take pride in having given every possible last ounce of effort in championing your cause and being an active participate in democracy.

 

I hope you enjoy this Legislative Issue of Utah Community Living and thanks to all those who contributed summaries of this year’s association-related bills.

 

We are actively working to enlarge our “tent” to obtain your comments, thoughts, ideas, concerns, questions and/or interests in current and future association-related legislation. Town Halls have been held in the past month in St. George and the Salt Lake area. If you were not able to attend and would like to share any of the above with us, please email me directly at michael.johnson@hoaliving.com. 

 



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