Elections, the Legislative Process and Multifamily Housing Highlight September General Meeting

On Thursday, September 13, 2018 nearly 100 members of the Columbus Apartment Association met at The Ohio State University 4-H Center for another quarterly General Membership Meeting.  This meeting focused on the upcoming Mid-Term Elections and the process of legislation and featured Ohio Apartment Association Lobbyist, Leah Pappas-Porner.

Prior to turning the podium over to Pappas-Porner, Laura Swanson welcomed everyone and moved through a few noteworthy items including recognizing Alexandria Welch of Edward Rose & Sons on recently receiving her Certified Apartment Manager credential from the National Apartment Association.

Following Swanson’s announcements Don Brunner, Vice President of Membership welcomed on first time members to the meeting.  Those in attendance were Treplus Communities, Signworks, Stoneman Enterprises, Red Energy, Denizen Management, CBRE, Brothers Pressure Washing, DD Water Restoration, SVN Wilson Commercial Group, The Union Bank and Day Companies.

CAA President David Holzer finished introductory announcements and welcomed Pappas-Porner to the podium for the Election and Legislative Process Update.  She began with a background about the advocacy her firm provides on behalf of the CAA and the OAA and thanked the members in attendance who have participated in legislative meetings with her.

Beginning with the Federal elections she outlined the forecast for Ohio’s 16 US House of Representative seats.  Particularly focusing on District 12, former Representative Pat Tiberi’s seat which recently held a Special Election to fill the seat in a tight contest between Danny O’Connor (D) and Troy Balderson (R).  With Balderson winning the Special Election they will have a rematch again with the General Election in November.  Pappas-Porner outlined how the growth of Columbus to the north into southern Delaware County is changing the scope of elections.

“There is this very competitive political environment between urban centers and rural environments.  As you get closer to the urban center, that inner ring suburb around major metropolitan cities have a very dynamic Republican versus Democrat atmosphere,” she said.  “For those of us that live in Columbus we’re at the epicenter of this national discussion.  This race is being nationally looked at and analyzed.”

Her second Congressional focus was on the First District near Cincinnati where incumbent Steve Chabot is facing an up and coming Democrat Aftab Pureval.  Noting like the earlier race is within the margin of error and is also being watched nationally.

Moving her focus from the US House races to the US Senate seat she discussed the importance of raising campaign funds stating that Senator Brown, the incumbent, has raised $23 Million to challenger Jim Renacci who has raised $6.2 Million.  She did state that polls indicate Brown has a lead over Renacci, however, polling is a science.

“I give you that number to show you just how much money it costs to run for the United States Senate and the magnitude of those races,” she stated.  “The US Senate races and the Governor’s races are usually the most expensive campaigns.”

From the Federal races she moved to the state level outlining the dynamics or the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.  Noting that 20 seats are term-limited in the House and that in the next General Assembly there will be 31 freshmen members in the Ohio House, most having no experience in the legislature.  In the Senate she explained that 10 of the 17 open seats will lose their incumbent due to term limits.

Continuing with Ohio races she moved to the statewide candidates, detailing the candidates for Governor first.  Pappas-Porner played a campaign video from Republican candidate Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray.

“Both of these candidates will be very well funded.  Both of these candidates are doing extremely well in fundraising. Why do I bring up fundraising?  Because it’s the business side of an election,” Pappas-Porner said. “They have both enjoyed the endorsements of many politically active interest groups.  They are competitive.  This race, if you look at the polls that have proven to be annually accurate, most pundits take them within the margin of error.  The margin of error in Ohio is four points.”

Pappas-Porner outlined how the environment in politics is changing.  There is no longer a guarantee of success if the top of the ticket, i.e. President or Governor Candidate is successful.  Individuals are a more informed voter and will vote for candidates instead of a straight ticket.

Moving from the gubernatorial race through the state races of Attorney General, Auditor and Supreme Court Pappas-Porner provided background on each candidate.   With Republicans holding the majority in the Ohio House and Senate and every statewide office and the Supreme Court Pappas-Porner feels this is an important year for Democrats.

Rounding out her election update she brought the room up to speed on the Franklin County Auditor’s race between Clarence Mingo and Michael Stinziano.  However, noting that 2019 will be a key year on the local level with Mayor Ginther’s term up and city council members running for re-election or other offices.

After running through the election the focus turned to the legislative process.

“If you don’t understand the legislative process, you can’t manipulate it,” Pappas-Porner said.  “And, I’m using the word manipulate.  Why? Because it’s the people’s house and you’re the people.  You have a right to be there, you have a right to have your voice heard, you have a right to have your business interests heard and you are the experts in your business.”

Beginning with a bill, which is an idea of a person for consideration then presenting a table of the number of bills introduced versus the number passed, generally under 20% for the past six General Assemblies.  A General Assembly is two-years and is made up of legislatures who come from a multitude of different backgrounds.

She noted that engagement in the process is crucial.   Each House district comprises 115,000 people and each Senate is comprised of 350,000.  It is important to be heard, the association is focused on representing a larger number of people allowing for better engagement.  That advocacy can lead to legislation being drafted on a grassroots level.

Outlining the process of legislation following introduction a bill is sent to a committee for hearing.  It is typically given three hearings before a vote in committee.  If it’s passed out of committee it is sent to that body’s floor for a vote.  If passed there, it goes to the other house for the same process.  The bill must pass both houses before being sent to the Governor for a signature.  Or, in Ohio the Governor can veto a bill.

Pappas-Porner again emphasized the need for relationships as 90% of the changes happen in the committee process.  Showing the need or necessity through those relationships and educating members on a business they’re unfamiliar with.

“It’s like a business, the more you relationship build with your customer the more successful your business enterprise will be,” she said.  “It’s the same thing with elected officials.  Meet with your legislator, education them on what’s important to you.  Tell them how you lose money, what costs your business money.  Legislators need to know at the local and state level.  You’re the expert, act like it.  Talk about what you know.  Stay involved in your association, your voice is stronger united.  Go to meetings and participate in legislative activities when the association asks. And, donate to your PAC.”

Following her presentation Pappas-Porner answered questions from the audience including a question about how many of the bills introduced impact the industry.  Estimating it’s approximately 50 – 60 bills that have a housing or related business issue.  But, that it’s important to also keep track of amendments in committees that may make a bill relevant to the industry.

The final question was regarding the bills that aren’t introduced that are the real victories, stating that is a true success.  Legislators tend to come to the General Assembly with passions and often tenant rights is a passion.  Finding the balance and the compromise is often the greatest accomplishment.

Swanson concluded by thanking everyone for coming and reminding them about the upcoming Reverse Raffle and Business Exchange events.