Harrisburg association builds on legislative successes

By Kim Shindle | Feb. 16, 2011 | 3 min. read

This article is a feature about the new programs and initiatives started by local associations and boards across the Commonwealth. If your local association has a new or unique program that your members can’t get enough of, please contact Kim Shindle.

Responding quickly to local legislative issues is one of this year’s goals at the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors® (GHAR).

With 1,525 members, GHAR is working to build its issues mobilization funds so the association is able to respond to the 103 local municipalities in three counties, according to 2010 President James Spagnolo.

Located within the association is Harrisburg, the state capital, which has made national news as it fights to climb out from under millions in debt. “As we see local governments struggle to meet their budgets, we believe it’s important to have issues mobilization money so we can respond to protect private property rights,” Spagnolo said. “We see this as an ongoing challenge as local governments propose point-of-sale inspections, rental ordinances, transfer taxes and inspections with attached fees. We believe it’s key to build up reserves to react to these issues.”

GHAR’s Government Affairs Director Sherri Pursel said the association recently has used issues mobilization funding for two large issues facing local communities. The first was two point-of-sale ordinances, which would have required sewer lateral and sidewalk/curbing inspections, in the Borough of Camp Hill. “We did a year-long campaign on these issues,” she said. “We met with local leaders, held community meetings, sent mailings to consumers and held a petition drive to ask council to stop. Ultimately, the borough council tabled the issues.”

The second issue involved restrictions proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The agencies wanted to limit the total maximum daily load (TMDL) going into the Paxton Creek. “The proposed limits required cuts in the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen going into the creek, which would have affected farming, storm water runoff and new construction,” Pursel explained. “If they passed these limits, it would have stopped all commercial and residential development in Lower Paxton and Susquehanna townships and the City of Harrisburg.” The association joined a coalition with builders and local municipalities and provided issues mobilization funding to help fight the proposed limits.

Spagnolo said the unsung heroes in the association are the members who voluntarily spend their time following local legislative issues. “I’m amazed at how many people are involved. Our volunteers willingly follow issues, alert the association and speak out on the issues about how they may affect private property owners,” Spagnolo said. “It really shows how important grassroots involvement is to protecting our industry and consumers’ rights.”

GHAR Executive Vice President Kathy Ludwig echoed Spagnolo, adding, “The association is successful because we have so many members who enthusiastically step up and speak out when we have legislative issues.”

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