Friday, May 6, 2011

ACOW President's Report

First, I want to state how honored I am to be the 2011 ACOW President. As many may know, San Sidor, MAI had to step down unexpectedly in late 2010 and I was fortunate enough to be considered to try and follow enormous footprints; in both Jim Irish, SRA and Stan! ACOW has been an official organization now since 1996; ACOW is one of the oldest state appraiser coalitions in the country. The foundation that has been put in place by all of those who have served ACOW is various capacities over the years bodes well for all of us today.

Over the past six months, I have had the privilege to travel across the state and speak to several groups of appraisers about ACOW and legislative issues impacting Washington State appraisal professionals; the back and forth in-a-day trips to Eastern Washington have yet to get old. I was surprised recently when I went to speak of a group of appraisers and one individual, a long-time ACOW supporter, handed me a $500 check as a donation to keep ACOW viable. It was after a long day and the second of two presentations and to have people hand you money showing that they support and believe in what you are trying to do is truly a very humbling experience; I was practically speechless!

Secondly, all Washington State appraisers need to know that there are a lot of your fellow appraisers throughout the state that are volunteering countless hours and resources to make sure that our voice continues to be heard in Olympia. From the membership phone calls, to the hosting of education offerings and fundraisers with proceeds to going to benefit ACOW; there are so many people besides the six ACOW board members that are making a difference for appraisers in our state.

As we wrap up the legislative session in 2011, ACOW has again, been successful in advocating for appraisers in Olympia. What started out as, what we thought might be a “light” session, as we are now in the midst of the Special Session, this year has shown to be quite active. And our successes are also attributed to our lobbyist! In January, I had the opportunity to offer comments at a House Committee hearing about the elimination of the Real Estate Appraiser Commission (REAC), this was the third year our commission was slated for elimination by the Governor’s office and the third year that ACOW has lobbied against the legislation. We quickly got the REAC removed from the bill, but along the way, it got renamed to the Real Estate Appraiser Advisory Committee (REAAC); something that ACOW fought for 16 years ago in changing the original advisory committee to a commission we have today. Along with this name change, the appointment process would be moving to the Director of Licensing rather than from the Governor. ACOW kept at it and with our lobbyist’s efforts, finally got a sponsor to keep the commission as is, but with the Director’s appointment, in the Special Session. I am happy to report that ACOW has been told that a revised Bill 1371 keeps the Commission as is, with only the appointments coming from DOL.

Additionally, in the midst of this year’s budget process, a 484-page document this session, our lobbyist recognized one line that was left over from the prior budget: the ability to raise appraiser license fees! From prior discussions with the Appraiser Program Director at DOL, this was something that caught us off guard. Calling the DOL frantically to find out who asked and why this was to be included in the budget, their response was “we didn’t ask for any increase!” A day later, I received a callback indicating that this was merely a mistake, left over from the prior budget language in 2009 and that the budget writer was new(er) and it was only an oversight—though a potentially costly one to appraisers, especially given that are license fees increased 30% last year. Hearing that, ACOW took a two-pronged approach: One was to talk to the policy-makers and explain the problem; the other, have our members call our respective legislators and ask them to remove this from the bill. After a week of calls and conversations from and with several appraisers across the state, I am also happy to report that this language was recognized as a mistake and it too, was removed from the bill!

Another item that has been in recent news is the rulemaking process for implementing our state’s new AMC law. As you may recall, in March 2010, Washington State became the ninth or tenth state in the country to pass an AMC law; this was several months prior to the Dodd-Frank Act and shows how successful our organization has been for appraisers. In late 2010, the REAC created a rule-making workgroup to help DOL write the rules for the AMC law; three ACOW board members were on the workgroup and the draft has been sent to DOL to work through the language. At the last REAC meeting in April, DOL indicated that there will be a public hearing process allowing all stakeholders a chance to comment on the rules that have been proposed. We haven’t heard of a specific date yet, but stay tuned and as soon as we hear, we will distribute any information we receive.

Also, be prepared to begin hearing about the annual ACOW at the Summit in August. We are scheduled for the third weekend in August and are still awaiting word if REAC will be in attendance after a hiatus. We have a committee working hard to identify some CE and information sessions that are pertinent to all appraisers throughout the state. We want to be able to keep abreast of what is happening in Olympia as well as on the National stage.

Lastly, I want to thank all of those who have, thus far, signed up and/ or have contributed to ACOW in 2011; for those that haven’t yet, there is still time and your financial support is still needed! There are approximately 2,905 licensed/ certified appraisers that live in Washington State. While our mission is to represent all appraisers in the state, regardless of affiliation or certification, our goal is to capture a large share in order to continue our efforts in Olympia! This goal takes great resources from only a few dozen volunteers and our lobbyist.

The best way to support ACOW is to sign up and pay your annual membership dues! While 2011 saw an increase in annual dues to $45, you board of directors did not take this lightly. We recognize that the economy is different now than only a few short years ago, but to be effective in Olympia, we need your support! ACOW was successful in 2010 with eliminating mandatory green education for all appraisers and for getting the Washington State AMC law passed.

Thus far in 2011, we have helped save REAC from elimination, we were successful in eliminating licensing fee increase language in the biennial budget, and ACOW has been very involved with the AMC rule‑making work group. These directly equate to value to Washington State appraisers and I hope that you consider (or continue) supporting ACOW in 2011 and beyond.

Justin Slack, SRA
ACOW President

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