Threats and Opportunities in New Legislative Session

Jan 3, 2013

On New Year's Day, members of the Pennsylvania State Senate and State House of Representatives were sworn in for the new two year term of the legislature. New members have taken office in districts across the state. New chairs have been named for the legislative committees that oversee Bills pertaining to community associations. And when all the pomp and circumstance was over, a new legislative session lay ahead - one fraught with threats and filled with opportunities for all stakeholders in the world of common interest ownership communities.

Time will tell if these opportunities can be taken advantage of and if these threats can be defeated. Your help will be critical on both fronts.

Threats

Since the turn of the century 13 years ago, Bills have been introduced in every legislative session that would throw open the door of every community association to detailed inspection by regulating association meetings and access to association records. CAI strongly agrees that the sharing of information and access to documentation are essential components of proper functioning of community association governance.  However, there are laws and rules already in place that ensure openness and that unit owners have access to the records and documents of their community association.  CAI will not support legislation that would adversely impact the ability of associations to function properly, including provisions allowing the use of recording devices during board meetings and provisions regarding the application of fines for violations by board members. CAI's Pennsylvania Legislative Action Committee (PA LAC) has successfully amended and defeated these measures in the past and will have to work diligently to do so in this session.

CAI remains skeptical that Pennsylvania needs a Condo & Co-op Ombudsman. Legislation introduced last session would essentially create a vast state agency, staffed primarily by attorneys, that would result in costly, intrusive remedies to association disputes. CAI does not dismiss the fact that there are homeowners in community associations who have difficulty with their association and could benefit from mechanisms to assist in dispute resolution. CAI does believe that there are more appropriate alternatives that serve to empower residents and associations rather than expanding state government powers. CAI believes that these mechanisms work to provide greater transparency and clear processes to assist with dispute resolution in community associations. PA LAC would need to vigorously respond if such legislation were to be reintroduced in the new session.

Opportunities

While PA LAC and our government relations professionals will continue to remain vigilant regarding the above legislative threats, we will also be proactively seeking solutions to a number of issues that have arisen in the state over the last few years. 

Planned Unit Development Data Collection Act

In late 2011, the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission released the findings of a study conducted of community associations in Pennsylvania. The study included various recommendations for public policies concerning community associations. As a precursor to these public policy recommendations, PA LAC intends to seek a sponsor for the Planned Unit Development Data Collection Act. If adopted, the legislation would require an annual registration, at the county level, of all community associations in the Commonwealth. The data from such registration would enable CAI and the Commonwealth to effectively measure the impact of various public policy proposals, include a resolution to the long-standing issue of owners in community associations paying twice for certain municipal-type services.

Legislative Remedies for Judicial Actions

Within the last few years, various court cases in the Commonwealth have upended long-standing precedents and practices regarding community associations. PA LAC strongly believes that legislative remedies are necessary to cure these judicial actions. More information will be made available as legislation is drafted and introduced and members will be called upon to contact your legislators on these topics.

As we gear up for a very busy legislative term, PA LAC will be calling upon members of the association community for financial support as well as outreach to legislators. Your support will determine the level of our success.

 


Please visit our Diamond Sponsors: