Dorsey’s Artin Betpera Advocates on Behalf of the Mortgage Industry with the California MBA at the State Capitol

It’s sure been busy at our State Capitol here in California this week.  While the Legislators were furiously debating an increase in our state gas tax (already one of the highest in the nation), the California Mortgage Bankers Association descended upon their offices to advocate on behalf of the mortgage banking industry.  I had the privilege of participating in this annual Legislative Day, and was asked by the Association to lead a group of mortgage professionals to meet with our elected representatives.

Our group was a diverse mix of folks from companies like Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, CMG Financial, and Caliber Lending.  Together, we attended meetings with the legislative staff of Senate Minority Leader Jean Fuller (our first woman Senate Minority Leader), and Senator Anthony Portantino (whose district includes my home town of Claremont – aka “the land of trees and Ph.Ds”).  Unlike most years, 2017 has been relatively tame in terms of legislation impacting the banking and financial services industries.  But there was still plenty to talk about with our representatives.  Highlights include:

Assembly Bill 1008 (opposed):  This bill would make it illegal for any employer in the state to ask about criminal convictions in an employment application.  For the mortgage banking industry, this is a problem.  State law already imposes tough restrictions on criminal backgrounds for mortgage licensees.  This bill would handcuff the ability of employers from weeding out ineligible applicants from the get-go.  Instead, the employer is restricted from even obtaining a criminal background check until after making a conditional offer of employment.  It may then withdraw the offer, but would still have to give the applicant the right to appeal the decision.  The result?  Increased time and expense in the hiring process.  False hope to applicants.  And likely exposure to litigation.  That’s a big nope.

Assembly Bill 199 (opposed):  Have you heard we have a housing affordability crisis here in California?  Well, our legislature has the perfect solution – make it more expensive to build houses!  Wait, what?  If passed, this piece of legislation would require builders to pay prevailing wages on private residential projects constructed on private property.  Prevailing wages are normally reserved for public works, and the passage of this bill would result in a substantial increase in building costs for new residential construction.  I’m not sure how houses become more affordable by making them costlier to build – so we urged our representatives to vote no.

Senate Bill 434 (supported):  This bill would extend state tax relief on the forgiveness of mortgage debt for tax years 2014-2016 (such as debt forgiven in connection with a loan modification or short sale).  Makes sense, right?  That’s the Federal tax rule.  Well, this bill has had trouble making it through in prior years because of unrelated political wrangling.  Let’s hope it goes through this year because it makes plain sense.

Of course, what’s a Legislative Day without a fine reception at the end to meet and greet our elected representatives and their staff.  I had the chance to meet Senator Bill Dodd, Chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee (pictured middle).  It was nice to hear a voice of reason in the cacophony of the State Capitol.  Although, somehow these discussions always veer towards golf (at which point I just stand there and smile).

It was a privilege traveling to the State Capitol this year to advocate on behalf of the mortgage banking industry.  And kudos to the California MBA for putting on yet another successful Legislative Day.

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