The Governor, Legislature Need to Hear from You on H.5250 Right of First Refusal

Our elected officials depend on a connection with their constituents to get reelected. If they aren’t aware of what’s good and bad, they will make bad choices. You may be the only person who is calling them about an issue. Every voice matters.

Right of First Refusal 191-H5250 was Vetoed on January 14, 2021

It may be back by the time you read this. See our Right of First Refusal main page.

1a. Find your Rep and Senator and the Governor’s Constituent Services Line

https://malegislature.gov/search/findmylegislator

https://www.mass.gov/orgs/office-of-the-governor

First find and call the Governor’s office. He is expected to sign soon unless we speak up.

Then call the rep and senator where you live. If you have time, also call where each property you own is located.

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H5250

Reps and Senators have already voted. The key message here to Reps and Senators is, “What were you thinking?” and “This bill may be coming back to you.”

The message to the Governor is, “Send the bill back or veto this section.” The Governor should have line item veto on this, as it’s an appropriation bill. (Previously we indicated line item veto was not possible.)

1b. Recommendation: print this page

Prepare to have the conversation in a flexible order; draw a line down the margin to cross off points you have made. The line break shows what you still have to say, double the line or print new pages for each separate call:

  1. point made
  2. not yet made
  3. another point already made

2. Call and Start by Asking Permission to Share Your Viewpoint:

You probably will be put through to the legislator’s aide. This is OK. The aide will tell the legislator what you said. Adjust these to reflect reality:

  1. “I’m a MassLandlords member/participant…” or “I’m a landlord…” “…living/working in your district.”
  2. “I’m ________ (insert your own adjective but do not swear: concerned; outraged; angry) about H.5250 An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth. Can I tell you about it?” (listen for their response; if it’s a bad time, schedule a call back; if they say they already voted, tell them the bill may be headed back and they should understand why.)

3. Acknowledge their Current Position:

If Rep, Senator:                    “I realize you have already voted, but we are asking the Governor to send the bill back to you or line item veto this.”

If Governor:                          “I realize this bill has many good things in it, but we can’t pass this as is.”

Always:                                  “I have 4 reasons why this corrupt bill will destroy housing.”

4. Share Three Official Talking Points.

  1. Say “One:” The bill would enact a renter right of first refusal to buy their property.
    1. Sounds nice, but renters already have the right to buy their property! This bill does much more.
    2. Right of First Refusal exists in Washington DC, where the people who enacted it have been trying to undo their mistake. Right of First Refusal is a form of legalized extortion.
    3. If I want to sell my property, I have to create a nonprofit and/or pay my renters to assign their right back to me.
    4. There is a specific punishment for owners going bankrupt due to COVID. Such owners would have to wait 240 days before they could sell short. The intent is to force properties into bankruptcy so that receivers can purchase the property for themselves.
    5. Lines 2786 through 3121 have to go.
    6. Say, “that’s one.”
  2. Say “Two”: This bill would enact the Housing Choice Bill, an electoral reform the Governor wants.
    1. The Governor is not really credible on electoral reform. He opposed ranked choice voting.
    2. He is papering over legitimate objections to drastically increased density, like school budgets and traffic.
    3. The bill will only increase push-back and work-arounds from communities that don’t want density.
    4. The net effect will be the early adopter communities will get increased density but the rest us won’t.
    5. Given how bad right of first refusal is, the Housing Choice portion of the bill is no reason to sign this bill.
    6. Say, “that’s two.”
  3. Say “Three:” This is not how our democracy should operate.
    1. First of all, the right of first refusal is a huge change delaying sales for almost a year. It shouldn’t be tacked onto an unrelated bill and passed in the middle of the night.
    2. Second, it’s copy-pasted from another state. It has language copy-pasted from outside Massachusetts. For instance, line 3042 “It is illegal for the owner to evict”. Owners can’t evict! Only courts can. This is not the language we use in MA, this language is used in other states.
    3. Third, it’s extremely poorly drafted. For example, line 2903 section (g) refers to a 15 day period in section (f). There is no 15-day period in section f! Who will be able to follow this law when it cannot even be read?

5. Share your Personal Story

Example: “So that’s my three points, let me just add: I’ve been in business X years. I run a good property. This bill will ruin me and others who have been impacted by COVID, and we’re going to exit the pandemic with much less housing than we had going into it.”

6. Listen. Talk. Finally ask, “Send this bill back to remove Right of First Refusal, or veto this section.”

“Please send H.5250 back to have right of first refusal removed or veto this section. Thank you.”

7. Fill out our Response Form: https://masslandlords.net/grassroots

8. Forward these talking points to 3 to 10 people

You probably know a housing provider or two who hasn’t been paying attention. Now is the time to get them to pay attention.

The conference committee who include right of first refusal in the final bill are:

  • Representative Aaron Michlewitz
  • Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante
  • Representative Donald Wong
  • Senator Eric Lesser
  • Senator Michael Rodrigues
  • Senator Patrick O’Connor

Dos and Don’ts for Talking with Elected Officials

DO

  • Stick mostly or entirely to the talking points prepared by MassLandlords.
  • Allow the Rep or Senator to start by inviting you to share what’s on your mind.
  • Learn what the Rep or Senator is interested in, and which committees they’re assigned to.
  • Present the need for change. Use MassLandlords data or case stories you know well (or your own experience).
  • Relate the problem to someone or some place in their home district.
  • Ask their position and why.
  • Be even-handed when discussing judges or other public officials. You may not like these people, but the rep or senator may.
  • If we know their record, ask why they voted a certain way.
  • If you don’t know the answer to their question, say “I don’t know” and offer to have MassLandlords follow up. We will.
  • Talk to Reps and Senators who are not on the “landlord side;” you can lessen their opposition or change it to in-favor. Once they see that we want what’s best for everyone, they can easily come over to our side.
  • Get to know the staff, their names and backgrounds.
  • Thank them for helping us in the past, if they have.
  • Leave them with a clear understanding of what you wanted.
  • Leave them looking forward to their next meeting with MassLandlords.

DON’T

  • Don’t bring up too many issues.
  • Don’t bring up issues unrelated to MassLandlords. You can arrange a separate meeting to talk about your own agenda or the agenda of other groups.
  • Don’t threaten, pressure, beg, or attack.
  • Don’t raise your voice or do anything else to put them on the defensive.
  • Don’t overstate the case or repeat yourself.
  • Don’t expect them to understand anything about rental properties. Don’t jump right into the explanation of the problem without setting the stage first.
  • Don’t be put off by smokescreens or dodging the question. Bring them back to the main point. Be in control politely.
  • Don’t promise things you can’t. Never speak for the association.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a position for yourself.
  • Don’t shy away from meeting with Reps or Senators who are known to be pro-tenant.
  • Don’t be offended if you can only meet with staff.
  • Don’t be turned off by a staffer who looks young or inexperienced. They may be young, but they have the ear of their rep or senator.
  • Don’t leave them hoping never to encounter MassLandlords again.

 

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