By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
In an effort to clearly define First Amendment rights in association-governed communities, SB 407 is making its way through Senate Committees. The bill would make it unlawful for an association-governed community to restrict a member’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly on common property. The prohibition on restrictions would apply to the political process within the member’s private association as well as activity related to campaigns for public office or political issues of concern to the greater public.
If SB 407 manages to pass, the board of any association would be required to allow its members to use the common facilities to engage in political discourse and assembly, to allow political canvassing of the neighborhood, and distribution of political materials to members within the community.
SB 407 is a definitive first step toward acknowledging that the public interest is served when residents of association-governed communities share the same civil liberties as state citizens at large.
State Legislature moved to restrict HOA controls over political speech
May 9, 2017 9:06pm
• Would limit HOA rules that squelch the rights of residents to hold candidate forums, put up signs, discuss local issues
• “This bill … will prevent HOA boards and management from denying basic rights to their residents”
The state Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimously approved a bill by Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, to prohibit California’s more than 50,000 homeowner associations (HOAs) from suppressing the freedom of speech and freedom of association rights of their residents.
SB 407 now heads to the floor for consideration of the full Senate.
“We want a strong, active, engaged citizenry to participate in our elections and to keep our democracy vibrant. This bill is aligned with those goals and will prevent HOA boards and management from denying basic rights to their residents,” says Mr. Wieckowski, a member of the Judiciary Committee. “Choosing to live in a common interest development governed by an HOA does not mean you must relinquish core principles like freedom of speech and freedom of association.”
A few months ago, Senator Jim Brochin introduced legislation in the General Assembly to ban real estate developer campaign contributions to members of Baltimore County Council. Brochin said the bill would eliminate an apparent “pay to play” scheme, whereby developers that make donations to Council members are more likely to have their construction projects readily approved.
The bill did not make it out of the General Assembly, with fellow legislators insisting that the right to make campaign contributions constitutes “free speech” that must remain unrestricted. Apparently, the majority of Assembly members fail to acknowledge that conflicts of interest are quite likely at play, when a real estate developer makes sizable donations to the very same individuals who will be voting whether or not to approve millions of dollars in new construction.
Baltimore County bill to ban developer donations fails (Baltimore Sun, March 6, 2017)
A few months ago, two bills were introduced with the stated intent of protecting the rights of owners in association-governed communities. I provided analysis of those bills in a previous blog, pointing out the many ways the legislation, if passed as then written, would be of little benefit to property owners. Rather, the bills were written primarily for the benefit of corporate associations and real estate industry stakeholders.
More information from the Kansas City Star:
Here is a status update on those two bills. Not surprisingly, neither bill garnered sufficient support.
SB 398, dubbed the Missouri Homeowners Bill of Rights, made very little progress in the Legislature. The measure died following the second committee reading in the Senate.
HB 1063 died following consideration by three committees and a public hearing held in the House on March 29,2017.
Several months ago, SB 244 was introduced by Rep. Mimi Stewart (D). The bill included many standard industry-favored provisions, purporting to offer additional consumer protections for homeowners in association-governed communities. However, as explained in an earlier blog, most of the measures in SB 244 have been enacted in several other states for several years, with little beneficial effects on homeowner rights.
A state level homeowners group in New Mexico has been equally critical of SB 244. See here for details.
Nevertheless, SB 244 passed unanimously in both House and Senate, with bipartisan support. Then on April 6, 2017, Governor Susana Martinez vetoed SB 244, citing concerns that requirements upon associations would be “both burdensome and costly,” as well as unconstitutionally mandating compliance from associations that are currently exempt from the NM Homeowners Association Act.
No doubt the bill will be resubmitted in the next session.
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