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Real estate, appraiser camps tackle property valuation measure.

BATTLE LINES APPEARED READY to be drawn last week in the General Assembly between the real estate and appraisal industries.

Senate Bill 720, filed on Tuesday by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, essentially would authorize real estate agents to use "broker's price opinions" in place of appraisals in certain situations. Naturally, appraisers took notice.

But Dismang and Little Rock appraiser J.T. Ferstl, board member and officer with the Arkansas Appraisers Association, were among a group of officials from both sides that met Wednesday to discuss a compromise. The bill, which likely will begin its legislative run this week in the Senate Insurance & Commerce Committee, authorizes the Arkansas Real Estate Commission to "prescribe rules for the preparation and issuance of a broker's price opinion." BPOs sometimes are used by lenders to value property when a full appraisal is not required.

Ferstl told Arkansas Business his organization didn't yet have an official position on the bill and was optimistic a compromise could be worked out.

Dismang, CFO of Whitwell & Ryles Real Estate Investments in North Little Rock, has mustered broad bipartisan support for the bill, which had 39 co-sponsors when filed. Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock, is the House sponsor.

Gorilla Gets Some Love

That 800-pound gorilla in the legislative chamber--Arkansas' $330 million unemployment insurance debt--received some more attention last week. Dismang and Rep. Davy Carter, R-Cabot, filed duplicate bills designed to streamline the system and hold employers' costs steady.

Among the bills' provisions are the setting of weekly unemployment benefits at a minimum of $81 and a maximum of $451. The bills, Senate Bill 593 and House Bill 1728, were written by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and have been referred to the Public Health committees in each chamber. Alan Hughes, who has represented the AFL-CIO in negotiations over unemployment benefits, did not return a call seeking comment on the bills.

Recently, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, filed a bill that would create a bond issue to repay the debt, which the state began amassing in March 2009 when its unemployment benefits trust fund went broke. The proposal, Senate Bill 305, has been referred to the Senate Insurance & Commerce Committee.

Permanent Vacation

The Senate Revenue & Tax Committee placed a bill that would have created a two-day sales tax holiday for clothing and school supplies on permanent vacation, at least until next session.

Freshman Rep. Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, shepherded his HB1369 through the House but couldn't get past "the wolves" in Senate committee. The bill would have exempted clothing under $100, school accessories of under $50 and all school supplies from sales tax the first Saturday and Sunday of August. The state estimated a $2.1 million revenue impact. Gov. Mike Beebe opposed the measure. A similar measure was defeated in 2009.

Beebe also opposes another bill headed for Senate Revenue, Rep. Ed Garner's bill to eliminate the state's 7 percent tax on capital gains on new investments that passed the House two weeks ago. The Maumelle Republican expects Beebe's influence to manifest itself on the Senate side after the measure, HB1002, passed the House with 53 votes.

The bill would eliminate the tax on future investments in Arkansas. Garner told Arkansas Business he wasn't quite ready to introduce the measure in Senate committee. Two years ago, Garner ran but ultimately withdrew a similar bill.
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Title Annotation:Legislative Roundup
Comment:Real estate, appraiser camps tackle property valuation measure.(Legislative Roundup)
Author:Carter, Mark
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Mar 7, 2011
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