One of the NAHB's most important responsibilities is protecting its members' interests when laws are enacted and policy is set. To this end, we will focus our energy on several legislative priorities as the second session of the 109th Congress moves forward. At the top of the NAHB's agenda are congressional efforts to reform the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs)—Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBs)—and the recent proposals of the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform.
MONEY MATTERS We will work to ensure that any congressional push to revamp the regulatory structure of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHLBs would preserve their vital housing mission while strengthening and safeguarding their financial health. Readily available, reasonably priced financing is crucial to the housing market and to our industry, and we intend to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the GSEs are not damaged by the re-regulation effort.
On the contentious issue of tax reform, the NAHB will call on Washington policymakers who set forth any new tax proposals to protect current incentives that spur homeownership and rental housing initiatives. The recent proposals by the president's tax panel—in particular, the suggestion to replace the mortgage interest deduction with a limited tax credit—sent shockwaves through the housing industry and the nation's ranks of homeowners. Simply put, enactment of these proposals would devastate the housing market.
There is always the chance that one or more of the measures proposed by the panel could emerge in tax legislation as lawmakers strive to find new sources of revenue. We will be working hard to prevent Congress from even considering eliminating any of the housing tax incentives.
OTHER PRIORITIES As important as the GSEs and the housing tax incentives may be, they are by no means the only issues on our agenda. Other priorities for 2006 include:
Stormwater. The NAHB will urge Congress to direct the EPAto reform the federal stormwater permitting system. Stormwater regulations that are simple, flexible, and fair will encourage compliance and ultimately improve protection of the nation's waters.
Immigration. In December, the House passed a strict immigration bill (H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act) that focuses on border security and punitive enforcement penalties for employers and fails to include a guest worker program that would help meet workforce needs nationwide. The NAHB will work with Senate members, urging them to oppose mandatory employer verification requirements and punitive penalties and to support creating a legal guest worker program.
Endangered Species Act reform. The NAHB supports H.R. 3824, the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act. The bill cleared the House last September by a bipartisan 229-193 vote. The measure would strengthen existing law by enhancing species conservation and protection efforts, eliminating excessive environmental regulation, and giving private landowners incentives to enact voluntary conservation measures. The NAHB will work this year to get similar legislation passed in the Senate.
Association health plans. Last summer, the House passed H.R. 525, the Small Business Health Fairness Act. The legislation would enable small businesses to offer better and more-affordable health insurance coverage for their employees. H.R. 525 would help address the rising number of the uninsured and the skyrocketing cost of health care by allowing small businesses to band together through associations to purchase quality health care at a lower cost. The NAHB will urge the Senate to pass a companion bill this year.