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Lawmakers seek to require real estate agents to provide political representation info

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Sen. Justine Wadsack

The way Justine Wadsack sees it, some people looking for new homes may want to be in a legislative district where they are represented by someone who shares their political views.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- The way Justine Wadsack sees it, some people looking for new homes may want to be in a legislative district where they are represented by someone who shares their political views.

Only thing is, the Tucson Republican said state laws now preclude real estate agents like herself from providing that kind of information. Ditto the districts for Congress, county supervisors or city councils.

So Wadsack got members of the Senate Government Committee to vote Wednesday to not only repeal the prohibition but require agents to affirmatively provide that information to home buyers.

"Buying a house is the biggest, biggest investment that anybody can make,'' she told colleagues on he panel.

"If they are a Democrat and want to move into a Democrat area, they should know that they're moving into a Democrat area,'' Wadsack said. "It would make them approaching their city council members a little easier.''

There is precedent for what is in SB 1581. Wadsack said Arizona law already requires real estate agents who use the Multiple Listing Service to disclose in what school district is the home being offered.

"One of the top search criteria when a buyer comes to me, they say 'Please make sure I'm in the Marana school district, I don't want to be in TUSD,' '' she said, referring to the adjacent Tucson Unified School District.

"And then I have to make sure I put into my search criteria through the MLS that they only get to see homes that are in Marana school district,'' Wadsack said. "How is this any different to, 'I only want to be in a CD 6 congressional district or I want to be in LD 18?''

Wadsack said this works both ways politically.

She said, for example, that someone may want Democratic Sen. Priya Sundareshan, also of Tucson, to be that person's state senator.

"I don't want somebody else representing me except her,'' Wadsack said might be the comment of a would-be home buyer. "I want to be able to call her office and say, 'I am your constituent.' ''

That information, she acknowledged, already is public record. But Wadsack pointed out it takes some searching -- and on multiple databases -- to figure out that a particular property is in a particular congressional, legislative, supervisor and city council district.

Nor, she said, can buyers assume that moving to a particular section of town will get them the specific representation they want "because the district lines are so, let's just for lack of a better word in many ways, gerrymandered.''

Wadsack said that issue of political representation is important to people moving to Arizona from elsewhere.

"They want to know that they've maybe one state's political ideology for another,'' she said. "And they don't want to move back into another scenario that they may have just left.''

Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, said he believes the restrictions exist for a good reason -- and why they should not be removed.

"This opens up the door for the kinds of conversation that allowed for redlining to happen in the past,'' he said.

In general, redlining referred to the practice of bank and other lenders who designated certain neighborhoods as high risk, often due to racial characteristics, and refused to provide mortgages for buyers in those areas. But it also has taken the form of real estate agents steering clients to neighborhoods they presume align with those of similar beliefs.

Wadsack said, however, that her legislation deals only with disclosing the specific political districts by number. It does not provide the names or political affiliations of the representatives.

And she said it would not permit agents to take requests from clients who might want to be in an area where they would be represented by one party or the other.

Redlining aside, Mendez questioned how helpful the information might be.

He pointed out that district lines change every 10 years, a far shorter time than most people have a house. What that means, Mendez said, is those buying a home now who looked to be represented by a given individual or party could find the political landscape has shifted under their feet in just a few years.

That's true, Wadsack acknowledged.

"But then, if they find themselves in a district that they don't want to be in anymore, they can look on the MLS and put as part of their search criteria, 'I want to live in LD 18,' '' she said.

"We need to give people the opportunity to make a choice,'' Wadsack continued.
"Right now, it is a part of everybody's daily life to check on the politics of things.''

Sundareshan said she is concerned about the "politicization of everything.''

"But I also see there's a potential benefit here for civic education purposes.'' she said, with more information provided to buyers.

"You see the school district information and now you also learn that there are all these other jurisdictions you are a member of,'' Sundareshan said. "And that might increase that civic knowledge and participation.''

The 5-1 vote on the measure sends it to the full Senate.

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