Friday, October 25, 1996

Real estate license
exemptions go too far

IT seems reasonable to exempt some real estate agents from the requirement to attend 10 hours of classes every other year to renew their state licenses. However, the Legislature has again shot itself in the foot by making its own members eligible for exemption. To make matters worse, the exemption provisions were adopted in the waning hours of the 1995 session with no opportunity for public comment.

As the Star-Bulletin's Rob Perez reported, the amendment was added to a bill dealing with real estate fines in the House Consumer Protection Committee, headed by Ron Menor, after the bill had gone through the public hearing process.

An estimated dozen legislators have real estate licenses, although some aren't active in the business. Two legislators, Sen. Donna Ikeda and Rep. Mary-Jane McMurdo, have applied for the exemption. The disclosure could be damaging for Democrat Ikeda, who faces a strong opponent in the general election.

The law allows the Real Estate Commission to grant waivers to attorneys, accountants and trustees of charitable trusts if the applicants are involved in real estate full time. Also eligible are public service "participants" who have been involved with real estate or real estate laws for eight preceding years and full-time brokers or agents who have held active licenses for at least 20 years.

There may be justification for exempting attorneys and accountants because of their professional education. Similarly, the requirement may not be necessary for veteran real estate agents who have already gone through the process a number of times. But the inclusion of legislators is blatantly self-serving. And why trustees of charitable trusts should be exempted is a puzzle.

Although the exemption involves no large amounts of money - the classes cost about $150 - the appearance of giving special treatment to insiders is embarrassing, particularly at a time of widespread dissatisfaction with the Legislature's performance.

Dole's Perot overture

TIME is running out for Bob Dole, as polls continue to show him trailing President Clinton in double digits. Desperate moves are to be expected in such a situation, but none thus far has been as strange as asking Ross Perot to drop out of the race and endorse the Republican nominee. Predictably, Perot rejected the overture and tried to turn it to his own advantage.

Dole needs a major development - a Clinton blunder or a revelation of massive proportions about the failings of the administration - to turn things around. The likelihood of that happening in the final 11 days of the campaign is slim, but not as slim as the chances were of Perot embracing a ticket he has been trying to trash.

North Korea's demand

THE Communist government of North Korea is getting nasty again. It is holding a 26-year-old American missionary, claiming that he is a spy for South Korea. The official Korean Central News Agency warned that the situation would only get "gloomier" if the United States did not apologize for the incident and bring South Korea "to task" for employing the missionary, Carl Hunziker, as a spy.

Washington should seek ways to apply counter-pressure on the North Koreans to secure Hunziker's release, without in any way yielding to their demands. Whatever the outcome, the incident confirms that North Korea is as difficult as ever to deal with - and as dangerous.

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