by Kati Siconolfi
While the 2018 mid-term elections at the national level grabbed most of the headlines, on Election Day last November, 6,073 seats were up for grabs as 87 of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers held elections (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature, thus denying the nation an even 100 state legislative chambers). Seven states saw control of at least one legislative body shift control. Democrats won the State Senates of Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York, and the Houses of Representatives in Minnesota and New Hampshire. Republicans won the Alaska House of Representatives.
While Democrats continue to make significant gains as they work to claw back the staggering 968 legislative seats they lost during the Obama administration, Republicans maintain control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office in 23 states. Democrats exert similar control in 14 states while 13 states continue with divided government. Compared to the 2014 mid-term election cycle, there is no change in the number of incumbents defeated in the general election, for 266 incumbents lost their seats in 2014; however, while Republican incumbents lost only 40 sets in 2014, they lost 202 in 2018. Democratic incumbents lost 226 seats in 2014 but only 44 in 2018.
But what does this mean for AAHOA members?
A significant number of AAHOA members are concentrated in states with legislative majorities that typically pursue pro-growth policies. One might think that hoteliers can rest easy. But, as demonstrated by the $5 occupancy tax that nearly became law in Oklahoma last year, desperate times can yield bad policy no matter which party is calling the shots. It is important for hoteliers to continue to educate lawmakers of the important role hotels play in their communities, and to support policies that incentivize small business growth and attract visitors to the state.
Working with the AAHOA advocacy team, hoteliers continue to make significant inroads with their state legislatures. When it comes to issues such as occupancy taxes, travel and tourism promotion, short-term rental regulations, labor, and wages, state legislatures have significantly more impact than the representatives in Washington, and it is important to participate in AAHOA’s State Lobby Days to advocate for good policies.
While there is not enough room in this space to highlight all the newly-elected legislators at the state level, it is important for hoteliers to develop and maintain relationships with their state officials. The 266 defeated incumbents referenced above all lost in the general election in November. When one factors in the primary election defeats, that number balloons to 413 ousted incumbents, or nearly 7 percent of all seats up for election. When one also considers lawmaker retirements or those seeking other office, the number of new state legislators only increases. Just as in Congress, this presents hoteliers with a unique opportunity to introduce our industry to new lawmakers and forge relationships that allow them to highlight the challenges facing owners, employees, and the industry.
Thousands of bills are already being pre-filed in state legislatures across the country. As AAHOA ramps up its state advocacy efforts in anticipation of lively legislative sessions in the new year, it is important to watch this space, AAHOA.com, and your inbox to learn how you can help your state officials promote smart, pro-growth policies that prioritize small businesses. Democracy only works if the people are engaged, and AAHOA is here to help you make the most out of your government.