by Toni-Anne Barry
The 2019 Spring National Advocacy Conference (SNAC) is the first opportunity for AAHOA members to meet with representatives and senators elected in November. With more than 100 new lawmakers just months into the job, many of these officials are still learning about the policy issues most important to their constituents. SNAC is the perfect time to educate them about your role in the industry and how policy changes directly impact your business. This is your chance for a one-on-one discussion with lawmakers to talk about your personal stories and build the relationships essential to AAHOA’s advocacy initiatives.
As entrepreneurs, small business owners, and employers, AAHOA members have valuable perspectives on the effects of legislation and are influential advocates. In 2017, hoteliers were instrumental in the fight to preserve 1031 like-kind exchanges in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). AAHOA members brought awareness to this relatively obscure section of the tax code and helped ensure that lawmakers didn’t sacrifice it in the final legislation. While passage of the TCJA was a major win for hoteliers, the work isn’t done. Other vital provisions – like the 20-percent small business deduction and reduced individual income rates that have allowed hoteliers to create new jobs, raise wages, and expand their businesses – are set to expire in 2025. It’s imperative for our members to once again come to the table at SNAC to urge lawmakers to make these pro-business provisions permanent so that small business owners can rely on a fair and predictable tax code.
One initiative that fell short for the hotel industry during the most recent Congress was getting a legislative fix passed to clarify and properly define the joint-employer definition. Hoteliers rely heavily on a stable franchise model, but the 2015 Browning v. Ferris Industries decision made by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) expanded the definition of joint-employer to include franchisors, meaning franchisees could lose control and autonomy over their own businesses. AAHOA actively supported the Save Local Business Act – legislation that would create a statutory definition of the historical joint-employer standard – but the bill ultimately failed to pass in the Senate. Now, the NLRB is working to overturn the 2015 expansion through the rule-making process, but only a statutory fix can safeguard against incoming administrations that want to change the rule to suit their political agenda. With a new Congress at the helm, there’s renewed opportunity to make this possible.
AAHOA members also can utilize SNAC to raise awareness on one of the fastest-growing issues facing hoteliers. Last year, more than 10,000 lawsuits were filed under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a massive 34-percent increase over 2017. Many of these lawsuits are filed by unscrupulous lawyers and serial plaintiffs who abuse the system for their own monetary gain. Thanks to ambiguous language in the ADA about website accessibility, these lawsuits will continue to rise. Our goal is to show Congress the growing need for common-sense reform that will work within the spirit of the ADA to expand access for all Americans, while preventing the type of fraudulent lawsuits that are plaguing our industry.
These meetings not only will focus on lobbying for specific legislation, but they will be a great opportunity for members to educate lawmakers on AAHOA’s proactive efforts to better communities. One of AAHOA’s key educational initiatives is human trafficking prevention and awareness. Through partnerships with Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) and Polaris, AAHOA has given members and their employees access to comprehensive in-person and online training. Thousands of hoteliers and staff have been trained to spot signs of trafficking and given effective ways to respond to potential situations. Letting lawmakers know of our efforts and that hoteliers are a ready and willing partner to end this criminal practice can result in appropriate laws and funding initiatives that allow government and industry to combat the problem together. AAHOA members are passionate about bringing modern-day slavery to an end and are eager to discuss how the hotel industry can be a resource to lawmakers as Congress searches for solutions.
Building lasting relationships with your elected officials allows you to play an important role in the policy decisions that affect the industry and your livelihood. Be a part of the legislative process and join your fellow AAHOA members in Washington D.C. March 11-12, 2019, to share your intimate knowledge of the industry with our new Congress.