by PETER CLERKIN
As the new year kicks off, many state legislatures across the country will convene for new legislative sessions. From taxes and regulations to wages and short-term rentals, it is in state capitals, not the halls of Congress, where many significant decisions impacting small businesses will be made this year. That is why AAHOA’s state capital lobby days are so critical to maximizing our members’ impact.
Lobby days, often held in conjunction with a state lodging association, are an excellent opportunity to meet your state senators and representatives. Politics, like business, is about relationships. The more lawmakers you know, and the more established your rapport is with them, the more impactful your voice will be when it is time to inform the political process.
These meetings are about building connections and putting a human face on the issues that affect your business. Your presence and engagement with your elected officials can be an insurance against bad policy. Lawmakers often rely upon the guidance that only their constituents can provide when deciding how to vote on an issue with which they are not terribly familiar.
A prime example of how important hotelier engagement is to the legislative process came during the 2018 legislative session in Oklahoma. Lawmakers were at an impasse when it came to education funding. Many of them saw a $5 per night statewide hotel tax as an easy way to fill the budget gap. If implemented, this would have pushed hotel tax rates in Oklahoma City and Tulsa higher than those in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. Because Sooner hoteliers were politically active and engaged, they rallied at the state capital and let their legislators know that higher taxes could lead prospective guests and event organizers to look elsewhere for accommodations. Ultimately, the proposed tax hike was repealed.
While the agenda for each state house will vary, it is important to stay current on the issues before your legislature. You have a unique knowledge of the hospitality industry, the regulations that impact your business, the taxes that you pay, and the jobs you create. It is essential you share this perspective with your lawmakers and inform them on the issues that impact our industry. To learn where AAHOA will be organizing state capital lobby days, please visit www.aahoa.com/eventscalendar.