Why did you join AAHOA? Sure, it’s great to get to know your peers better, establish meaningful relationships with your fellow hoteliers, and gain insights to help with your day-to-day operations. But a big part of your “why” is quite likely the collective power of nearly 20,000 fellow hotel owners to achieve together what you cannot accomplish alone.
The core of any association should be its ability to affect change for its members and proactively engage with legislators, community leaders, and decision-makers to stay in front of troublesome issues that threaten the livelihood of its members.
Whether meeting with legislators, sending letters or participating in advocacy events, AAHOA Members taking action make a big difference in the political process, and AAHOA’s partnerships with hospitality associations, national advocacy groups, and industry leaders are invaluable when advocating more effectively for hotel owners.
With that in mind, here’s an inside look at AAHOA’s recent advocacy efforts, including a recent key hire, legislation specifics, priorities, and more. We are stronger together than we are alone, and your participation is vital to the continued health and prosperity of our industry.
Welcome to the team
AAHOA recently brought on Department of Labor veteran Dean Heyl to serve as Vice President, Government Affairs. He brings a wealth of experience to the team and will help further develop AAHOA’s advocacy efforts at the federal, state, and local levels. Want to get to know him a little bit better? Keep reading.
1. PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND
“After graduating law school and passing the bar, my career began in the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, where I served as press secretary/speech writer/senior advisor/driver for the Attorney General. I was later picked up by the Governor’s Office to handle everything from law enforcement, insurance, finance, and building safety issues. My last job in the Gem State was as the Attorney General’s Legislative Liaison.”
“Prior to starting at AAHOA, I served three years at the Department of Labor (DOL) as Director of the Office of Public Liaison, which was responsible for stakeholder outreach. When my time there concluded, I was fortunate to have several job opportunities to consider. I knew AAHOA well not only from my time in the private sector but also arranged for DOL Secretary Acosta to speak at AAHOACON as well as appearing in Today’s Hotelier. AAHOA was one of the first groups DOL Secretary Scalia and I called during the early days of the COVID pandemic. I applied immediately when the Vice President of Government Affairs position opened up. I’ve been promoting the interests of entrepreneurs throughout my career, and I knew AAHOA’s advocacy issues well. It’s been a great fit and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.”
2. POLITICALLY ENGAGED MEMBERSHIP
“I’m so impressed with the organizational structure of AAHOA’s Regional Directors and Ambassadors. AAHOA’s members are the most effective spokespeople on their issues. Elected officials and staff always want to hear from their constituents. And although there are several groups out there that have politically active members, I don’t know of any that come close to AAHOA.”
3. EVOLVING ADVOCACY
“I think technological advances will drive the evolution of AAHOA’s advocacy efforts. The days of simply testifying on a piece of legislation or sending a letter to such-and-such committee are over. To be effective these days, a campaign approach is necessary for victory. This includes the traditional shoe leather, face-to-face lobbying but also using social media and writing op-eds, just to name a few. Getting decision-makers’ attention with so many competing distractions gets harder every day.”
4. STAYING IN THE KNOW
“The No. 1 thing I do is reach out to AAHOA’s members to hear firsthand what issues they’re facing. AAHOA has been blessed with a great Government Affairs team that constantly gathers information on regulatory/legislative issues from local, state, and federal sources. AAHOA has strong working relationships with more than a dozen (and growing) state hotel and lodging associations. These groups are our ‘canaries in the coal mines’ and give us real-time updates. Similarly, AAHOA is active in many coalitions, which generate a tremendous amount of shared information.”
Legislative Liaison, Idaho Attorney General’s Office
Press Secretary/Speech writer/Senior Advisor, Idaho Attorney General’s Office
Executive Director, Coalition for Affordable Accounting
Director of Government Relations, Direct Selling Association
Chief Legal Officer, International Franchise Association
Quitters never win
Quick examples of AAHOA’s tireless efforts to spike punitive and harmful legislation
OKLAHOMA HOTEL TAX REPEAL
The Oklahoma legislature passed a $5 hotel tax during AAHOACON18. Approximately 100 hoteliers joined the Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association for a rally at the State Capitol and met with lawmakers to express their concerns. AAHOA Members also sent 1,000-plus letters to their lawmakers in opposition. The legislature eventually repealed the tax within a few days. (Taxes are rarely repealed.)
PENNSYLVANIA HOTEL TAX
The Pennsylvania legislature also considered a proposal to increase the hotel tax by 5%, one of the highest national hotel taxes. Along with the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, AAHOA Members sent letters and called lawmakers to express concerns, and the proposal failed to move forward. After the defeat of the hotel tax, one of the legislators contacted PRLA Government Affairs Vice President Melissa Bova and asked her to tell the AAHOA Members to stop calling him.
Winners never quit
A brief look at AAHOA-backed advocacy efforts that crossed the finish line
HOTELS DESIGNATED AS ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES
AAHOA worked with state hospitality associations and state leaders to advocate for hotels being designated as essential businesses. Discussing the critical role hoteliers play in their communities by providing housing for health-care professionals, supply-chain workers, and vulnerable populations, and making sure hoteliers can still operate their businesses.
SBA DISASTER DECLARATION IN EVERY STATE
To apply for the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan, every county in each state had to file a declaration showing economic harm, and then the state’s governor could file a SBA disaster declaration. AAHOA encouraged the governors to expedite the process in their own states, and the AAHOA Government Affairs team worked with the Small Business Administration Office to expedite the process.
AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN DOLLARS
Under the American Rescue Plan Act, states received $195.3 billion in aid, divided according to each state’s number of unemployed workers. Local governments, meanwhile, received $130.2 billion, split between cities and counties. While much of this money remains unallocated as of this writing, AAHOA and its state partner associations are actively negotiating to have as much of this funding as possible directed to hotels and the workers and communities they support. For example, in Virginia, AAHOA Members have sent more than 1,000 letters to their legislators in support of a hospitality grant program. Gov. Ralph Northam has included the hospitality industry in his list of ARP funding priorities.
And that’s not all
Here’s a rundown of some of AAHOA’s efforts (and some successes) in the name of spearheading and championing hotelier-friendly legislation. And the advocacy team works tirelessly to educate members about the benefits of countless proposed bills, rally support in favor of them, and lobby lawmakers on members’ behalf.
- PPP Flexibility for Farmers, Ranchers, and the Self-Employed Act (S. Cardin, R. Velazquez): Allows hotels hotels formely ineligible for PPP (opened after Feb. 15, 2020) to become eligible
- Healthy Workplaces Tax Credit Act (S. Portman, R. Rice): Allows tax credits for employer expenses for protecting employees from COVID-19
- Advocate for additional targeted relief, including EIDL loan increase up to maximum of 2 million per entity (waive affiliation rules and total cap at 2 million)
- Advocate for an increase in 504 and 7a debt relief funding
- Hotel Jobs Act (S. Schatz, R. Crist): Provides grants for payroll and PPE credits to support rehiring grants for payroll calculated by multiplying by three the average total monthly payments for payroll costs in a three-month period to be used over 270 days
- Back to Work Bonus Act(S. Risch, R. Brady): Provides one-time bonus for unemployed workers who reenter the workforce
- GSA Per Diem Rate Freeze (R. Crist, R. Bilirakis): Sets the GSA per diem ceiling for FY22 and 23 at pre-pandemic levels
- Hospitality and Commerce Jobs Act(S. Cortez Masto, R. Horsford): Provides tax credits for attending/hosting a convention, individual non-business travel tax credit, expansion of ERTC
PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS HOTELIERS
- Save Local Business Act (S. Marshall, R. Comer): Codifies a “direct” control joint employer standard in both the Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act
- Preserving 1031 Like-Kind Exchange: In outlining the American Families Plan and in the FY2022 budget, the Administration called for eliminating 1031 exchange deferrals for gains of more than $500,000
- Preserving 199A, Small Business Pass Through Deduction: Not included in Biden Administration proposals thus far, testament to the work of a coalition we are in to defend 199A from early sunset (it is set to sunset in 2025 per Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017)
- EB5 Reauthorization