ACRA: Assessing the Election Results

Though the federal election results show that the status quo largely remains, there are changes in state legislatures that will affect committees and issues directly relating to car rental.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

This oft-used phrase embodies the concept that despite all the energy and activity on something, the status quo remains. Today, it captures the essence of this federal election cycle.

After a seemingly long and expensive election, the control of the federal government rests in the same hands despite spending an estimated $6 billion. President Barack Obama has been re-elected. The Democrats retain control of the Senate with a slightly larger majority. And the Republicans retain the House of Representatives with a slightly smaller majority.

So the question is: How will this impact the rental car industry?

The good news is we have seen this movie before. ACRA has been working with this current lineup for the last two years. Therefore, it is hard to argue that we are not prepared to operate and work in this environment. We will continue to navigate this divided government and voice our opinion on either positive or problematic legislation for our industry.

Specifically, ACRA remains committed to working toward the passage of a safety recall bill that reflects a compromise with our industry and consumer advocates. We will re-energize our effort to prohibit state and local rental car excise taxes, and we will work to protect and maintain the Graves Amendment, which prohibits state vicarious liability laws.

Because the status quo largely remains in Congress, there will be little change in the leadership and committee makeup in each chamber. However, a couple changes that may impact us on the safety recall issue did occur. In the House, Rep. Mary Bono-Mack (R-CA) lost her re-election. She was chairwoman of the subcommittee that is working on the recall legislation.

In the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the recall bill, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) was slated to be the ranking Republican on the committee. However, Sen. DeMint recently announced he is resigning from the Senate in January to lead a conservative D.C.-based think tank. It is rumored that Sen. John Thune (R-SD) may become the ranking Republican on the committee, but that will not likely be confirmed until after this writing.

At the state level, there were some changes in the legislatures, but largely, like the federal election, it was status quo. Indeed there were significant presidential “coat-tails,” meaning that in states in which President Obama did well, state Democrats did well. And where Governor Romney did well, so too did state Republicans.

First and foremost, consider that Arkansas — long controlled by the Democrats — now holds Republican majorities in both legislative chambers for the first time since the 1870s. The Alaska Senate — previously held by Democrats — is now controlled by the Republicans. Both states voted for Romney in the presidential election.

Conversely, consider that control in the Colorado House switched from Republican to Democrat. In Maine, in a reversal of 2010, the House and Senate flipped to control by the Democrats. In Oregon, the House went from a tie to Democrat control. In another reversal, Minnesota flipped both chambers to Democrat control. These were states carried by President Obama.

Likewise, there was only one change in party control in the 11 gubernatorial races. The lone change was a Republican pickup in North Carolina, where former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was elected. Incumbents or the incumbent party prevailed in Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

The state elections will likely have more of an impact on our industry, as most of our issues are debated there. In fact, we are seeing a bit of a resurgence of rental car excise tax proposals. ACRA is monitoring varying degrees of discussion about potential new or additional taxes in six states (Ohio, Indiana, Nevada, Florida, Texas and Minnesota). Other issues involving liability, airport fees and general rental car law changes will come up. ACRA will be there ensuring your views are known to public officials.

With the elections behind us, it’s time to move on to working with our elected officials and participating in the process of governing, whether at the federal, state or local level. ACRA remains committed to being the collective voice for you and our industry. From Anchorage, Alaska to Columbus, Ohio to Washington, D.C., much is at stake and we all must stay involved in the process.

After all, it was President Abraham Lincoln who stated, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”

More articles from ARN's January/February issue can be found here.

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