The American Car Rental Association (ACRA) invited its members from around the U.S. to gather in Washington, D.C., this week for the association’s fourth annual “Day on the Hill,” an opportunity to meet with senators, congressmen, and their staffs on issues important to the car rental industry.
This year’s talking points included support for excise tax legislation, protection of like-kind exchange (LKE), and an education on control of data generated from autonomous vehicles.
Organized by Sharon Faulkner, executive director of ACRA, and Greg Scott, ACRA’s D.C. representative, this year’s event kicked off with an informal dinner on Monday night in Washington’s Navy Yard district. On Tuesday, ACRA held a board meeting followed by presentations from ACRA associate members and representatives from government agencies and trade organizations.
Those representatives included Sally Greenberg, executive director of National Consumers League; Karen Jagielski of the Office of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission; and Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist supports an ACRA-backed amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill on car rental excise taxes.
Jack Ruddy, legislative director for Sam Graves (R-Mo.), received a plaque commemorating Graves as ACRA’s legislator of the year.
On Tuesday evening, contributors to ACRA’s political action committee (ACRAPAC) held a reception for Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) who co-sponsored, along with Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the FAA reauthorization bill amendment.
Afterward, the delegation took in a Washington Nationals baseball game.
On Wednesday, the delegation split into groups to visit legislators and staffs of both the House of Representatives and Senate.
The delegation picked up from last year in advocating for prospectively preventing state and local governments from adopting discriminatory taxes on car rental customers. H.R. 2024 and S. 1159 continue to garner bipartisan support — the House bill currently has 23 co-sponsors while the Senate bill has four. Customers of the bus, airline, motor freight, rail, and maritime industries are currently entitled to the same federal protection from discriminatory taxes.
The Davis-Cohen amendment to the 2017 FAA reauthorization bill is similar to the House and Senate bills but would only permit these taxes on airport car rental transactions if the revenue from the taxes would be used to reinvest in the airport.
This year, protection of LKEs (or 1031 exchanges) took on greater urgency. LKEs allow businesses to swap one investment asset for another and defer paying tax on the proceeds until the property is sold for cash. For many car rental companies, this facilitates their ability to expand fleet.
“As we get closer to the possibility of a vote on federal tax reform, it’s even more important for legislators to understand the pro-growth benefits of LKE,” said Gordon Reel, vice president, government & public affairs at Enterprise Holdings. “Studies have shown that the potential savings from eradicating LKEs would have a fourfold negative economic impact.”
This year, the ACRA delegation introduced the issue of control of data as it pertains to the development of autonomous vehicles. These issues came to the fore this week, as the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued new guidelines for deployment of autonomous vehicles, which do not specifically address data access and control.
While still in early stages of development, HAVs (highly autonomous vehicles) will produce an exponentially larger amount of data. Regarding control of and access to data, ACRA is urging Congress to confirm that vehicle owners — individuals or fleet operators — control this data and can grant access to third parties.
The Day on the Hill has become a vital component of ACRA’s efforts, as recognized by increasing attendance of its members.
“After preparing for our day on the hill, I have come to realize that ACRA has to keep pressing our issues everywhere,” said William Harris of Edge Auto Rental of New York. “I think we collectively did a great job in bringing our issues close to home for congressional staff.”
“We can thank the top car rental companies for their advocacy, but it is also important for the independent car rental companies to become and stay engaged,” added Harris. “I’ll be there next year.”
The event was sponsored by many of ACRA's associate members, including the evening at the Washington Nationals baseball game.
"I want to thank all of their generous contributions that made the ACRA Legislative Conference a productive and enjoyable experience," said Faulkner.
By Chris Brown