Our friend Congressman Sam Graves gave a very informative update at the Car Rental Show on the transportation bill, rental car taxes, vicarious liability and the federal budget. But perhaps the greatest point he shared with us in Las Vegas was that we should get to know our members of Congress.

He is absolutely right. We should get to know our members of Congress. While we’re at it, we should also get to know our state legislators and local officials, such as mayors and city council members.

Why? Because these are the people who make the very laws we have to live by every day. And because we live in an open, democratic society, we have the right to see them, meet them, get to know them and tell them what we think. It’s a right we too often take for granted.

We often think, “They don’t want to hear from me” or, “I’m not one of the big corporations, so they will never listen to me.” On the contrary, they do want to hear from you and they want to know what is going on in your business. Oftentimes they will ask how they can help.

At the end of the day, elected officials are people just like you and me. They just happen to be serving in public office. So, ACRA greatly encourages its members and all operators in our industry to reach out and develop relationships with elected officials at the local, state and federal levels. There are plenty of issues to discuss.

As noted at the Show, the industry is pursuing primary liability changes in Arizona and Maryland. Legislators there are hearing regularly from the insurance industry. They should hear from us as well.

In Louisiana, several bills would allow a 3% rental car tax to continue in certain counties. State legislators will hear from the counties about how important it is to have these taxes. They should hear from us as to why it’s unfair to continue singling out our customers for these special taxes.

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, where the state wants to continue the $7.50 per day rental car tax, state legislators need to hear from us about the patent unfairness of that tax. And in New York, the rental car industry is working on key insurance reform measures to keep our costs down. State legislators in Albany will hear from plaintiff attorneys on why this is a bad idea. They should also hear from us.

Our industry continues to pursue legislation in the U.S. Congress that will prohibit state and local governments from imposing unfair taxes on our customers. Members of Congress have heard from those state and local governments about why they need to keep taxing rental car customers. Those same members of Congress need to hear from us!

These are just a few of the public policy issues our industry is facing. Now more than ever, it is critical that we engage in the public policy process. ACRA is leading the charge on many of these issues, but a trade association is only as strong as its members. If our individual members are active, then the association gains more visibility and the industry has a stronger voice.

Let’s heed Congressman Graves’ advice.

ACRA stands willing and able to assist you in this challenge. Please contact us if you need help getting started.

To find House and Senate members for your district, go to these websites:s www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.