This year marked the first full year that the American Car Rental Association (ACRA) retained a federal government relations lobbyist. ACRA set a high bar in 2015 by securing the enactment of federal car rental recall legislation as part of the 2015 federal highway bill.

In 2016, ACRA continued to serve its members well in the area of government relations on Capitol Hill. Here are some examples:

• Provided members with guidance on compliance with the new federal car rental recall statute.

• Pressed for federal legislation to curb discriminatory car rental taxes, including an innovative approach to the issue as part of the FAA reauthorization legislation that moved through Congress last year.

• Took a leadership role among trade associations involved with the Section 1031/Like-Kind Exchange Coalition by meeting with 35 congressional offices on the importance of LKE to the car rental industry and to the American economy overall.

• Initiated a federal political action committee — ACRA PAC — to support ACRA’s broad federal government relations profile. ACRA raised over $18,000 for the PAC to date in 2016 and distributed campaign contributions to federal legislators who are in a position to support ACRA’s primary federal public policy goals.

• Filed comments with the Department of Labor, raising concerns with that agency’s proposal to change its regulations with respect to overtime and the classification of employees as “exempt.”

• Initiated discussions with the Department of Homeland Security on ways that ACRA and DHS could cooperate on security issues without sacrificing consumer private protections.

• Started an education campaign for the nation’s airports on peer-to-peer car rental companies through presentations to the American Association of Airport Executives and the Airports Council International – North America, as well as bringing the issue to the attention of federal legislators and staffers on Capitol Hill during ACRA’s September “fly-in.”

• Tripled the number of ACRA members attending the 2016 ACRA Government Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. in September. This conference included a meeting with representatives of the nation’s automobile manufacturers to discuss public policy areas where the organizations should work together as well as meetings with federal legislators and their staff that highlighted ACRA’s concerns with car rental excise taxes, LKE, and peer-to-peer car rentals.

In the States

In 2016, ACRA was active in a number of states on public policy matters. Here are some highlights:

California: The industry made progress in reforming the main law governing our practices, Civil Code 1936. We had success in streamlining the chapter, eliminating duplicative statutes, and clarifying what contract items are taxable. There is more work to be done here, but it’s a great start.

Florida: The industry continues to successfully push back against any legislative effort to create expanded liability for rental car companies in certain rental situations. These attempts are aimed at eliminating, or at least minimizing, the federal “Graves Amendment,” which ended the antiquated doctrine of vicarious liability.

Colorado: Over the last several years, there has been legislation backed strongly by the insurance industry that would eliminate the effects of the Koenig court decision on loss of use. So far, our industry has successfully blocked any legislation from passing.

Louisiana and South Carolina: In both states this year, the industry successfully prevailed on passing legislation regarding vehicle licensing fees (VLF). In Louisiana, a bill passed and was signed into law that would govern how those fees are calculated and disclosed. In South Carolina, the legislature increased the mandatory surcharge that allows the industry to recoup registration and licensing costs.

Michigan: The industry continues to support eliminating or changing the state’s no-fault insurance regime. While no compromise deal has been struck, the industry has introduced legislation that would eliminate the no-fault requirement in certain circumstances.

New York: The industry blocked legislation that would have exempted peer-to-peer rental car companies from various rental car regulations and taxes. Our belief is that if those taxes and regulations are going to be removed or modified, they should be removed or modified for all industry business, not just a select few.

Sioux City, Iowa: The industry thwarted a proposed $3 per day rental car tax in Sioux City’s city council. It was suggested that the tax be used for “economic development” purposes. After talking to other stakeholders and council members, the proposal was ultimately withdrawn.