Alexandria, VA (June 23, 2011)-The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA)-the voice of the global business travel industry-kicked off the ninth annual Legislative Summit on Tuesday with a packed agenda featuring speakers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the U.S. Congress.
The Tuesday morning session opened with GBTA's Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick providing attendees with an overview of GBTA's Business Travel Index and the current economic outlook. McCormick explained to a packed audience how investing in business travel is good for economic growth and encouraged attendees to ask Congress to support key business travel initiatives, including passing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, implementing a trusted traveler program, and ending discriminatory state taxes levied on rental car consumers.
Paul Leyh, TSA's Transportation Sector Network Management (TSNM) General Manager for Commercial Aviation, discussed issues TSA is addressing such as checkpoint photography, pat-downs and overall security for passengers. "The further we move away from 9/11, the easier it is to believe the threats against the U.S. have lessened but TSA is being as vigilant as ever. The threats are still real, severe and sophisticated and we are looking for new and better ways to keep the public safe while getting them through security as quickly as possible."
Attendees also heard from Brian Rothery, director of Government and Public Affairs, Enterprise Holdings, Inc. who discussed the negative effects discriminatory rental car taxes have on consumers. Rothery encouraged attendees to tell their Representatives to sign on as an original co-sponsor to "End Discriminatory State Taxes for Automobile Renters Act of 2011 (EDSTAR)." The bill, soon to be introduced, proclaims that excise taxes on car rental consumers are unwarranted and would enforce a permanent halt on any new taxes.
In the afternoon, GBTA members headed to Capitol Hill to hear from Nelson Peacock, Assistant Secretary, Office of Legislative Affairs, DHS and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). Assistant Secretary Peacock discussed the department's legislative priorities, including border protection, cyberspace safety and continuing the balance of security and travel. Senator Bennet discussed the difficulties facing Congress on budget and deficit issues but congratulated the crowd on taking the time to come to Washington, D.C. to have their voices heard.
The evening concluded with POLITICO Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen delivering the dinner keynote. Allen entertained the crowd with political stories from various past presidential campaigns and predictions for the 2012 elections as well as the current political landscape.
The Wednesday morning session began with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), co-sponsor of the EDSTAR bill, warning attendees of the growing crisis of discriminatory taxes on rental cars. He stated that these taxes are harmful on many levels, especially to low income households and pledged to continue working on getting the EDSTAR bill enacted.
Over 100 GBTA members headed to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress. These industry advocates serving as the voice of the business travel industry delivered the message "Business Travel is vital to the Nation's economy." Attendees connected the dots on how enactment of smarter air passenger screening, ending discriminatory taxes on rental car consumers, and passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act are important to business travel and thus important to the Nation's economy and job growth.