ABOUT PHOTO: Diane Forgy, president of the NLA and owner/CEO of Overland Limousine in Kansas City, Mo.
SUMMARY: The NLA’s annual lobbying event in Washington, D.C. next week will look for ways to ease federal labor and wage rules that burden small businesses and increase the risk of costly labor audits.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Since the Democratic takeover of the executive branch in 2009, the federal government, along with financially desperate state governments, have become bolder in trying to regulate and audit businesses based on their compliance with myriad federal labor and wage laws.
The growing complexity of wage and labor rules has emerged as the top concern this year for the chauffeured transportation industry, which is trying to figure out how to obey and absorb the costs of: 1) Overtime pay rules; 2) Compliance standards for independent contractors.
“Labor issues have been compounding and becoming serious,” NLA President Diane Forgy told LCT in advance of the May 3-4 trip to the nation’s capital. “So many companies are going through audits.”
Forgy will help lead the Day On the Hill visits, scheduled for Wednesday, May 4. The event brings together NATIONAL LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATION board directors, NLA members, state association representatives, and operators from around the nation who form teams that visit the offices of Congressional representatives and meet with officials from various federal agencies.
Of particular concern to operators are federal efforts to levy overtime rules on gratuities, Forgy said. “The whole point of a gratuity is that it’s not a regular wage. It’s something that’s earned and it’s billed to the client as a convenience. We’re trying to get support in communicating that to the Department of Labor in order to make changes on the administrative level to recognize that, and not impose overtime on gratuities. If that continues, it could disrupt the whole way our industry is structured. In terms of chauffeur pay and client convenience, it will hurt the chauffeur more and cripple a lot of companies,” Forgy said.
At least 60 Day On the Hill participants, who will be organized and briefed by NLA-contracted lobbyists Louie Perry and Greg MacDonald of Washington, D.C.-based CORNERSTONE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, plan to visit the offices of Senators and Representatives from the following states: Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, Ohio and Colorado.
The teams also will visit those legislators serving on key committees that write and move proposed legislation to the floors of Congress. In the House, those committees include Transportation, Small Business, Education and Workforce; and in the Senate, Commerce, Education, Health, Labor, Pensions, and Small Business.
“We will try to plead our case,” Forgy added. “We have a good one and a fair argument. We’ll give it our best shot.”
In addition to labor matters, the NLA and its lobbyists will look for more sponsors and legislative vehicles that can carry the Ride Act Amendment, a recurrent effort for the NLA. Attempts to get it passed have been disrupted in recent years by changing political power and priorities in Washington, D.C.
The Real Interstate Drivers’ Equity (RIDE) Act needs an amendment that clarifies the original 2002 act so that states and political subdivisions such as airport authorities that receive federal funding cannot charge fees that single out vehicles providing prearranged interstate ground transportation service. It also would prevent any transportation terminal from charging a special fee, other than what is charged to the general public, to for-hire vehicles for access or use of terminal facilities.
The NATIONAL LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATION will host a fundraising event Tuesday evening, May 3 for one of the House sponsors of the RIDE Act Amendment, REP. LAURA RICHARDSON, D-Calif. The NLA Board of Directors also will hold its quarterly face-to-face meeting for 2Q 2011 earlier that day, and hold sessions in the afternoon.
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor