BIGGER GOV ALERT: 2010 NLA Day On Hill Marks Shift In Strategy

Posted on May 5, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

With political changes in Washington, the association must now focus as much on federal departments as legislative corridors to advance industry interests and get information for operators.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The NATIONAL LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATION’s annual political pilgrimage to the nation’s capital last week underscored the immediate need for operators to make sure they are complying with federal labor rules that apply to W-2 employees and independent contractors.

Among the myriad of meetings with representatives from various federal departments was a briefing with an official from the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. Under the Obama Administration, the department plans more enforcement and audits of small businesses, such as chauffeured transportation operators, to make sure W-2 employee regulations and standards are being followed.

“Obama’s budget requested more funds to staff up auditors in DOL in order to audit companies that may be misclassifying employees as independent contractors,” said Louie Perry, vice president of Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C., the lobbying firm retained by the NLA. “That’s coupled with the IRS mailing out a survey to employers that will ask them about 1099 workers. Once it’s filled out, [the employer] will get an automatic visit from IRS to make sure independent contractors (ICs) are indeed ICs under the U.S. law.”

Perry said the Obama Administration is beefing up enforcement because it sees a revenue opportunity in having more workers pay federal taxes, FICA, and Medicare. The efforts are also a sop to organized labor, which has become more visible in trying to advance its special interest goals during the Obama Presidency.

That particular session was one of the liveliest during the annual NLA Day On The Hill gathering, April 27-28, where about 50 operators and association leaders from around the nation convened to meet with federal officials responsible for regulation and enforcement of transportation related rules and to travel to Capitol Hill to lobby key Congressional representatives and staff members who are influential in advancing legislation beneficial to the chauffeured transportation industry.

During the labor session, operators also were concerned about competitive disadvantages between operators with W-2 employees and those with ICs, in terms of costs and compliance, said Cornerstone lobbyist Greg McDonald, who works with Perry on NLA issues. To help operators properly understand federal labor rules, the NLA has published a WAGE AND HOUR PRIMER for chauffeured transportation operators.

In addition to the labor session, NLA operator-members received briefings from the Office Of Health Reform in the Department of Health & Human Services, the Office of Financial Assistance in the Small Business Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the Department of Transportation. Other sessions included representatives from the Senate Commerce Committee and the United State Travel Association.

Whereas in previous years the NLA members spent a full day on Capitol Hill, this year those meetings were kept to the afternoon of Wednesday, April 28. The growing emphasis on regulatory enforcement and expanded administrative authority in the Obama Administration requires more attention to administrative efforts affecting the chauffeured transportation industry. The Administration is proving to be more aggressive in its application of executive power through federal agencies, which means that many of the issues facing businesses will be handled and determined through bureaucratic fiat.

As a result, NLA members spend most of the afternoon of April 27 and the morning of April 28 attending the aforementioned sessions. While on Capitol Hill, NLA members divided into 16 lobbying teams that were assigned to visiting a total of 77 offices of U.S. Senators and Representatives throughout Wednesday afternoon. The Congressional offices visited belong to all the members serving on committees and/or involved with legislation relevant to chauffeured transportation industry interests.

On the legislative side, the NLA strongly pushed two key issues: the RIDE Act Amendment and distracted driving legislation, said NLA President Diane Forgy. “We’re building support for the RIDE Act Amendment and got a positive response, and we will be doing a lot of follow up in the next year,” Forgy said. “We also explained our position on the distracted driving legislation and are trying to communicate our support of safe driving practices and reasonable restrictions on manual texting and cell phone use.”

The RIDE Act Amendment needs to be attached to relevant legislation that likely won’t move through Congress until the 2011 session, Perry said.

For further explanation on those two key legislative proposals and other legislative/regulatory matters facing the NLA, see LCT’S BACKGROUND ARTICLE ON NLA ISSUES.

— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

ABOUT PHOTO: NLA board members and industry association leaders from around the U.S. met in Washington, D.C. last week to tackle key issues facing the industry in back-to-back sessions, meetings, and visits to Congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

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