Regulations

Political Climate Brightens For Limo Industry

Martin Romjue
Posted on May 16, 2017
NLA lobbyist Louie Perry of Cornerstone Goverment Affairs in Washington, D.C., addresses the NLA membership Monday, March 16, 2017 during the International LCT Show in Las Vegas (LCT photo)
NLA lobbyist Louie Perry of Cornerstone Goverment Affairs in Washington, D.C., addresses the NLA membership Monday, March 16, 2017 during the International LCT Show in Las Vegas (LCT photo)

LAS VEGAS — The Republican wave that swept the Presidential, Congressional, and state races points to an overall economic and political climate favorable to the U.S. chauffeured transportation industry, NLA members and attendees to the International LCT Show were told March 13.

The change in Washington, D.C. could bring a harder look and outright rollback of certain regulations and other rules hamstringing the predominantly small to medium sized businesses that make up the industry. [A Congressional failure March 24 to pass an alternative to the Affordable Care Act delays any relief for companies offering employer-based health care plans].

The overall industry political outlook was delivered by the National Limousine Association’s two lobbyists, Louie Perry and Todd Webster, executives at Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C., during the NLA’s Annual Membership Meeting.

The 2016 shake-up election put outsider tycoon Donald Trump into the White House, with 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats, including two Democrat-leaning independents, in the U.S. Senate, and 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats in the House of Representatives, with four vacancies due to Cabinet appointments. The 2018 Senate election map favors Republicans, with 25 Democratic seats versus eight Republican ones up for re-election.

This year, Congress and President Trump could pursue comprehensive tax reform that includes lower rates for corporations, S Corps, and 100% expensing of capital purchases, and a $1 trillion infrastructure package. Both Trump’s plan and the House of Representative’s “Better Way” plan seek to decrease tax rates for “Main Street” businesses.

Todd Webster, vice president at Cornerstone Government Affairs joins Perry in the annual legislatie presentation to the NLA membership (LCT photo)
Todd Webster, vice president at Cornerstone Government Affairs joins Perry in the annual legislatie presentation to the NLA membership (LCT photo)
Webster and Perry presented a power point outlining top developments affecting the chauffeured transportation industry:

• Uber’s sexual harassment case exposes its culture of defiance and rule-breaking that seems to be finally catching up to the TNC. Uber has been beset with sexual misconduct and discrimination claims, the potential theft of 14,000 emails related to its autonomous vehicle code, a #DeleteUber social media protest campaign in the wake of its CEO Travis Kalanick serving on Trump’s business advisory council, and the use of a Greyball tool to deceive authorities worldwide.

• Uber has spent $1.36 million on federal lobbying activity in 2016, tripling its expenditure in 2015.

• New Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is engaged with issues possibly favoring the industry: Reexamining the DOT 15-point “safety assessment” issued last September; wants to ensure DOT “is a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not an impediment”; and concerned about impact on employment.

• Automakers along with Google and Apple are seeking to lobby for and accelerate the adoption of driverless cars. “In the next decade, autonomous vehicles will be a threat to the industry,” Perry told the audience at the Annual Membership Meeting. “Obama rolled out rules for driverless cars, but Chao has come in and said [vehicles] would affect employment and she’s not sure about the safety of them. The OEMs, Google, and Apple are looking to lobby for autonomous vehicles.”

Among legislative issues the NLA will be focusing on this year:

• Address the labor misclassification of drivers on the federal, state, and local levels now that more problems and negative press have emerged about Uber.

• Rally industry supporters for the annual NLA Day on the Hill June 14 that targets key Congressional members to push NLA priorities, with driver labor misclassification as a major issue.

• Focus on regulatory battles and efforts, with New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Illinois, among the states with the most chauffeured transportation business, as key states for engagement. So far, 43 states have passed legislation related to TNCs.

• Counter Uber efforts through targeted public relations to complement lobbying actions.

• See how autonomous vehicles affect traffic safety, duty of care, and fleet-related employment. All safety laws that apply to cars with human drivers should apply to cars without human drivers. Further, the NLA believes before companies can test autonomous vehicles on public roadways, they should cooperate with state, local, and federal authorities, and receive operating authority to do so.

• Engage on federal bills HR 5625 & HR 5647 from the last Congress that favor TNCs for federal employees.

• Keep a dialogue with the Department of Labor and build on a March 6 meeting with the DOL’s wage and hour enforcement division. 


Matthew Berritt, vice president of New York-based Evins, presented numbers showing a shift toward more negative media stories about Uber during a NLA general membership meeting. The NLA retained Evins for its public relations efforts in early 2015 (LCT photo)
Matthew Berritt, vice president of New York-based Evins, presented numbers showing a shift toward more negative media stories about Uber during a NLA general membership meeting. The NLA retained Evins for its public relations efforts in early 2015 (LCT photo)
NLA Public Relations, Safety Campaigns Net Big Media Results
NLA members heard a report from public relations firm Evins (www.evins.com) that presented the highest media metrics so far in its public awareness and media campaign about ridehail dangers and regulatory problems. Efforts to help inform and educate major media outlets have resulted in more skeptical and critical coverage of services such as Uber.

Evins has leveraged its deep connections with and recommended story ideas to major media outlets whose reporters now regularly call the NLA for insights and comments on ride-hail/transportation network companies (TNCs). The two-year PR efforts and PSAs have weaned the mainstream media off its overwhelmingly positive, credulous coverage of Uber.

Evins executives replayed a PSA video featuring actress Pamela Anderson that illustrates the disadvantages and risks of using TNC drivers. The campaign messages center around limousine operators being on the right side of the law and fighting against the criminal behavior pervasive in media reports about TNCs.

Fifth-term NLA President Gary Buffo (LCT photo)
Fifth-term NLA President Gary Buffo (LCT photo)
NLA Elects Officers For New Term
The NLA nominated and voted on the 2017-18 slate officers during its quarterly board meeting March 11 before the International LCT Show. New NLA officers are: President Gary Buffo (Pure Luxury, Petaluma, CA), who is now serving his fifth consecutive one-year term; 1st VP Laura Canady (CLT Express Livery, Charlotte, N.C.); 2nd VP Joe Ironi (Global Alliance, Toronto, Ontario); Treasurer Robert Alexander (RMA Worldwide, Rockville, MD); and Secretary Scott Solombrino (Dav El / BostonCoach).

NLA board director Robert Alexander wows the crowd with his smooth wine antics (LCT photo)
NLA board director Robert Alexander wows the crowd with his smooth wine antics (LCT photo)
Returning Wine Jug Raises More Money
If you saw an NLA board director swinging and pretending to guzzle a three-liter bottle of wine, don’t be alarmed; it was for a good cause. Directors Robert Alexander and Ron Stein auctioned a 2012 Custom Cabernet Sauvignon Blend exclusive to donor Grech Motors during the NLA Annual Membership Meeting on March 13.

But the people bidding decided to make straight donations to the Harold Berkman Memorial Fund and kept giving the bottle back to be auctioned off in the Silent Auction at the LCT Awards Celebration the next night. The three first “winning” donors include: Eric Devlin, Premier Transportation — $1,500; Craig McCutcheon, Rosedale Livery Limited — $2,000; and Dawson Rutter, Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation — $2,000.

At the awards gala, the only silent bidder for the returned bottle, for $500, was Stein, who owns Exclusive Sedan Service in Los Angeles.

Jacobs (L) and Greene (R) shared heartfelt and humorous anecdotes about the late Harold Berkman (LCT photo)
Jacobs (L) and Greene (R) shared heartfelt and humorous anecdotes about the late Harold Berkman (LCT photo)
Fund Raiser Boosts Berkman Charity Donations
The NLA raised about $28,000 March 12 at its annual fundraiser for its philanthropic arm, the Harold Berkman Memorial Fund. About 125 attendees who came to the event held at Lagasse’s Stadium where they could enjoy complimentary beverages and appetizers while mingling in the giant sports bar and outdoor terrace.

Contributors heard NLA board director and Atlanta operator Jeff Greene and Chicago operator George Jacobs give tributes to Berkman, considered a founding father of the NLA and the modern-day limousine industry, who died in 1997. Berkman founded Music Express in Los Angeles in 1973. The company now is one of the largest limousine services in the U.S. with operations in four major cities and run by Berkman’s daughter Cheryl Berkman who attended the event with family members.

Overall, the NLA has donated about $816,000 to charities since 1996.

Related Topics: Cornerstone Government Affairs, federal regulations, industry politics, legislation, lobbying, Louie Perry, media, National Limousine Association, NLA board of directors, public relations, Robert Alexander, Washington DC

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