Industry Leaders Adjust Political Agenda For Trump Era

Martin Romjue
Posted on December 2, 2016

Louie Perry, managing partner at Cornerstone Government Affairs, presenting the NLA's legislative overview, Nov. 14, 2016 at LCT-NLA Show East, Atlantic City, N.J. (LCT photo)

Louie Perry, managing partner at Cornerstone Government Affairs, presenting the NLA's legislative overview, Nov. 14, 2016 at LCT-NLA Show East, Atlantic City, N.J. (LCT photo)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — For operators, the incoming Trump Administration and a majority Republican Congress likely will bring an easing of regulations and a more pro-business agenda. The sticky question for the limousine industry is which rules are kept, killed, or changed?

The National Limousine Association’s lead lobby team outlined the national political picture Nov. 13 during LCT-NLA Show East and later followed up with LCT for an overview of possible regulatory efforts coming in 2017.

Trump’s 306-232 Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history, and could likely shake up political agendas and priorities across many business sectors, including ground transportation. Republicans will have 52 seats in the U.S. Senate and at least 239 seats in the House of Representatives.

“In general, across the issues, the Trump Administration is expected to be more pro-business, more supportive of small business,” said Louie Perry, a partner at Cornerstone Government Affairs, the Washington-D.C. lobbying firm that has been retained by the NLA since 2009. “One could argue all the little things that drive businesses crazy — such as overtime rules, employee misclassification, gas guzzler tax, emissions requirements, etc., — a more pro-business Trump Administration might make it a little easier for small businesses to operate without burdensome regulations.”

The major political question is how a populist-Republican-business tycoon who campaigned on helping the working class “forgotten man” will view the regulatory need for transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, which have dominated industry agendas for the last several years. The NLA and state and regional industry trade groups are fighting to establish a permanent framework for regulatory fairness on safety, insurance, airport access, and driver background checks among the primary ground transportation sectors, such as TNCs, chauffeured services, and taxicabs.

Cornerstone Vice President Todd Webster updates NLA members during legislative presentation (LCT photo).

Cornerstone Vice President Todd Webster updates NLA members during legislative presentation (LCT photo).

“A Trump Administration likely will be very free market oriented and anti-regulation,” Perry and his Cornerstone colleague and vice president Todd Webster told LCT. “But sometimes the issues we have as an industry - where we have a direct competitor competing unfairly with cost advantages - forces us to push regulators to hold our competitors to the same standards we are held to,” he added. “We want laws enforced equally for us and the competition. There are also lawsuits across country trying to settle those questions. How the Trump Administration views Uber will determine whether they are easy or hard to work with. Trump’s hotel businesses have seen the impact of Airbnb on the hotel market in New York, and the city has cracked down on Airbnb banning short term rentals, making them report their income, not discriminate, and pay taxes. Donald Trump has said repeatedly on the campaign trail we are a nation of laws. We hope that means he wants to help the livery industry by making sure the laws for all transportation providers are enforced."

For the NLA and its lobbyists, the first order of business was to reach out to the Trump transition team and look for opportunities to meet with incoming Department of Labor and Department of Transportation officials to present the industry and its regulatory positions. The NLA drafted a position paper and has shared it with the Trump team along with news articles detailing the issues with TNC companies. Aside from TNC-related matters, Perry summarized some NLA priorities and speculated about possible federal changes related to industry concerns:

  • NLA will encourage the new administration to kill an overtime rule the Obama Administration approved in July that raised the mandatory overtime salary level from $23,660 to $47,476 per year. All employees who earn $47,476 or less are now eligible for overtime. “That captures many people who work in the limousine industry who previously were not subject to overtime,” Perry said. “We urge the rule be reconsidered or killed. Instead of being phased in over time, the rule change was done immediately, causing too much of a burden on businesses.” [Update: Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Rule]
  • NLA will seek clarification from the DOL on categories of employees and independent contractors related to TNCs and employee-based companies. “We hope Congress could speak once and for all on what they intend to do with the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FSLA) and how it applies to Uber’s business model. “It’s being litigated across the country, so it’s clearly a problem. If Congress legislated on that, it would be a good thing,” Perry said.
  • NLA will push for more clarity on ground transportation safety rules, especially on FBI-level fingerprint background checks for drivers. Congress should accurately define safety standards and requirements as applied to operators of limousine fleet vehicles and commercial motor vehicles – especially if they are contracting for state or federal work
  • Also, federal policies that may get a second look or modification, and thereby prompt the NLA to adjust its input, include requirements for electronic onboard recording devices (EORDs), also known as electronic logging devices (ELDs) for commercial vehicles; and potentially Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards may be revisited, which could have effects on auto manufacturing. “Larger vehicles might not be pushed off the road as quickly,” Perry said.
  • The NLA will develop a policy position and association response to the issue of driverless/ autonomous vehicles. The DOT issued guidance on such vehicles this summer including 15 performance benchmarks that companies will have to meet, and recommendations for state legislation and federal equipment standards.

State Level Focus for NLA
While TNCs could be universally regulated in some respects at the federal level, the real battles and breakthroughs are more likely to occur among state legislatures and executive branches. “Uber and Lyft are active in all states, trying to get exempted from local regulations and have some kind of weak state regulation,” Perry said.

Uber and Lyft will also try at the margins to legitimize the TNCs in as many places as they can via federal statue, Perry said. “They’ll push for standardization and be part of ride sharing and carpooling legislation. The problem is they provide commercial transportation for pay. They will try to do everything in their power to include what they do and define what they do as carpooling when it is clearly commercial transportation service.”

Uber has spent $970,000 on federal lobbying in the first three quarters of 2016, and Lyft about $140,000, according to Cornerstone figures. Among states, Uber has 19 registered lobbyists in Texas, with Lyft using six; Uber spends about $1 million on lobbying in California; and it spent $1 million on lobbying in New York during the first six months of this year alone.

Two-Party Approach
That’s why regardless of which party prevails in an election, groups such as the NLA are careful to find bipartisan allies in Congress and state houses. Among key Congressional representatives who have either supported NLA efforts or been receptive to the industry’s agenda:

  • Senate: Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-NY; Sen. Patty Murray D-NY; Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY (incoming Senate Minority Leader); Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH; Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-GA; Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA; and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-MO.
  • House of Representatives: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA; Rep. Kevin Brady, R-TX; Rep. Robert Scott, D-VA.

“We work with members’ offices who know or who have shown interest in working with our membership,” Perry said. “We look for anyone listening to our message of fair competition.”

Related Topics: chauffeur pay, Cornerstone Government Affairs, federal regulations, LCT-NLA Show East, legislation, limo associations, lobbying, Louie Perry, National Limousine Association, regulatory enforcement, state regulations, TNCs, Uber

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