Grassroots activities are an important partner of association lobbying on Capitol Hill. Since 2020, the motorcoach industry - led by ABA - has fought hard to receive much needed financial help from the government when the world shut down. Our efforts were successful in receiving $2 billion in CERTS (Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services) Act, but the money came taxable, unlike other transportation industry COVID grants. Since then, ABA has been lobbying Congress for a CERTS Tax Relief bill for both the House and Senate. Our members have played a huge role in contacting their representatives and senators to tell their story and how paying taxes on CERTS money is not helping their recovery.
One member has stood out from the crowd with his hardwork and dedication to contact Congressional offices to talk about the CERTS Tax Relief bill and asking them to sign on to show their support of the industry. Nick Trevino, Finance manager at Aries Charter Transportation, Inc. in Naperville, Ill., has helped bring in a number of Congressional co-signers for our tax bill. Here is how Nick does it.
How many representatives did you contact?
Throughout these latest efforts in October 2022 after I was provided the list of 16 Illinois Representatives that haven’t signed onto the H.R. 7477 from ABA's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Suzanne Rohde – I’ve had email conversations with all 16 Illinois Representatives that weren’t yet signed onto the bill. From there I’ve received the commitment of 5 Representatives that became co-sponsors, with an additional 6 Representatives going through their internal steps of determining if they will sign on. I’ve not received any response back from the other 5 Illinois Representatives. Many of these contacts are the Legislative Directors for the respective Representative and have been with the office since our initial efforts in 2020 to get the CERTS Act/Bill off the ground. That made it easy to follow-up with emails/conversations over the last 2+ years, so that I wouldn’t have to start from square one with an email communication.
Why is important for businesses to get involved in advocating for their businesses?
Tax season, April 2023 is coming around fast. Sure, motorcoach operators received a portion of the original $8 billion funds that we were originally requesting from Congress, and it has helped tremendously…however, I believe many operators aren’t prepping for a soon to be tax bill of 5, 6 or even 7 figures as we are working through the daily challenges we are all struggling with: record inflation, record diesel prices/shortage of diesel fuel, CDL driver shortages, diesel mechanic shortages and supply chain issues. This unexpected tax bill could put our industry's continued recovery efforts even more behind the eight ball.
The CERTS Act was approved by Congress to help our industry – however, there was one major hurdle we are finding ourselves in as tax season is about to begin. These funds were intended to be relief/tax free like the PPP, Restaurant Revitalization Fund and Shutter Venue Operators Grants – unfortunately, the CERTS Act was overlooked in this aspect.
What was the one thing you did that you feel made a difference in convincing Representatives to sign on to our bill?
I believe the previous out-reach that I’ve had with the contacts in the many of the Representatives offices has helped a lot. I’ve been able to reply off an email I sent from 2020, 2021 and earlier this year to help continue the conversation with updating the Bill # (H.R. 7477) as a reference in the subject line of the email. Many of the Representatives have asked who of their colleagues have signed on, so I have provided a direct link to the bill for them to access: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/7477/cosponsors?pageSort=lastToFirst&r=46&s=1.
I always end my email with the the lead sponsor/staffer's email address, so they can reach out directly that way to sign-on if they are interested. “Rep. Panetta is the lead sponsor for the bill with his staffer Mark Dennin (Mark.Dennin@mail.house.gov), as the point of contact within his office if that may help the case!”
The easier I can make it for the Representative to sign on the better success I’ve had.
What advice to have to other members about becoming involved in grassroots?
Our industry doesn’t have nearly the spend on lobbyists in Washington D.C. compared to other transportation industries. The more we continue to build relationships/awareness of our industry now with Representatives/Senators the better off we will be come long-term for other areas we will need assistance in legislation down the line and request for federal funding.
Anything else you would like to add?
Follow-up at minimum weekly with them…Even if you do not receive a response back initially…they likely receive hundreds of emails weekly asking for any number of things! Be the squeaky wheel!