The following article appeared on HotelNewsNow.com on November 11, 2014:
REPORT FROM THE U.S. - Hotel industry leaders have a long list of legislative items they hope the United States Congress will tackle following last week’s election in which Republicans gained control of the Senate. Their attitude is that generally optimistic progress can be made, which will be favorable to the industry.
“It’s a real opportunity for a reset,” said Mark Carrier, president of B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group and vice chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “Anything that creates an opportunity for a better working relationship in the capital and gets the country on a pathway to progress could be very helpful.”
Carrier and other executives said that while a Republican-controlled Congress is generally good for the hotel industry, they don’t expect a lot of action on big issues.
“We should expect some positive things and actually get some things done now that we have both the House and Senate on the same wavelength,” said Kerry Ranson, president and COO of Expotel Hospitality and chairman-elect of the InterContinental Hotels Group Owners Association. “By having both the House and Senate Republican and somewhat conservative you can expect some small wins, although I don’t believe the world is going to change. You hope these legislators recognize that if they don’t try to meet halfway they can easily be lame ducks in two years.”
Breaking the stalemate
Gridlock in Congress could still be an issue, said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the AH&LA.
“There are a few dynamics of the new Congress that give us pause,” she said. “While hopeful and optimistic, we have to keep in mind that the Republicans will be governing the Senate with a majority far short of the 60 seats needed to override filibusters, which means in many cases it will be an uphill battle to reach consensus.
“Also, all eyes are now set on the 2016 election cycle, and everything in Washington will now focus on the race to the White House and control of the Senate in 2016. Twenty-four Republicans will be up for reelection in 2016 in the Senate, and many of them hail from blue or purple states, seven of which were carried by President (Barack) Obama in the last presidential cycle.”
To Chip Rogers, VP of government affairs for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, there is another side to Washington gridlock.
“What’s often forgotten is that each action by government has either a positive or negative impact,” he said in an email. “Therefore, when proposals that harm the economy, or our industry specifically, are killed by gridlock, we are thankful. Gridlock or no gridlock is not the issue. We want a government that supports and respects the foundation of our economy, which is private-sector free markets.”
While the election focus was mainly on Congress, and the Senate specifically, the results of governors’ races in many states could also have an impact on the hotel industry, said Laurence Geller, chairman of Geller Investment.
“The gubernatorial changes were very important,” he said, noting Republicans gained four governorships and now control at least 31 states with two races yet to be decided. “In those states where Democrats were pushed out by Republicans, the unions will have less authority, and we should see healthier growth and improvements in the economies.”
Issues at stake
Industry leaders interviewed mentioned many issues that could come up before Congress in the upcoming session:
Labor and regulation. Lugar cited regulations from the National Labor Relations Board as a key issue the AH&LA is watching.
“These regulations could destroy the franchise model and give labor a leg up in the organizing process,” she said, referring to a potential ruling from the NLRB that could link franchising companies as co-employers with their franchisees.
Minimum wage. Carrier said he anticipates any legislation on labor issues could include the minimum wage.
“A change in the minimum wage on a national basis might be helpful to address the firestorms we’re facing around the country in which some communities are legislating even more extreme minimum wages,” he said.
Obamacare. The AH&LA and AAHOA are both part of the More Time for Full Time coalition that wants Congress to change the definition of a full-time employee under the Affordable Care Act.
“While undoubtedly the Republican leadership will take another messaging vote on repeal of the Affordable Care Act, we believe the shift in power means it’s more likely we can make some real important changes to the law, most notably changing the full-time definition from 30 to 40 hours per week,” Lugar said. “This would have a very positive effect on this industry and has been an area we at AH&LA have been working on.”
Tax reform. “Our hope is a Republican Congress will enact pro-growth tax reform while protecting current real estate tax incentives, such as the ‘like kind’ exchange that encourages business reinvestment,” Rogers said. “We are also hopeful that the new Congress will serve its appropriate role as a check and balance on executive branch regulation that impacts our industry.”
Terrorism insurance. Ranson is anxious for Congress to quickly take up reauthorization of the Terrorism Insurance Risk Act, legislation created in the aftermath of 9/11 to provide a backstop in insurance coverage for businesses affected by acts of terrorism.
“This is coming up for expiration on 31 December,” he said. “We must get a multi-year authorization on it because otherwise it could put us in a bad situation.”
Tourism promotion. Another issue in front of Congress is reauthorization of Brand USA, the public-private organization tasked with promoting tourism to the U.S. from international markets.
“We need practical policies that drive growth,” said Nick Kellock, COO of Concord Hospitality. “We need to see continued progress on opening the doors of the U.S. and ensuring that we get more than our fair share of the emerging outbound tourism markets, Asia in particular.”
Keystone pipeline. Geller said approval of the Keystone pipeline project through the middle of the U.S. is important for several reasons.
“It needs to get approved: A) because is a jobs creator; B) it is an energy thing; and C) it is a signal to the outside world about levels of investment in the U.S.,” he said.
Link to article online: http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Article/14757/US-elections-provide-opportunity-for-a-reset