2011 Legislative Symposium

This past week GBTA held its 9th Annual Legislative Summit in Washington D.C.  As in the past, this session was used to  meet with our elected officials concerning the travel and hospitality industry.  This year Texas once again was well represented and had more BTA members than any other state. 

During this legislature summit we had the opportunity to visit with the following representative offices.

1.    Kay Baily Hutchison – US Senate
2.    John Cornyn – US Senate
3.    Lamar Smith – US Congress
4.    Sam Johnson – US Congress
5.    Kenny Marchant – US Congress
6.    Lloyd Doggett – US Congress
7.    Shelia Jackson Lee – US Congress

This year the legislative summit focused on three primary areas;

1.    FAA Reauthorization Bill 
2.    Trusted Traveler Program
3.    Rental Car Taxes

Both the House and Senate have passed the FAA Reauthorization bill, however since they both passed different versions of the bill it is currently being held up in conference.   The 19th short-term extension of the current FAA authorization law was passed in May because the House and Senate negotiators have failed to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ reauthorization bills. The most recent extension expires on June 30th.  During our meeting we pressed the fact that a fully funded long term FAA Reauthorization Bill would not only benefit the Business Travelers but also the entire economy.  This is mainly due to the implication of NextGen, the framework to modernize the air transportation infrastructure.    

We also had the opportunity to discuss the Trusted Traveler Program.  This is a program that TSA has been authorized to develop a program for years, however they have failed to do so up to this point.  While the details of such a program is clearly up to the TSA the end goal would be to create a secure way to reduce the security  line wait time for travelers.  According to a survey by GBTA in 2010 a large majority of business travelers would travel an additional 2 to 3 times a year if such a program were in place. 

Finally, we discussed  the current discrimination in the use of rental car taxes .  Currently there are 117 taxes thoughout the US that target rental cars.  Many cities have used these taxes to build sports stadiums or to fund other programs that are not related to transportation.   The rental car industry is the only interstate form of travel that is not protected by current laws from these discriminating taxes.  Theses types of taxes make a real impact on Austin business bottom line and deter leisure travelers from visiting our city. 

I believe the legislature summit was a great success.  It allowed us the opportunity to remind members of congress on how important business travel is to the US economy and that we have a vested interested in working with them to solve the issues before us.  Together we can ensure our voices are heard not only in Austin but also on Capital Hill and together we can influence decisions being made that affect our lives and our businesses.

Personally I wanted to thank ABTA for the chance to travel to Washington D.C. to serve as an advocate for the issues that are important to us.  I also it allowed me to get to know the other members that attended from the other chapters in Texas.  Together we were able to not only speak on behalf of the business travelers in Texas, but also possibly lay the foundation to hold a similar legislature summit with the Texas Legislature in 2013.

By: Lyle Grimes