The ASCA’s annual fly-in to Washington D.C. was again met with great success as a contingent of industry representatives braved high early September temperatures and humidity to raise awareness with our elected officials.
This year the focus was on the passage of the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, Senate Bill 237. This bill is aimed at reducing frivolous lawsuits. The bill passed the House this spring and needs to get through the Senate.
“As a country, we depend a lot on our government’s decisions, but as an industry we need to realize our government depends on us to make them aware of the issues that we face,” says ASCA Executive Director Kevin Gilbride. “[In D.C.], we worked to raise awareness with our elected officials.”
Here are five take aways from this year’s Legislative Day on the Hill.
1. We have a voice
This has been Gilbride’s mantra for years when it comes to the association’s legislative activity at the local, state and federal levels.
“We had representation from 20 of our 50 states. We had meetings with Senate offices from 35 states, and in most cases, we had two meetings for each state, meeting with both of their Senate offices,” he says. “The 20 in which we had constituents present went so much better that the ones in which we did not have a person from the state present. They want to meet with the people that can vote for them.”
In the coming year, Gilbride adds the association will make it a priority to increase state representation in preparation for the 2019 event.
2. Opposition is lessening for Senate Bill 237
The association has long supported the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA), which is aimed at reducing frivolous lawsuits. Historically, this draws party line support with Republicans supporting it, and the Democrats opposing it. “This year, it seemed to me that we had better reception on from those generally opposing the bill,” Gilbride says. “Many agreed that while Senate Bill 237 might not be the perfect solution, something needed to be done as they are sympathetic to our plight.”
3. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may lead to a solution
For the first time, Day on the Hill participants began to hear stories about how people are using the ADA to unethically profit from this act.
“Apparently, this is very prevalent, especially on the west coast, where people are nitpicking violations of the ADA and forcing property owners to pay them, or they will file a class action lawsuit,” Gilbride says. “While it appears to be extortion, it really happening.
“We even heard a story of an attorney using Google Earth to look for violations (like an improperly placed wheelchair ramp) and filing lawsuits against a large number of property owners, never even leaving his office.”
4. California and Senator Dianne Feinstein
California is the most prevalent state for ADA lawsuits, which is Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein’s home state. In the past, she has not supported LARA. However, with her constituents being impacted so heavily with these claims, the ASCA contingent had one of its more productive meetings with her staff.
“While Senate Bill 237 might not be the solution, there could be an opening for a similar bipartisan solution that would include both the ADA abuses and frivolous lawsuits,” Gilbride says. “Senator Feinstein is also the ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is where this bill is sitting right now, and if she jumps on board, her and Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley have the power to get this done.”
5. Minnesota and Senator Amy Klobuchar
The ASCA failed to have a Minnesota contractor attend Legislative Day on the Hill this year. As a result, the contingent was unable to secure a meeting with that state’s reps.
“At the end of the day, I met with Senator Charles Grassley’s top aide on this bill, as the Senator is the main sponsor,” Gilbride says. “This meeting was more of an opportunity to provide them with what we learned and have them guide us one where to focus. The very first name he asked about was Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar. He felt she may be the perfect co-Sponsor for this bill. Unfortunately, we lost an opportunity here.
“Next year, we don’t know where the opportunities will be,” Gilbride adds. “We need every state represented if we want to cover all bases.”
This year’s event was sponsored by Boss Snowplows.
Looks like one of our own will soon be featured in an upcoming episode of “World’s Greatest!...”
According to a recent social media post, 2015 Leadership Award recipient Jeannie Schenderline and her crew at Fairbanks, Alaska-based Jeffco will be the focus of an upcoming episode. Described as “a fast-paced tour around the world, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with some of the most amazing and unique companies, products, people and travel destinations the world has to offer.” Without a doubt Jeannie and Jeffco fill a number of those criteria. No word on when her episode will debut, but you can check the show out at worldsgreatesttelevision.com.