ARA’s annual 2017 State Legislative Summit and Hill Day continues to build support for pressing automotive recyclers concerns.
ARA members from 15 states met in Washington, D.C. early May to discuss the state of the industry and represent the interests of the professional automotive recycling industry as a whole before their Members of Congress. All recyclers in attendance were repeat, regular attendees for the Summit and Hill Day and continue to come to these annual Association events for a variety of reasons: For the greater good of the profession, to be part of the Association’s presence on Capitol Hill, to learn about our federal government, as well as to communicate about issues important to their own businesses.
Many ARA members flew into our Nation’s Capitol early to attend the ARA Board of Directors meeting on April 30. The meeting was open to all ARA members, who took advantage of the opportunity to dialogue directly with their Association leaders. Topics discussed included reports from all ARA committees, the new Association Strategic Plan, and plans for the upcoming 74th Annual ARA Convention in Dallas, Texas.
“I enjoy meeting with others in the industry and discussing the issues, but not only issues, other topics of the industry,” says Fran Reitman, of Reitman Auto Parts & Sales, Inc., a 4th-generation family-owned auto recycler. “We shouldn’t always think that there must be an overwhelming issue that compels us to get together. We should come together to share ideas on how to make our industry better before we have issues.”
In doing just that, the 10th Annual State Legislative Summit took place on May 1 and began with introductions and an overview of previous Legislative Summits along with a review of accomplishments. Roundtable discussions followed with comprehensive legislative updates from all attendees. Each attendee shared legislative successes and challenges faced by automotive recyclers in their particular state, along with active legislation and state association goals.
There was substantive discussion throughout and afterward, and several top legislative issues impacting automotive recyclers at the state level were identified. They included affidavits, how to approach the pool of older, inoperable vehicles without a title, value of state-run electronic stolen vehicle check systems, storm-water enforcement, and wide-spread consolidation.
Later, attendees participated in leadership training led by former recycler Paul D’Adamo of Recycling Growth. The group talked about the value of being involved in associations at the state and national level, how the investment in volunteering can bring value to one’s own business, developing the next generation of leaders, and public speaking techniques. The day concluded with an in-depth briefing for the next day’s Congressional appointments, complete with an issue overview, and was followed by an evening reception.
The annual ARA Hill Day on May 2 in which members visited with their federal lawmakers was a very successful day. More than 60 meetings took place on Capitol Hill and over 20 of those were held in person with Members of Congress, not just their staff. ARA members urged lawmakers to support the introduction of legislation requiring that automakers provide professional automotive recyclers with comprehensive parts data, not just recalled parts data as signed into law in December 2015. Reports back from attendees indicate a great deal of interest in this provision and ARA has since followed up with each office.
“I enjoy being with the movers and shakers of the industry,” says Bob Eubanks, Rusty Acres Automotive, Inc. “We discussed the need for OEM data with our Florida legislators. They were aware of the need and said they would help us. The better politicians become aware of our needs the sooner we will see progress.”
The biggest concern Reitman has about her family’s business that legislative action can assist with deals with the ability to sell parts to their customers and know that the part is a safe part to sell. “And,” she adds, “the protection that if the part has been in a recall that we know if it has been a replacement part.” As a small business, she is also concerned about increasing and burdensome taxes, fees, and regulations.
A highlight for many attendees was as Congressional speaker Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) addressed the group at breakfast. “I enjoyed most the morning session with representation that explained what and how to approach the different officials,” says Eubanks. Extremely well-versed on automotive issues since before entering Congress, Issa was a successful manufacturer of vehicle anti-theft devices including the Viper system, and he’s the holder of 37 automotive patents.
Issa discussed the industry’s data challenges and is extremely supportive of ARA policy positions. At lunch on Capitol Hill, many attendees were also present for the presentation of ARA’s Congressional Champion Award. The award went to Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) who introduced the recall parts data provision and worked to get it enacted into law. The Congressman’s staffer that worked extremely closely with ARA staff and members accepted the award for the Congressman and thanked the ARA attendees for their hard work in soliciting cosponsors for the new comprehensive parts bill the Congressman was introducing. ARA Past President Mike Swift commissioned the fabrication of the award which was made out of a piston.
Reitman believes if the number of ARA Members at Hill Day doubled next year, the benefits would be lasting. “Ultimately, we would have better relationships and understanding with legislators, like many other industries do,” she says. “The more of us representing the issue, the more likely they’ll listen to what we have to say. I am unsure if many understand how we benefit the process of recycling. One time, I visited a senator who viewed the industry as pollutant and was appalled by our visit to ask him for anything because his perception. In showing exactly how we extend the life of people’s vehicles, he was more receptive of what we do for the environment, the consumer and how we positively engage all aspects of the vehicle so as nothing should be put to waste along our highways, byways and neighborhoods. That is the message we need to share.”