ARA members make an impact at the state level
Editor’s note: American Rental Association (ARA) members in Washington and Massachusetts recently held legislative days at their state capitols in order to address state-level concerns and build relationships with those who are in a position to protect the interests of the equipment rental industry. ARA of Illinois members also are getting involved at the state level, taking their issues to Springfield later in April. Legislative days can help ARA state associations address issues that are state-specific and highlight the importance of building relationships with state and local leaders. These events also provide an opportunity for equipment rental store owners and managers to help elected officials at the state level understand the equipment rental industry and the issues that can significantly impact it. For more information about how to organize an event in your state, contact Alysia Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-334-2177, ext. 271.
The first ARA of Illinois Legislative Day is scheduled for April 25. Members are planning a breakfast with legislators to start the day before moving on to individual appointments. Their topics of concern include how worker compensation regulations, health insurance reform, prevailing wages and right to work affect the equipment rental industry in Illinois. Don Thennes, ARA of Illinois president and manager of Ed’s Rental & Sales in Crystal Lake, Ill., says he looks forward to this “excellent opportunity to get our issues in front of our legislators, so they know exactly what is important to us.”
ARA of Washington members went to Olympia, Wash., on Feb. 16, armed with a detailed list of talking points on the issues they wanted to discuss. Among the main topics of concern were taxes, worker compensation, health insurance and mandatory sick leave.
The day started with a legislative briefing, followed by appointments with 20 legislators. Brett Richter, owner of Double R Rental & Sales in Langley, Wash., was able to build on conversations from last year’s ARA of Washington Legislative Day and focus on the issues.
“Last year was our first year and I certainly felt the need to educate them about our industry. This year I took the economic data with me and was prepared to answer questions, but I found that I was able to just speak to our issues and bills,” he says.
In just two years, members say they have started to build a valuable rapport with legislators. For example, Rep. Dan Kristiansen owns a business himself, which gives him insight into what rental stores are struggling with.
Legislative day is only part of the legislative activity for the ARA of Washington. Richter has continued to track the bills with which they are concerned, and ARA of Washington has joined the state Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Washington Business (AWB). In addition, members plan to meet with legislators in their home offices when they are out of session this summer.
In Boston, the second annual Legislative Day for ARA of Massachusetts (ARAM) on Feb. 15 focused on tenting regulation reform. Several aspects of the current regulations were written for building construction and are problematic for businesses that rent out tents. ARAM is working towards several changes, including a simplified application form that is standardized across the state, an affidavit system to satisfy fire safety requirements and an increase in the size of tent that is exempt from the permitting process.
During ARAM’s Legislative Day, Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mass.) discussed joint efforts with ARAM on the tenting regulation issues members face. Rep. Straus organized a special hearing for his fellow legislators in November 2011, allowing ARAM members to voice their concerns about the current tenting regulations. This hearing was followed by a meeting in January 2012 with several state legislators and state Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials, including Commissioner Thomas Gatzunis. Following Rep. Straus, Robert Anderson, DPS chief of inspections, held a roundtable discussion to talk about the tenting regulations with ARAM members and envision ways they could work together to address tenting issues. Rep. Vinny deMacedo (R-Mass.) also addressed the group, commending ARAM members on their willingness to work with government agencies on finding viable solutions.
Gene LaPierre, ARAM’s executive director, primarily attributes the success ARAM has experienced in Boston to “the personal relationships members have with their representatives. Those relationships give us someone to call when we get frustrated with regulations that interfere with our ability to run our businesses efficiently.”
Lunch with more than 50 legislators and staff members concluded the event, giving ARAM members one more opportunity to tell their stories. Most of the legislators and officials with whom they spoke said they had no idea what it took to have a tent installed for a private or public event and therefore did not realize the impact these regulations have on the industry in Massachusetts, ARAM members said.