Industry Pushes For DRIVE-Safe Act, Tax Simplification At NAMA Fly-In

Posted On: 7/22/2019

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ALL FOR ONE: Members of the National Automatic Merchandising Association gather on Capitol step sat start of the organization’s annual Fly-In advocacy meeting in Washington, DC. The volunteers then formed state delegations to visit the offices of their elected officials.

WASHINGTON, DC -- More than 260 industry members from 35 states took to Capitol Hill for the National Automatic Merchandising Association's fifth annual Fly-In and Advocacy Summit from July 15 through 17.

The 2019 event, headquartered at The Fairmont Hotel, in Washington's historic Georgetown neighborhood, offers operators, suppliers and manufacturers the opportunity to visit the offices of their U.S. Senators and Representatives and discuss the effects of federal legislation and regulation on the industry with elected official and staff members. This year, the NAMA delegates had more than 170 meetings , nearly 50 of which were with Members of Congress or Senators directly.

NAMA director of federal and state affairs Mike Goscinski; senior director and counsel, state affairs Sandy Larson; and manager of government affairs Wes Fisher briefed Fly-In participants on the topics of immediate concern to the convenience services industry on Tuesday afternoon, in preparation for their office visits on Wednesday.

One key piece of legislation NAMA officials urged industry members to ask legislators to cosponsor is the bipartisan Tax Simplification Act of 2019 (HR 593). The lead sponsors of the bill are Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). It's currently pending in the U.S. House.

Robert Yavor, senior professional staff for the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, joined the briefing to summarize the industry's message to lawmakers that simplification of the tax code will allow small-business owners to spend less time complying with complex tax laws and more time spurring economic growth.

Specifically, the legislation proposes nine changes to the tax code. Key among them, Yavor explained, are, realigning quarterly reporting of estimated tax payments to coincide with when quarters actually conclude and aligning the filing threshold for 1099-MISC and 1099-K filings at $1,500.

The NAMA delegates also encouraged House and Senate members to pass the DRIVE-Safe Act (HR 1374 and S 569). NAMA invited Jay Lim of the American Trucking Associations to provide an overview of the proposed Act at the briefing.

TALKING POINTS: From left, NAMA government affairs leaders Mike Goscinski, Sandy Larson and Wes Fisher are joined by Jay Lim of the American Trucking Associations and Robert Yavor, senior professional staff for the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, to brief Fly-In participants on key legislative goals to discuss with lawmakers during Capitol Hill office visits.

Lim explained that the industry's message to legislators is that nearly all commerce in the U.S., at some point, depends on motor carriers to reach its final destination. Currently, the average age of a truck driver in the U.S. is 49 - seven years older than the typical U.S. worker - and this number is expected only to increase. An alarming low percentage (4%) of truck drivers are between the ages of 20 to 24, and the average age of entry-level drivers enrolling in commercial vehicle training programs is 34.

In 2014, the driver shortage had skyrocketed to 38,000, and by the end of 2017, the industry was short almost 50,000 drivers, the highest level on record. By 2026, the shortage may reach 176,000, and the industry may need to hire 890,000 new drivers in total if the current trends hold, Lim warned. Further complicating matters, commercial drivers are currently stymied by laws which, in most states, allow individuals to obtain commercial driver's licenses at age 18, but prevent them from moving goods from state to state (interstate) until reaching 21 years of age.

The Drive Safe Act would induce younger drivers to join the trucking industry by creating additional earning opportunities and training them drivers to a higher standard, including 400 hours of training and 10 performance benchmarks, and supervision by an experienced driver. It would also require state-of-the-art safety technology in all training vehicles, including automatic transmissions, active braking mitigation systems, forward-facing video event capture and governed speeds of 65 miles per hour. It would also "right-size" laws related to the movement of interstate commerce.

NAMA officials emphasized to the Fly-In participants the importance of impressing upon lawmakers that a shortage in drivers has disproportionately impacted foodservice distribution, which requires the timely delivery of tens of thousands of products every day to the convenience services industry.

The good news, Lim reported, is that the bill has broad bipartisan support, with 30 cosponsors in the senate and 99 cosponsors in the house.

NAMA reported that it is already seeing results just a day after the meetings on Capitol Hill. By Thursday, five Members of Congress with whom the group met had co-sponsored the Drive Safe Act, and NAMA expects more to follow as a direct result of Fly-In volunteers' participation.

NAMA officials also advised Fly-In participants to inform their lawmakers that the association is working to establish a congressional caucus to educate Members of Congress and promote issues important to the convenience services industry and invite them to become founding members.

While the industry had the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, NAMA president and chief executive Carla Balakgie announced at the Fly-In welcome dinner on Tuesday evening that the association has completed the initial phase of developing a voluntary public health commitment to bring increased access to healthier products to consumers through vending machines, with the goal of finalizing the initiative by the end of 2019. This was another key talking-point during the group's meetings.

HEALTHY AND WISE: At left, kicking off Tuesday night welcome dinner, NAMA president and chief executive Carla Balakgie and NAMA chairman Greg Sidwell of G&J Marketing & Sales (Palm Harbor, FL) announce industry’s voluntary public health commitment to provide vending consumers access to more better-for-you snacks and beverages. At right, keynote speaker Amy Walter gives her take on political climate in Washington and 2020 elections.

The three elements of the commitment are collecting a substantial volume of data on products and sales; analyzing that data; and comparing the results with multiple public health standards. Currently, Balakgie reported, this research process is in its final phase.

NAMA has retained Keybridge, a leading Washington, DC-based economic and public policy firm, to aggregate the data and serve as a third party to independently validate the industry's commitment. Keybridge will also monitor and report on progress toward achieving the final goals.

Click here to read more about NAMA's public health commitment.

This year was also the first that NAMA's Fly-In included an Advocacy Summit. On Tuesday, prior to the Capitol Hill meetings briefing, participants heard from federal agency experts about current and future issues impacting the convenience services industry.

The agenda began with a breakfast presentation on the "Political and Small Business 2019 Landscape" led by Tom Sullivan, vice-president of Small Business Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

It was followed by a presentation by the NAMA government affairs team on the importance of participating in advocacy at the federal and state level, and the tools NAMA offers to help industry members engage effectively.

Next on the program was an interactive discussion with regulatory leaders from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, who explained the direct impact of the current and future regulatory agenda for issues such as vending machine refrigerants and energy requirements.

A session on "The Future of Coin and Currency" was led by top-level agency leaders from the U.S. Mint, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the Government Accountability Office and included a new government report on the future of currency.

A lunch followed, keynoted by the Industry Leaders in Public Policy Panel. This group consists of NAMA members who are serving their communities in elected offices. One such is Indiana State Senator Jon Ford, a long-time NAMA member and Fly-In participant.

Rounding out the Advocacy Summit was "The Future of Food Regulation and Micromarkets." Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture regulators explained current and future plans for food regulation at the federal level, engaging the NAMA delegates in advocacy dialogue around important industry concerns such as calorie disclosure, definitions, and packaging/labeling issues.

A dinner keynoted by political analyst Amy Walter rounded out the evening with an in-depth analysis of the state of the U.S. political climate and predictions for the 2020 elections. For more than 20 years, Walter has built a reputation as an accurate, objective and insightful political analyst. Known as one of the best political journalists covering Washington, she is national editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report and a frequent on-air analyst.

In addition to her weekly appearance on the popular "Politics Monday" segment on the PBS NewsHour, Walter hosts WNYC's nationally-syndicated public radio news program, "Politics with Amy Walter" on The Takeaway. She is a regular Sunday panelist on NBC's Meet the Press and CBS's Face the Nation, and appears frequently on Special Report with Bret Baier on Fox. She is former political director of ABC News.

On Wednesday morning, Fly-In participants formed state groups to visit the offices of the legislators who represent them. The NAMA delegation also hosted congressional staff members at its annual open house, which featured a display of the state of the art in vending machines. The equipment was set on free vend for easy sampling and filled with the latest better-for-you products. 

GETTING TO KNOW US: A prime objective of the annual NAMA Fly-In is to foster mutual understanding between citizens and the legislative branch, which includes both elected officials and the staff members upon whom they rely. Above left, from left, staff member Leann Sinpatanasakul welcomes New York delegation to the office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-NY); delegates are John Hickey, Tech 2 Success; PepsiCo’s David Postian; Joshua and Benjamin Wells, American Food & Vending (Syracuse, NY); and PepsiCo’s Lou Guldner. At right, Nathan Alexander and Sydney Schack, who are on the staff of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D.-MO) enjoy the vending experience at NAMA reception featuring the latest equpment and a generous sampling of today's wellness-oriented snack products.