American Hotel & Lodging Association Legislative Action Summit 2017

By: Jennifer Krowchun

Last week members of Massachusetts Lodging Association (MLA) attended the Annual American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) Meeting.  The summit concluded with a day on Capitol Hill advocating and lobbying for important issues both federally and in the state of Massachusetts.  The theme of this year’s AH&LA summit was “Dreams Happen Here”, a national awareness campaign to showcase the career advancement opportunities, community commitment, and economic importance of the hotel and lodging businesses.  The chance to have a lifetime career in a fast moving and exciting industry was evident by our group which included a number of folks who first started out in hotel restaurants or back of house operations before moving up the corporate ladder.  The key issues the group focused on during the Legislative Action Summit were short term rentals, drive-by lawsuits, protecting consumers from online booking scams and H2B visas.

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Figure 1 MLA members meeting with legislative staff.

The MLA asked offices to support and cosponsor the Stop Online Booking Scams Act (S.1164/ HR 2495).  The bill will help protect consumers from online hotel booking scams by prohibiting websites from pretending to be the hotel and requiring these websites to prominently display that information. In meetings arranged by O’Neill and Associates, the MLA asked members of the Massachusetts Delegation to consider signing on as co-sponsors of the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) which would provide a “Notice and Cure” provision that would give small business owners time to address an ADA violation before any legal proceedings can move forward. Paul Sacco, President of MLA, led our largest group by far which included Chris Burgoyne, Director Political and Government Affairs at AH&LA and 6 other members.

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Figure 2 MLA members meeting with Congressman Bill Keating.

Included in the 10 meetings scheduled, the group met with Congressman Keating (see Figure 2), a long time champion and leader for MLA regarding H2B visas. As the representative for the Cape and Islands and member of the House Committee on Homeland Security he is well aware of the challenges facing many hotels this year in MA and nationally as they scramble to fill seasonal positions with limited visas. The Congressman was able to share his own personal frustrations with short term rentals as homes near his residence on the Cape are often rented out, becoming a neighborhood annoyance and presenting real safety concerns. As well as the impact short term rentals have on the rental market on the Cape, hard enough to get seasonal employees, and often they are unable to find affordable housing.

Overall the 10 meetings on the Hill were a success as they were extremely informative and educational for both attendees, staff and members of Congress.

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Figure 3 Members of MLA meeting with Patrick O’Connor, Office of Congressman Neal in the halls of Congress.

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Figure 4 members of MLA in front of Capitol Building.