The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) leadership went calling on Wednesday (June 10) to members of Congress and the Senate from eight states as part of RVIA’s 7th Annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with RVIA Committee Week.
And the reception, by most accounts, was warm.
“We talked about the status of the industry, and clearly credit was the lead item,” reports Jay Landers, RVIA senior director of government affairs. Also top of the mind among RV industry opinion leaders is securing state sales and excise tax deductions on federal taxes for the purchase of travel trailers — as was the case with the tax break on the first $49,500 that buyers pay for motorhomes that was included in the $787 billion stimulus package signed in February by President Barack Obama. “If there is going to be another bill, we need to get travel trailers in there as well,” Landers said.
However, Indiana legislators were the primary targets of RVIA’s 17 Advocacy “lobbyists,” who held 38 meetings on Capitol Hill. Those solons, whose northern Indiana district accounts for more than 60% of the RV industry’s annual production, included Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly and Republican Reps. Mark Souder and Mike Pence. Legislators and staff from Idaho, California, Arizona, Mississippi, Colorado, Kansas and Tennessee also were the subject of meetings.
Bayh, Donnelly and Souder received RVIA’s National Legislative Award for their ongoing advocacy on behalf of the RV industry, particularly with regard to stimulus legislation and Small Business Administration rule changes that now allow RV dealers greater accessibility to federally guaranteed floorplan loans.
“Our ‘asks’ aren’t terribly heavy, and I think were were really embraced,” said Landers. “Sen. Bayh, particularly, made a commitment to double back and try to get towables into the excise and sales tax deductions that were given to motorhomes. He’s definitely interested in getting towables included. We also talked a little bit about the industry going ‘green,’ and the PFK study that shows that CO2 emissions are reduced 50% compared to fly-drive vacations.”
Regular attendees noted that this was the first time that Bayh had met personally with RV industry representatives to discuss their concerns.
“I think that we made a lot of headway,” Public Relations Committee Chairman BJ Thompson told RVBusiness. “We were well received by Congressman Souder, who spent an unusual amount of time with us, talking about the challenges that we’re facing as a general economy and as a specific industry. I might add that I detected some overt energy and enthusiasm in supporting the industry by Congressmen Souder and Donnelly and even by the unusual appearance of Sen. Bayh. I found him to be friendly and affable, and he was very interested in what we were doing and what our needs were.”
Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, Mishawaka, Ind., says Donnelly and Bayh have made the RV industry a “priority,” and he feels that Obama’s Feb. 9 attendance at an Elkhart town hall meeting has played a key role in all that. “By coming to Elkhart,” said Thompson, “Obama made an overt move to support the RV industry and the Elkhart community. And Congressman Donnelly and Senator Bayh have not let the administration and the Obama staff and others in Congress forget that President Obama has put a stake down and said, ‘the Elkhart business community is a sign of how well I’m going to do.'”