Key Industry Legislative Issues
When Bob Redding accepted the position of the Automotive Service Association’s (ASA) Washington, D.C. representative 16 years ago, he didn’t simply step into the collision repair industry—he jumped in headfirst. Though his political and legislative background was astonishingly impressive—he spent 12 years on Capitol Hill serving as chief of staff to both a member of Congress and a U.S. Senator—he didn’t have a deep seated knowledge of the collision repair industry. So, his first week on the job, Redding spent a whirlwind week in Minnesota visiting several collision repair centers, meeting industry leaders, stopping by a salvage yard and listening in on estimating meetings. He also spent time learning under the tutelage of ASA’s late chairman, Dick Cossette.
Fast forward nearly 20 years later, and Redding is now a dynamic force representing repairers on Capitol Hill. He advocates the legislative issues that matter most to collision repair professionals and says the industry has so much potential—if everyone would unite under one banner. Here, he discusses the key legislative issues going on right now, the importance of the EPA’s new Auto Body Rule and the resources ASA offers repairers to help effect positive change.
You’re a lobbyist for ASA on Capitol Hill. What exactly does your office do for the industry?
ASA’s Washington, D.C. office is responsible for federal legislative and regulatory advocacy. We also have responsibility for tracking state legislative and regulatory issues of interest to shop owners. Our office is located on Capitol Hill within a brief walk to the U.S. Capitol.
Can you tell us more about Taking the Hill?
ASA provides a legislative/regulatory advocacy website, TakingTheHill.com, for the industry. This site provides access to important legislative and regulatory information for repairers and allows repairers to contact state and federal policymakers on key issues in a very expeditious manner.
What are the most significant issues you’re working on right now?
Insurance reform, repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act and implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency auto refinishing regulation are some of our top issues today. In addition, we are hopeful we will be able to stop the National Conference of Insurance Legislators from advocating state policies that encourage the use of salvage airbags.
What’s the McCarran-Ferguson act and why is it important for repairers to know about?
Since 1945, insurance companies have had a “limited” exemption from federal antitrust laws that apply to most other industries assured to them through an act of Congress. The McCarran-Ferguson Act provides that federal antitrust law applies to the “business of insurance” only to the extent that such business is not regulated by state law. The anti-competitive consequences of McCarran impact both consumers and small businesses that have to deal with insurers.
The Antitrust Modernization Commission, established by the U.S. Congress, highlighted the problems that occur when industries receive these types of exemptions. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) have introduced H.R. 1583 that will repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act. ASA supports H.R. 1583.
Why does ASA support the federal regulation of the insurance industry?
The state insurance regulatory structure has failed for consumers and collision repairers. Without federal regulatory recourse, consumer and small business complaints are left to generally ill-equipped state regulators.
State regulators are less likely to recruit top professional employees to oversee increasingly complex insurance products offered by insurers as well as deal with more complicated issues. Federal regulators have access to a degree of human resource and other capital that state agencies do not enjoy.
After years of complaints, many states lag in addressing important consumer and small business issues: i.e. consumer steering, insurer pressure to use inferior auto parts, paint caps, etc. These problems are increasing for consumers and repairers, not decreasing.
What’s happening right now with the EPA’s Auto Body Rule?
EPA’s auto refinishing regulation is in place today for new shops. Equipment, training and recordkeeping requirements will kick in for existing shops in 2011. ASA has been working with the U.S. EPA on notification and training for collision shops so they will be ready for this new regulation. The program addresses three key areas: training, equipment requirement and record keeping.
What’s on the horizon for repairers after compliance with the EPA rule?
Some states have taken responsibility for enforcement of the regulation; others have left it to EPA’s regional offices. Collision shops should determine their state’s role as soon as possible. This is certainly a solid start for shop licensing, equipment and training requirements. We hope states will take a look at establishing formal repair shop licensing programs. Our shop surveys demonstrate that collision repair facilities support shop licensing.
What other legislative issues do repairers need to know about right now?
At the federal level, we will see activity on parts, clean air, health care and other issues in the coming months.
How can repairers get involved in influencing legislation that affects their businesses?
We need one strong national voice for the collision industry. ASA provides this with many resources. The more members we have, the stronger the collision voice will be at state capitals and in Washington, D.C.
What did you observe about the collision repair industry at NACE?
These are tough economic times. The number of totals is an issue, and we’ve had the debate for many years now about certified parts. But there is a lot of interest in the future of the collision industry. Shop owners are interested in resolving problems and moving forward. This can best be achieved by joining together and speaking with one voice.