Deficits/Partisanship Might Force President
To Scale Back Legislative Wish List For 2005
Soon after John Kerry delivered his concession
speech in Faneuil Hall in Boston on November 3, George W.
Bush remarked during his first press conference following
the election that he had garnered some “political capital”
in winning a second term in the White House and that he intended
“to spend it” pushing his political agenda in 2005. However,
when looking at his two major legislative priorities for his
second term, Washington insiders are saying it will take all
of his political capital and then some to get such an ambitious
agenda through the 109th Congress.
Political capital won’t be the only price
tag associated with enacting major reforms of U.S. tax code
and Social Security. Both have huge budgetary implications
and, at a time when the country is entering its fourth year
of waging the War on Terror and the costs of many Federal
entitlement programs are escalating at a rate of 6 to 8 percent
a year, a growing number of Democrats and Republicans in Congress
are beginning to question whether the country, in its current
financial condition, can afford these reforms.
Between now and Inauguration Day on January
20, President Bush is certain to continue talking tough about
the need for Americans “to own” part of their Government-guaranteed
retirement, as well as the need to “simplify and make fairer”
the U.S. tax code. But soon after the 109th Congress convenes
in early January, reality is certain set in. In the new Congress,
Republicans will hold a 55 – 44 (with one Independent who
usually sides with the Democrats) in the Senate, and a 233
to 201 majority in the House, with one Independent.
While the House Republican leadership certainly
will have the strength in numbers to push the President’s
priorities through that chamber on straight party-line votes,
the situation may be quite different in the Senate where proponents
of the President’s policies will need to muster 60 votes before
bringing any controversial measure to a vote. There, deficit
hawks in both parties have begun to question whether such
comprehensive (and costly) reforms should be considered. Rather,
they have begun to suggest that the President might wish to
spend his capital pushing other legislative priorities like
health care and medical malpractice reform, as well as comprehensive
tort reform, to name a few.
October 20, 2004
Vicarious Liability Reform All But Dead
in the 108th Congress
In the world of politics, almost nothing
is certain. However, when the U.S. Congress reconvenes after
the November elections for a “lame-duck” session to vote on
a series of “must pass” measures it left hanging when it adjourned
earlier this month, vicarious liability reform legislation
is almost certain not to be one of them.
When Congress returns to work during the
week of November 15, it is expected to vote on a massive appropriations
bill (comprised of 11 unfinished spending bills), on increasing
the Federal debt limit beyond it’s current level of $7.4 trillion,
and possibly on legislation reorganizing the country’s intelligence
network as recommended by the 9-11 Commission.
One measure Congress is unlikely to act
on is a conference agreement on the 6-year highway reauthorization
bill – something that has proved illusive for House-Senate
negotiators since both houses passed different versions of
the bill last summer.
AALA and other supporters had hoped to attach
a federal ban on state vicarious liability laws to a conference
agreement. However, due to the failure to reach consensus
on the bill, a federal preemption of state vicarious liability
laws likely awaits its fate in the 109th Congress, which will
convene in January 2005.
Control of the Congress Also To Be Determined
This Election Night
For all of you who have had your “fill”
with the 2004 presidential election, there are other races
on November 2 the outcome of which are just as important (and
some would argue even more so) as who wins the White House.
All 435 seats of the House of Representatives
and 34 of the 100 of the U.S. Senate are up for election this
November and, depending on the outcome, control of one or
both houses of Congress could shift parties. In the House,
Republicans will be looking to add to their 12-seat majority
while in the Senate, Democrats must defend 19 seats this cycle
while Republicans have 15 seats to defend.
Republicans are expected to maintain their
majority status in the House, but their 3-seat majority in
the Senate might be tougher to hold or grow. Close races in
Kentucky, Alaska, Colorado, and a sure defeat in Illinois,
could be just enough to bring about a change in majority parties
in the Senate in 2005. However, Democrats have a difficult
task of defending five (5) open seats in the South – one of
which (Georgia) is almost certain to switch to the ‘R’ column.
Complicating matters further could be a
win by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in his quest to unseat
President Bush. Should that happen, a special election must
be held in the spring of 2005 to determine who will succeed
Kerry as the “junior” senator from Massachusetts. Thus, control
of the U.S. Senate might not be known until after Kerry’s
successor has been determined should he win the presidency.
October 7, 2004
Election Day – One Month and Counting!
In less than a month, America should know
who is to be sworn-in as President of the United States on
January 20, 2005. But while listening to the news reports
from now until November 2 of who’s leading in the race for
the White House, remember it’s not the popular vote that decides
who wins the presidency. Rather, it’s the first candidate
to muster 270 Electoral College votes that will be designated
the winner on Election Night.
(for Bush-Cheney ‘04 supporters) and www.electoral-vote.com
(for Kerry-Edwards supporters), one can monitor
the latest Electoral College vote count based on current polling
results in the various 50 states and the District of Columbia.
You can also keep tabs on the hotly contested U.S. Senate
races – the outcome of which could decide which party controls
Capitol Hill during the 109th Congress.
Most importantly, we at AALA strongly encourage
you to make every effort to exercise your Constitutional right
and vote – either at the polls or via an absentee ballot if
you’ll be on travel. As the 2000 election bore witness, every
AALA Representatives Meet With Minnesota
Last month, Minnesota representatives of
AALA and the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association met with Minnesota
Commissioner of Revenue Dan Salomone to discuss a proposed
accelerated lease tax on motor vehicles that was before the
Minnesota State Legislature last session. The proposal, first
advanced by Governor Tim Pawlenty as part of an omnibus deficit
reduction package, failed to be enacted by the Legislature
before it adjourned earlier this summer.
During the meeting, Commissioner Salomone
inquired about the differences in commercial vs. consumer
leasing and warned the group that Minnesota is likely to face
another deficit budget next year. As such, he indicated that
the accelerated lease tax on motor vehicles is likely to be
before the Legislature again in 2005.
AALA Hopeful Highway Bill Conferees Will
Address Vicarious Liability
When Congress reconvenes on September 7, AALA and other members
of the Vehicle Renting and Leasing Fairness Alliance will
be urging House and Senate conferees on the highway reauthorization
bill to embrace language providing a Federal preemption of
state vicarious liability laws. To date, neither version of
the legislation contains the preemption language sought by
NTSB Recommends ‘Black Boxes’ For All
In announcing its findings in an investigation of a 2003 California
motor vehicle accident on August 3, the National Traffic Safety
Board (NTSB) recommended that event data recorders should
be required for all passenger vehicles. "We believe very strongly
that vehicles should have a black box," NTSB chairman Ellen
Engleman Conners remarked. A copy of the NTSB’s findings and
recommendations is accessible at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2004/HAR0404.htm.
Cook County, Illinois Proposes Onerous
Tax to Leases
On November 19, Gary Tepas, President and CEO of Emkay, Inc.,
presented testimony, on behalf of AALA, before the Cook County
Committee on Finance in opposition to the burdensome and unfair
here for the full text of the testimony). The county board
was scheduled to vote on the final budget proposal on December
9, but has since been tentatively postponed to December 18.
U.S. House of Representatives Adjourns
Before Voting on the American Job Creation Act
The House Ways & Means Committee filed its report on the American
Jobs Creation Act of 2003 on November 21, but the bill did
not make it to the House floor before the House adjourned
for the year (click
here for a summary of the bill). It is expected the legislation
will be brought to the floor shortly after the first of the
May 19, 2003
On Wednesday, May 7, 2003, The Department
of Energy (DOE) held a public hearing concerning Private and
Government Fleet Determination, more specifically regarding
regulatory requirements to acquire alternative fueled vehicles
(AFVs). To review the comments submitted by the AALA to the
DOE please click
here (members only).