HISTORY OF REPRESENTING THE AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE ASSOCIATION OF OHIO, INC.
It has been our privilege to represent the Automotive Association of Ohio, Inc. before the Ohio General Assembly and various Executive Administrations. Since 1987 we have worked with the Association and various government officials on literally hundreds of issues that have had important economic and/or operational impact on the automotive repair industry.
During our thirty-year relationship, we have strived to offer you the most ethical representation in the State of Ohio. We believe we have positively promoted the automotive repair industry to Ohio’s lawmakers and advocated for policies that have resulted in clear benefits for the members of ASA Ohio.
A comprehensive review of these issues we have lobbied is difficult to categorize. To do so chronologically is difficult because many issues overlap or reemerge in a different form and many are of an ongoing nature. To divide them by statue versus rules is inefficient since so many rule changes were directly related to statutory successes we enjoyed. Finally, to divide them by those effecting mechanical repair and those effecting collision repair proved inefficient since so many issues impacted both disciplines.
Therefore, we selected the following categories to describe our most important undertaking for the Association:
- ASA Structure
- General Business Issues
- Attorney General Issues
- Insurance Issues
- Miscellaneous Repair Issues
- Environmental Issues
- Motor Vehicle Repair Board
- Looking Ahead to Future Issues
II. ASA Structure
One of our first roles starting in 1987 was to help structure a more formalized legislative affairs effort for ASA. We helped form a permanent Legislative Committee and began a regular meeting schedule for the group. We undertook the development of a regular written legislative report and began giving oral reports at the quarterly Board meeting. These practices are still continued today. The following year we undertook a large-scale survey of the ASA membership to determine priorities for the legislative effort.
In 1994 we began the development of a major membership activation drive to improve participation in the legislative process. In 1995 we completed a comprehensive Membership Activation Manual and began training selected volunteers in order to increase grassroots participation, encourage legislative tours and increase political action committee (PAC) participation. This manual and the activation effort were updated in 1999.
In May of 1989 we helped charter the ASA Political Action Committee (ASA-PAC). Since that time we have worked to develop funding and insure proper legal filings of the PAC reports with the Secretary of State. In 2000 we completed a full PAC Manual and recruited and trained a PAC Captain for every local ASA unit in the State. PAC fundraising remains one of the most important goals of the ASA legislative effort.
In addition to these efforts we also help facilitate shop tours with legislators, have organized ASA Ohio Statehouse days, and made numerous other attempts to actively engage members of ASA Ohio in the legislative process and connect them with key decision makers.
General Business Issues
There have been enumerable issues which ASA has taken a leading role in championing, even though they were not specific to the automotive repair industry. Unquestionably, one of the most important to our member’s profitability has been gaining substantial workers’ compensation premium reductions. This was accomplished through various pieces of legislation, the foremost of which allowed for group coverage through the Association.
In 2016, we faced reforms to Ohio’s unemployment compensation system and worked alongside other business groups to pass HB 390, which gave the state authority to pay off the remaining balance of its Federal Unemployment loan using state funds. The early payoff protected the state and businesses from federal penalties – saving employers an estimated $72 dollars per employee in their overall federal/state unemployment cost.
Similarly, our efforts with other business entities to reduce lawsuit abuse and improve tort laws have resulted in insurance premium reductions for our members. We have fought numerous business tax issues such as Senate Bill 265 in 1997 regarding tangible personal property taxes, and in 2005 House Bill 66 on the creation of the commercial activities tax. All of these tax issues have had an important impact on our member’s profitability.
Session after session we have helped to positively impact various general business issues, a great many of which involve employee health care costs. Since the early 1990s, we have helped defeat untold numbers of proposals to create new insurance coverage mandates. We have also supported the passage of various measures to help reduce employer health care costs including the creation of small business health savings accounts and association group purchasing of health care coverage.
During the 129th General Assembly, we fought for legislation (HB 275) that would help business owners come to a quick and fair resolution when there is a dispute that goes to court. HB 275, also known as the “Right to Cure” legislation, provides incentives to both businesses and consumers to reach a reasonable settlement early in the litigation process, which will ultimately reduce long, protracted litigation on technical complaints filed by a consumer.
We have also been instrumental in connecting members of ASA Ohio to state financing opportunities. One example occurred in 2015 when a member received approval from the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority for up to $275,000 to replace its 25-year-old paint booths with two new state of the art downdraft paint booths.
A highly trained and qualified workforce is essential for any business to succeed, which is why in 2016 we fought to pass legislation, HB 429, that would make automotive repair facilities eligible for financial assistance to train their workforce through the Ohio Development Services Agency. Under the program, repair facilities are eligible to reimbursed up to $4,000 per employee for costs associated with additional training.
Attorney General Issues
Our primary efforts with the State Attorney General has involved the Consumer Sales Practices Act. This code section covers the provision of automotive repair estimates, which we have fought to increase for years. Also, since 1990, it regulates the use of non-original equipment manufacturer parts (non-OEM). Late in 1990, we began working with the Attorney General in order to promulgate Ohio Administrative Code Rules to oversee the use and consumer notification involved with using non-OEM parts in collision repair. After that, we helped author the Ohio Automotive Repair and Services Law Brochure which was used by the Attorney General’s office.
In 1996, under Attorney General Montgomery, we developed a Consumer Protection Agreement with ASA and their office to provide for initial reviews of consumer complaints. The program was designed to lessen needless lawsuits against the automotive repair industry. Also, that year we helped start a program where ASA members began training the Attorney General’s staff on various aspects of automotive repair.
Most recently we worked with Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office on amending administrative rules to make the process of developing repair estimates more efficient. For years, repair facilities were required to develop an estimate any time the cost of services exceeded $25. This low threshold forced repair facilities to provide customers with estimates for doing relatively minor repairs and even inspecting the vehicle. After working with Attorney General DeWine’s staff, we were able to double this amount to $50, allowing repair facilities to avoid providing estimates for inexpensive repairs, resulting in a more efficient repair process.
V. Insurance Issues
Likely, the greatest number of issues we have engaged in over the years have involved insurance concerns. The first industry specific bill which we undertook on behalf of ASA was House Bill 753 regarding non-OEM parts use. It took until 1990 to gain passage of House Bill 302 to restrict their use and require consumer notification and consent. In 1993 we undertook legislation (House Bill 206) that changed the laws regarding salvage certificates. In 2001 we began efforts on Senate Bill 201 to improve the salvage laws and create greater access to used parts. In August of 2002 we worked on title branding for vehicles that were declared “totals” by the insurance industry.
Throughout our representation of ASA we have dealt with numerous financial responsibility laws. In May of 1994 we saw Senate Bill 20 which became the state’s foremost legislation prohibiting vehicle operations without insurance coverage. In 2012 we helped ensure passage of HB 278, which increased the minimum requirement of liability insurance for property damage from $7,500 to $25,000.
Due to emerging industry concerns over direct repair contracts, we arranged for ASA to start formal discussions with the insurance industry in 1994. This resulted in the formation of the Ohio Insurance Institute – Automotive Service Association Working Group which met regularly from 1994 through 1995.
In the past we also faced the issue of insurance owned or affiliated collision repair shops. We fought for Senate Bill 208 regarding salvage parts sales, as well as registration for mechanical repair shops. We have also prevented attempts to amend the Ohio Administrative Code 3901-1-54 which would have declared non-OEM parts to be of “like kind and quality” to OEM parts.
We have lead the fight against efforts by insurers to force repair facilities to use inferior, non-OEM parts in the repair process. For years, we defeated efforts by the insurance industry to escape notification requirements when non-OEM parts are used in the repair. We have also lead discussions with industry leaders to model legislation that would prohibit the use of non-OEM parts.
We have also drafted language and engaged interested parties in potential legislation that would prohibit payments by insurers to collision repair facilities that fail to register with the Motor Vehicle Repair Board.
We also fought back against State Farm’s implementation of its PartsTrader process for procuring parts. We engaged both the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Department of Insurance to determine what protections were available to repair facilities.
There have also been numerous attempts to change the way insurers declare a vehicle a total loss. These efforts would result in more cars being totaled and fewer vehicle being repaired in Ohio. Year after year we have succeeded in spearheading the effort to defeat any changes to Ohio’s total loss standard.
Miscellaneous Repair Issues
For nearly three decades we have dealt with numerous issues specific to the vehicular repair industry that do not fall into any particular category. These include several attempts to balance the particularly punitive Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Section 13(b)(10)(A) by introducing state level legislation such as Senate Bill 26 in 2003. We have also been called upon to support ASA’s national efforts with the Ohio Congressional Delegation.
Other miscellaneous issues include several gas tax increases, minimum wage concerns, various highway concerns, etc. In the 124th Ohio General Assembly we started growing more concerned with gasoline additives, such as House Bill 425 which prohibited blending motor fuel with MTBE.
Since 2012 we have been leading the charge to improve the process by which repair facilities obtain titles to unclaimed vehicles. The Department of Public Safety change this process and eliminated deductions that repair facilities utilized to bring the vehicle’s value to a level low enough to use the unclaimed motor vehicle affidavit. Not only have we spent the past five years fighting to restore those deductions, but we have also succeeded in increasing the threshold value from $2,500 to $3,500. Through our diligent work, we have limited the burden unclaimed vehicles have on a shop’s operations and made removing these vehicles less costly.
It is no secret that the automotive repair industry is facing a workforce shortage. Not only must shop owners find ways to recruit new technicians, but they must also ensure that these technicians are properly trained and prepared to work when they graduate. With this in mind, in 2016 we successfully advocated for an amendment in an education reform bill (SB 3) that would recognize the ASE student certification as an acceptable measure of skill attainment for students in career technical programs. This significant change will result in more students obtaining the ASE student certification, meaning they will be better prepared when they leave school and enter the workforce.
Another issue we face nearly every General Assembly pertains to the regulation of installing unsafe, used tires. Unsafe tires obviously pose safety concerns for everyone on Ohio’s roadways. However, there have always been concerns about the potential for unintended consequences when lawmakers attempted to regulate their installation. Such was the case this past year when two unsafe tire bills (SB 336 and HB 574) were introduced. As originally drafted, the legislation had the potential to make a repair facilities liable for a vehicle having unsafe tires, even if that shop wasn’t installing the tires. Fortunately, we were able to identify this language and change it to protect repair shops from penalties for conducting services unrelated to the repair or replacement of the tire. While a specific dollar amount from this change can’t be quantified, our efforts saved ASA Ohio members from countless lawsuits and penalties.
We have also led the effort to develop airbag safety standards in Ohio, which has resulted in better protecting the public and improving the image of the industry. In 2013 we worked closely with Rep. Dorothy Pelanda on HB 177, which prohibits individuals from installing any counterfeit or nonfunctional airbag in a motor vehicle. The legislation also stiffens penalties for anyone found installing nonfunctional airbags or installing a devise that causes a vehicle’s diagnostic system to inaccurately indicate that the vehicle is equipped with a functional air bag. Our work on this legislation will not only better protect consumers, but also helped raise awareness about the growing use of counterfeit airbags.
As you can imagine, environmental concerns regarding vehicular repair have required a great deal of our attention on behalf of ASA. Since the start of our representation we have been pursuing one aspect or another of the State’s efforts to conduct emissions inspections for passenger vehicles. In the 118th OGA the state introduced House Bill 109 regarding fees for inspections. In 1991 we returned to the debate of centralized vs. decentralized vehicle inspections with Ohio’s short lived “AIM” program. Also that year after much debate with the Ohio EPA, we practically wrote the state’s Used Oil Filter Guidance.
In 1992 we faced a new type of challenge when an environmentalist organization called Ohio Citizens Action developed a statewide ballot issue designed to hurt businesses that use small amounts of hazardous chemicals. If it had passed, our shops would have been faced with radical label warning requirements. Further, we would have had to send notices to every home and business within a two mile radius of the shop, detailing every hazardous chemical it used.
In 1993, AIM became E-check. From that time forward we have been seeking a tax credit from the state equal to the amount of losses the decentralized shops lost in equipment and training investments they made to participate in AIM. The E-Check program is still fully operational today.
Throughout the nearly thirty years of our representation we have faced numerous issues regarding proper environmental disposal of hazardous waste. Many of these issues would resurface based on changing Administrations and/or technological revelations. Oil and oil filter disposal, refrigerant disposal, paint disposal and mercury disposal have all been subject to regulation and re-regulation.
EPA permitting for our members has long been a concern. Early in the Voinovich Administration, we began meeting with the EPA to create a standard easy-to-complete permit to install and operate paint booths as well as for cold parts washers. Throughout both the Taft and Voinovich Administration we fought uneven enforcement by local EPA air agencies on paint booth permit issuances. Finally, after years of work, we saw our efforts pay off in 2006 with the passage of Senate Bill 265 which standardized permit applications and approvals for small source generators, such as our members.
We are in constant contact with the Ohio EPA and closely monitor rules and regulations the agency develops. Policy changes made by the Ohio EPA are easily overlooked; however, these changes can have a significant impact on automotive repair businesses. This was never more evident than in 2012, when we identified administrative rules that impact the ability of a repair shop to utilize a popular exemption to the Permit-To-Install & Operate (PTIO). This exemption is known as the Permit-By-Rule (PBR). Many automotive repair shops have found they meet the requirements to claim a PBR and take advantage of the useful exemption. ASA Ohio identified a provision that would have prohibited repair facilities, which work on any vehicle with a gross weight rating over 8,500 lbs., from claiming a PBR. It is important to note that many popular vehicles like the Ford F-250 as well as many larger SUVs and vans exceed the 8,500 lbs. limit. The way the administrative rule was written, any facility claiming a PBR would have been found in violation simply for working on one of these vehicles, regardless if it met all other PBR requirements. We quickly notified the Ohio EPA of the problem and, after roughly two years of negotiations, ASA Ohio and the Ohio EPA were able to develop a proposal that corrected the problem. This change allows shops working on larger vehicles to remain compliant under the PBR exemption – saving them thousands of dollars in fines resulting from EPA violations.
Ohio Motor Vehicle Repair Board
Unquestionably, one of our best accomplishments for ASA was the passage of House Bill 143 in 1997. After years of preparation, legislative field tours, grassroots development and direct lobbying, we succeeded in gaining passage of registration for collision repair shops. For the decade prior to its passage only two other professional licensure boards had been created. Governor Voinovich had actually sent legislative leaders a written prohibition on the creation of any new boards, however, he relinquished after intense lobbying on this effort.
In the months and years following implementation of House Bill 143 we have worked extensively to create its initial and subsequent budgets. We have worked with ASA and the Board to develop the Ohio Administrative Code rules in order to properly administer the certification. Similarly, we have worked with ASA and the Board to secure its first and subsequent Executive Directors. We have also worked to increase the Board’s ability to enforce its own authority.
From the start, it has been ASA’s hope to register both collision and mechanical repair facilities. Early drafts of the legislation actually did just that, however, dissension in the mechanical industry prevented them from being included. Since that time we have been looking for the opportunity to create mechanical shop registration.
In 2012 we worked closely with Senator Bill Seitz on SB 114, that made important changes to the responsibilities and authority of the Board. We successfully expanded the Board’s scope to register window tint operators. The legislation also gave the Board more administrative rule-making authority.
One of our most successful attempts to register mechanical repair facilities occurred during the 130th General Assembly when Senator Joe Uecker introduced SB 232. As a standalone bill, it forced every stakeholder to the table. After over a year of negotiations the bill was passed by the Senate with overwhelming support (31-1). SB 232 was then reported by committee and awaited a floor vote by the entire House. Unfortunately, the 130th General Assembly adjourned before passing SB 232; however, it did mark the closest we have ever come to passing a standalone mechanical shop registration bill.
In more recent years, we have had to defend the Board against multiple attempts to have it eliminated. Legislators, who were elected under the promise of “cutting government,” have gone on attack against nearly every state professional board and commission. In 2015, the Ohio Senate added a late amendment to the 3,000 page budget bill (HB 64) that would completely dismantle the Board. Fortunately, we were able to defeat this effort during conference committee. Nevertheless, lawmakers tried to eliminate the Board again in 2016, during the Sunset Review Committee review process. Fortunately, through our lobbying efforts, we were able to generate enough support for the Board and prevent it from being added to the sunset review legislation that was passed later that year. Governor Kasich’s Administration also attempted a comprehensive reform last year that called for the elimination of multiple state licensing boards and commissions. We once again were forced to educate legislators about the Board’s importance to the profession and were ultimately successful in protecting it from elimination.
Just this past year, we spearheaded the development of administrative rules that would protect the public by allowing them to more easily identify reputable and law-abiding collision repair facilities. These administrative rules charge the Motor Vehicle Repair Board to issue window decals to each repair facility that is registered. A second policy change requires all registered businesses to display their registration number on each estimate and invoice. These rules are aimed at increasing public awareness and helping ensure that consumers are taking their vehicles to registered, law-abiding repair facilities.
We also ensure that any vacancies on the Board are filled with qualified, industry-friendly professionals by making recommendations directly to the governor’s office. This guarantees that the governor’s office has a list of qualified applicants from which to choose when he is filling vacancies on the Board.
Looking Ahead to Future Issues
The members of the 132nd General Assembly were sworn in earlier this month. Likely one of the first bills to be introduced will be the governor’s biennial budget bill. This legislation touches nearly every facet of state government and, as with previous budgets, it will certainly impact the automotive repair industry in Ohio. We expect the budget proposal to make sweeping changes to Ohio’s tax code, this could include expanding the state’s sales tax and a potential increase in the commercial activity tax (CAT), which will directly impact the business operations of ASA Ohio’s members. We also expect a number of workforce development provisions to be included in the legislation. Additionally, we fully expect lawmakers to develop a plan to make Ohio’s unemployment compensation system solvent into the future, which could include increasing the taxable wage base, which affects employer contributions. We will also be on guard against any attempt to eliminate the Motor Vehicle Repair Board as well as for any attempts by insurers to amend language impacting how they notify customers of the use of non-OEM parts.
During the 132nd General Assembly we will likely face multiple issues that are perennial favorites, such as towing reforms, salvage parts legislation, unsafe tire regulations, and minimum wage legislation. We also hope there will be opportunities that will allow us to pursue some of ASA Ohio’s priorities including, creating a better tax environment for automotive repair facilities, registering mechanical repair facilities, fighting back against insurers on the use of non-OEM parts, and addressing the industry’s workforce shortage by connecting employers with current and future job seekers.
It has been our honor to represent the hardworking members of the Automotive Service Association of Ohio. The past three decades, going on fifteen General Assemblies, have been filled with opportunities and challenges. Through our representation, ASA Ohio maintained a strong reputation on capitol square, and is known by legislators as a professional organization they can rely upon to provide honest and creative solutions to the challenges the industry faces.
From our first days of representing the Association, we have said that government actions will cost shop owners or save them money. We are proud to say that we have helped each ASA member save tens of thousands of dollars based on the legislation and regulations we have both helped to pass or defeat on your behalf.