2017 Legislative Outlook

From the inauguration of our new president to welcoming a Republication majority U.S. House and Senate, 2017 is set to be an extraordinary year, filled with potential of tremendous impact on not only our nation, but our industry as well.

We spoke with our federal and state government affairs teams to get their take on how the recent historical elections may impact the timeshare industry, as well as any key advocacy efforts they plan to focus on in this new year.

ROBERT CLEMENTS, 

In 2016, I set out to build strong relationships with Attorneys General, as well as other regulatory and enforcement agencies in our key states. This year, I intend to continue those outreach and relationship building efforts throughout the country. Through these relationships, I plan to provide these groups with a greater understanding of the current state of timeshare, and the positive and negative issues that may affect the industry.

An example of the positive results we’ve seen through ARDA’s regulatory outreach efforts includes our recent work with the Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act. This vital act is enforced by the Missouri Attorney General. With that in mind, we held a fundraiser for the 2016 Attorney General candidate, who eventually won his race. The fundraiser gave ARDA members with interests in Missouri an opportunity to meet the candidate and discuss relevant timeshare issues. The Attorney General-elect discovered the vastness of the industry and looks forward to continued discussions on the issues. Thus, building stronger connection with regulatory agencies and similar organizations in the area.

Legislatively, we are continuing efforts to pass appropriate timeshare regulations in Nevada, St. Maarten, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We’re also working with ARELLO to bring the New York Attorney General office on line with the timeshare registry. With the 2017 legislative sessions about to start around the country, we’ll continue to monitor legislation and work with our members to advocate for their legislative needs.  

CHRIS STEWART, RRP 

The 2016 election results were surprising across the country when compared to expectations set by the polls. Beyond the presidential level, many economists and politically-seasoned forecasters predicted gains by Democrats in several down ticket (lower ranked ballot) races. Clearly that didn’t happen. In some cases, however, the President-elect actually appears to have created a “coattail effect” (attracting votes for other candidates within the same party) for Republicans. This largely meant that the status quo held in most states. California and Colorado were two states in which Democrats were expected to reach key milestones in the legislature. However, they failed to reach those goals. In both states, larger Democratic margins would likely have led to significant tax and corresponding fee measures, which could possibly lead to new costs for timeshare owners, ultimately increasing revenue. California requires two-thirds majority of each legislative chamber to pass new revenue legislation, and several proposals including a $75 per document recording fee for all real estate documents are more than likely to be put forward. The Democratic party came up one seat short in the Senate making the effort much more difficult, but still remains a concern. Republicans in Colorado retained control of the Senate by one vote, preventing Democrats from holding both houses of the legislature and the Governor’s office. As a result, concerns regarding new taxes have been reduced.

JUSTIN VERMUTH 

I’m a firm believer that elections have consequences and matter profusely…however that’s usually not in most of the states that I advocate for the industry. The 2016 elections drew very little concern that South Carolina or Tennessee would become more blue, or that Massachusetts or Hawaii were going to become more red. From that standpoint, the elections were not of great significance. What does matter in those states is that now elected officials can refocus on the “people’s business” and are ready to begin discussions on our 2017 legislative goals. While those goals are still being finalized, they can fit in two general buckets. The first bucket looks at breaking down the impediments that members have while attempting to do business in a timely and efficient manner. For example, if registration approvals are taking too long in a state, then we brainstorm on what can be done to get the agency the right tools or resources to help expedite the process. The second bucket, concentrates on timeshare owner protection. This includes utilizing our new staff resources to consult with enforcement officials on implementing some of the great consumer protection tools we have already passed in Massachusetts, Florida, Colorado, to name a few. Also, dealing with the termination dates that are approaching for legacy resorts. And of course, there are always tax issues to contend with. In a year of which many states and municipal governments are anticipating budget deficits, timeshare owners, because of the very nature of ownership, often become a prime target. Overall, we look forward to a busy and productive 2017. While our new president aims to “make America great again” we will be working hard to ensure timeshare remains protected and preserved for the industry and owners.

KEVIN RILEY, RRP 

Alas, the 2016 election has come and gone and the world continues to exist (at least for now). Not many prognosticators of either political party had predicted the ultimate result of one party controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the Presidency.  

With regards to ARDA’s key legislative priorities in 2017, there is reason to be fairly optimistic that the composition of the incoming administration as well as Congress will be more receptive to the issues plaguing businesses across our nation, including those that affect our industry and its members.

Regulatory overreach, and the lack of oversight and transparency within governmental institutions have made it difficult for both small and large businesses to operate. While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created with the intent of ensuring that proper consumer protection devices are in place to prevent fraudulent activities for financial products, the broad authority given to this body was unlike any other within government. Unlike other agencies, the CFPB has very little Congressional oversight and lacks its own Inspector General. The ARDA Federal Affairs team will continue its efforts with the new Congress to support legislation that will better align this agency with its governmental counterparts, and install much-needed oversight and transparency.

The practice of “drive-by” Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits continues to threaten our industry’s businesses, as unscrupulous attorneys file lawsuits against properties for minor and easily-correctable (and oftentimes fraudulent) ADA violations. With the clear intention of obtaining a quick pay-day, these attorneys offer a settlement amount to businesses, which sadly are oftentimes paid out because it would cost the business more to defend itself in court. More often than not, these drive-by lawsuits do very little to improve access for the disabled community. ARDA’s Federal Affairs team will continue to push legislation that would introduce, amongst other things, a notice and cure provision, allowing businesses 60 days to address any alleged violations and another 60 days to remedy them. We are hopeful that this would significantly curtail the practice of abusive litigation. Thus, helping both businesses and the disabled community, as businesses could then direct their resources to ensuring accommodations are ADA compliant rather than spending those resources on costly litigation. 

The coming of the new administration also provides hope with regards to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Declaratory Ruling related to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). While the ruling sought to clarify the rules that govern the use of wireless calls and texts pursuant to the TCPA, it failed to recognize the distinction between abusive telemarketing practices and legitimate businesses seeking to contact their customers. The Ruling’s frequently vague and highly convoluted language has benefitted the class action plaintiff’s attorneys and professional litigants, who find it easier than ever to file abusive class action lawsuits.

ARDA’s outreach to legislators will continue in 2017, and we are hopeful that this administration will not hinder our efforts, as we are joined by a broad coalition of businesses from across the nation. 

 

 

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