Trending Content

TRA's State Legislative Day lets members’ voices be heard

By Connie Lannan

April 11, 2023

Texas members gathered at the Texas State Capitol in Austin during TRA's State Legislative Day.

Texas members gathered at the Texas State Capitol in Austin during TRA’s State Legislative Day.

After the previous scheduled visit to the Texas State Capitol was canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, American Rental Association (ARA) members from Texas were excited to have the opportunity to let their voices be heard during the Texas Rental Association’s (TRA) State Legislative Day on Feb. 28.

More than 15 TRA members took part, meeting with their state representatives, senators and staff members. The focus was on highlighting how decisions lawmakers make on issues — particularly property tax relief, the state tax surplus and workforce development — impact those in the Texas rental industry.

“It is important that we keep our organization and also our industry in front of our state representatives and senators so they know who we are, realize the impact our industry has on the state, understand how our companies are affected by what they do in Austin and put a personal face on some of the issues,” says Keith Kitchens, CERP, vice president, Tomball Rental Center, Tomball, Texas, who serves as TRA president.

Gene Davalos and Adella Swank, left, and Keith Kitchens, CERP, far right, meet with Rep. Dr. Tom Oliverson (130th House District)

Gene Davalos and Adella Swank, left, and Keith Kitchens, CERP, far right, met with Rep. Dr. Tom Oliverson (130th House District).

Brandon Marrs, president, Top Gunn Equipment Rentals in Austin, Texas, who serves as chair of the TRA Legislative Committee, agrees. “I feel it is important to make sure our voice is heard and remind our legislators of the economic impact we have in the state,” he says. “According to the information from ARA, in 2021, we had 42,000 employees in our industry in the state. Our industry generated $5.8 billion in revenue and more than $9 billion in industry output. Our legislators need to be reminded of that. We are a quiet bunch. We don’t make enough noise.”

The day started with a meeting at the office of Chuck Bailey, lobbyist for TRA. Bailey, along with John McClelland, Ph.D., ARA’s vice president of government affairs and chief economist, offered an update on the current Texas legislative session, shared the economic output sheets that Marrs referred to and highlighted House bills that could impact the Texas rental industry.

From there, everyone went to the Capitol and began their visits.

“The main issues we focused on were possible tax changes that may be coming and that Texas has a surplus this session. We shared that we would like to see a lot of that money allotted for workforce development for technical skills training,” Kitchens says.

“We wanted to encourage legislators to spend those funds on grants or scholarships to trade schools for mechanics and welders,” Marrs adds. “We even suggested assistance at the high school level because a lot of high schools have the equivalent of a trade school.”

Kitchens was able to sit down with his representative, Rep. Dr. Tom Oliverson (130th House District). “He is my rep in Tomball. We talked for a good five minutes. He has been in my store and rented equipment, so that was a very nice connection,” he says.

Marrs was able to meet with staff members and aides of four legislators. “Those from Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) were very attentive,” he says.

ARA Region Four Director Angela Nussel, CERP, left, Amanda Jones, CERP, and Brandon Marrs, far left, meet with a legislator's staff member.

ARA Region Four Director Angela Nussel, CERP, far left, Amanda Jones, CERP, and Brandon Marrs, far right, met with Olivia, second from right, a staff member of state Sen. Judith Zaffirini.

First-time attendees Steve Schott, owner, AA Rental, Dallas, and his son, Bart, owner, Arentco Rental, Lewisville, Texas, met with the chief of staff and another administrative assistant of Rep. Kronda Thimesch (District 65).

“We had a nice visit with them. We shared who we are, what our industry does — and talked about some legislative issues we were interested in,” he says. “It was educational.”

After the visits at the Texas Capitol, the group reconvened at a restaurant to debrief on how the day went.

“I felt the day went very well. It was a very good use of time to make sure we are represented,” Kitchens says. “And John McClelland supplied us with leave-behind packets of information, including the economic updates. Having those statistics showing the economic impact the industry has in our state in a nice and professional way was helpful.”

Marrs and Schott also thought the day was successful.

Schott realized that “it is all about relationships. I plan to visit my representatives in their home offices and also get to know the people in my district attorney’s office as that is one of the biggest groups who impact the implementation of laws that affect us,” he says.

Marrs concurs about the importance of building relationships at the ground level and all the way through to the state level. “It takes more than a couple of hours on one day every two years to get to know our legislators and those who can help us,” he says, but adding that events like this are a very important step in the process.

“It was very worthwhile. We had a nice turnout and were able to let our voices be heard. I would like to see even more of our members come out for this event next time. There is power in numbers because each person who shows up is a voter in our legislators’ minds. That is important to them. The bigger the turnout the better,” he says.