The CAA gears up for this event every year as the organization partners with the Automotive Service Councils of California (ASCCA), the largest independent automotive repair organization in California, to hold this event. With more than 800 members, the ASCCA has been representing all areas of the automotive repair industry, including mechanical, auto body, supplier and educators in the automotive technology field for the past 76 years.
CAA Executive David McClune is ready to lead these two groups as they take on the Capitol. “This is our big moment every year when we can meet with our political representatives,” he said. “We can influence these bills before they become laws and provide valuable feedback for our key decision makers, so we tell our members to seize the moment and make the most of it. Most importantly, we can provide them with a look into how our members run their businesses and all of the factors that can affect them and their livelihoods.”
By strategically scheduling appointments throughout the Capitol’s offices all day long, ASCCA/CAA members break into smaller groups to cover as much territory as possible. With major concerns about bills that can greatly impact their businesses, collision and mechanical repair companies come from all over the state every spring to meet with their local legislators and discuss “hot button” bills.
Although this year's slate of speakers at Legislative Day was not yet finalized, past speakers have included: The Chief of the Bureau of Automotive Repair; Governor’s Small Business Advocates, the Governor’s Economic Adviser; Chair of the Select Committee on Career Technical Education and Workforce Development; the author of AB 2289 (Smog Check), and Chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.
To kick off the day, everyone is briefed by Jack Molodanof, the lobbyist for both organizations, who instructs the members about the correct protocol for meeting with their legislators or their representatives.
Molodanof always opens with a joke or amusing anecdote, but then he’s all business. Coaching the members of ASCCA/CAA about how to approach their local representatives is always crucial and that’s why Molodanof always sets down the rules first.
In the handbook that every member gets from Molodanof at the start of Legislative Day, the lobbyist ably summarizes the day's purpose. "Not only can one person make a difference, but one person can also make others change their perception of an issue. You have the power in that you have firsthand experience as it relates to issues that are most important to you. Let the lawmakers know how you feel about these issues. You must be heard to make a change. John F. Kennedy once said, 'One person can make a difference and every person should try.'"
Molodanof was happy with last year's turnout, he said, and is hoping to see more body shop owners at the Capitol in 2016. "We're pinpointing proposed bills here at the State Capitol and raising awareness about possible future laws that can directly impact the collision industry. It was wonderful to see so many new faces at last year's Legislative Day and I'm hoping to see even more on April 12. ”
Don Feeley is the CAA State President and a highly-respected name in the collision industry, especially in southern California. He has served CAA at the state level for more than 21 years, holding each of the seven positions available on the board an unprecedented three times. So, when Feeley talks about the importance of events such as CAA Legislative Day, people listen.
Feeley said that body shop owners should attend Legislative Day for many reasons. "Some years, we have bills that impact the collision repair market greater than others, but we always need to be vigilant, because there are many issues that affect collision repairs such as environmental and governmental regulation changes not to mention insurance companies who are always working on their best interest at the State Capitol," he explained. "One of the problems of leg day attendance is that a lot of body shop owners like many Americans are turned off by politics in general and don’t feel their voices will be heard so why bother. They figure, CAA has a great lobbyist in Jack Molodanof, and that's true, but he can't do it all alone."
Feeley said that showing up at the event is more than halff the battle. "We need collision repairers here physically, so that our representatives can see that Jack Molodanof and David McClune and our board have some numbers behind it. When they see that we are a significant group, it adds credibility to the work that the association is doing for its members and the collision industry. So, by showing up, we can emphasize our role and show our strength."
Ideally, getting a body shop owner in office in California would have been a great way to give CAA a much-needed voice at the legislative level. Unfortunately, recent attempts have fallen short. However, Feeley still thinks that CAA’s current methodology, with the help of its members, is the best way to tell their story and educate their elected officials on the collision repair environment.
"A few years ago, Kelly McCarty, a shop owner ran for the 64th Assembly District in the Inland Empire and although it was a close race, we lost," Feeley said. "Having a voice is a big deal and getting someone in office would be nice, but in the meantime we need to mobilize our members and get more new members to assist us. I look forward to seeing our members at the state Capitol on April 12th."