The Democratic takeover of the House following Tuesday's midterm elections is not likely to have any immediate ramifications for travel advisers, but ASTA certainly will be keeping a close eye on Washington's new landscape.
According to Eben Peck, the outlook for some policy priorities has changed. ASTA's executive vice president for advocacy said congressional Democrats' push to crack down on the use of independent contractors (ICs) is of concern now that they control the House, given the estimated 20,000 travel agent ICs.
"While the overall regulatory environment for ICs at the Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service is likely to remain favorable, we expect to see proposals from congressional Democrats that would undo longstanding protections for businesses using ICs, force changes in business processes and massive new tax and compliance expenses," he said.
However, Peck added that it is "highly unlikely a Republican-controlled Senate would pass a House Democratic bill targeting ICs."
Another potential negative for travel agents is that the Travel Agent Retail Fairness Act, introduced last year by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), which would remove travel agencies from an arbitrary regulatory "blacklist" that blocks them from utilizing an exemption from federal overtime rules designed for retail businesses.
"While the bill enjoys bipartisan support, a Democratic-led House will be less inclined to give committee consideration or floor time to business-friendly bills of this nature," he said. "It might be a little harder to get through the House, but it's not impossible."
Overall, Peck said, the travel industry does not benefit more or less from one party.
"The good news is that with the issues we work on, in some cases the Republicans -- and in some cases the Democrats -- are more favorable: we don't have all our eggs in one basket," he said. "We play the cards that we're dealt, and the mission remains the same: to represent our members and make sure it's the best possible business environment to work in."