By Bob Meuschke | Jun 02, 2010
Until recently, I never really took to heart the freedoms that we have – or the impact we can have on the laws that protect those freedoms.
Four years ago, I learned of the state of Kansas’ plan to impose a sales tax on coin laundries in the state. At the time, it was a bill presented only in the House of Representatives.
As president of the MO-KAN Coin Laundry Association, it was my responsibility to take action against this bill. So, I made an appointment, traveled to Topeka and spoke out strongly against the bill.
However, as someone who has pastored and spoke to many hundreds of people before, there is no comparison to speaking in front of a group of lawmakers. I realize they are people just like you and me, but there is definitely an “intimidation factor” involved. During that first meeting with the House of Representatives, I shook like I never had before – but I got through it. And that bill never made it out of committee.
The next year they tried it again with another bill. We went into our meeting with the lawmakers knowing what to expect this time. It was much easier the second time around, but still very intimidating. Fortunately, once again, the bill died.
Last year, the bill was not only presented in the House but in the Senate as well. Also, it didn’t affect just a few industries, as in the previous two years. This time, more than 99 trade organizations were involved in the fight. In fact, the issue had grown to the point where we, at the MO-KAN CLA, decided to hire a lobbyist, as well as sending out regular e-mail alerts to all members, updating them about the situation.
This time, speaking out against the bill in the House of Representatives was similar to what it had been in earlier years; however, our meeting with the Senators was a completely different story. These legislators were much more demanding – even limiting the time and length of our presentation.
And they followed up with questions, which the Representatives never did. We had to be on our toes and ready for anything. However, I discovered that if they threw questions and comments at you, you could – in a professional, respectful way, of course – throw them right back at them. To me, that was very interesting.
And, in the end, that bill, too, was defeated.
That said, I want to commend all of the coin laundry owners who continually called, wrote letters and sent e-mails on our behalf. I believe that our speaking with the lawmakers on the committee level, along with all of the letters and e-mails voicing our concern about the sales tax, is the reason it was defeated.
That is true democracy. That is our freedom of speech in action. And I hope that we never forget it. It’s what makes America what it is – and what separates the United States from other countries in the world.
Join the Battle
Unfortunately, some admonishment on our part is necessary as well.
As you can no doubt guess, hiring a lobbyist is expensive. We were fortunate enough to be able to split those costs with the housing companies, as well as the Coin Laundry Association.
The total cost of our portion of the lobbyist’s fee was $4,400, of which we raised only $3,550. To make matters worse, of the more than 200 laundries in the state of Kansas, only 12 of them participated by sending in funds to help defray our costs. The rest of the money came from Missouri laundry owners and the trade industries.
I think that is terrible. In fact, I know of more than 35 coin laundries that sent e-mails and letters to Congressmen, yet did not send any money. We even tried to get others to come with us, to either speak out against the bill or just stand with us as a group – and we couldn’t get anyone.
I’m only saying this because the sales tax issue isn’t going anywhere. It will come up again, and that could be as early as next year.
I was hoping that 60 to 100 coin laundries would participate in this fight, giving us a financial buffer that we could bank for next year or the next time this sales tax issue arises. We must be prepared.
We all profited from the fact that the bill did not pass, just as we all would have had to pay the price if we lost. It seems to me that would have been worth something to every laundry operator.
So, if any laundry owners still want to participate, we are more than willing to apply any money sent in to the deficit – and if we surpass our financial commitment, we will add it to our war chest for future issues.
I sincerely hope that many of your eyes have been opened to the need for the CLA and its affiliates. What if the MO-KAN CLA had not spoken at either committee meeting? What if we did not hire a lobbyist? In my opinion, it would have left us “ripe unto picking,” and we may very well have lost.
What about next year… or next time?
If you are not members of the CLA or not active with the affiliates, I hope this article will help you see, if for no other reason, why you need to be a part of the solution.
And this isn’t just a “Kansas issue.” This year, six states tried to implement sales tax on self-service laundries. What’s more, Iowa laundry owners have been fighting to get their sales tax exemption back.
So, join now, and become a part of the solution now. Be willing and ready for the next battle, regardless of what state it is in.