Arming ABAT For Battle: Legislation and Resources for Shop Success
by Chasidy Rae Sisk
“We’ve been working really hard and diligently over the past two years as we prepare for the 2023 legislative session,” ABAT President Burl Richards kicked off the association’s recent hybrid meetings, which allowed over 100 Texas repairers to gather live in Dallas, East Texas and Houston as well as virtually. “For four sessions, we’ve strived to get legislation passed that will benefit Texas consumers, and we’re feeling pretty good about this coming session and the two bills we’ve already filed.”
ABAT Executive Director Jill Tuggle joined Richards in praising the efforts of ABAT Lobbyist Jacob Smith, calling him “an advocate for safe and proper repairs” before turning the floor over to allow him to provide a legislative update. Smith began by providing background information about the two pieces of legislation that have been submitted related to safe repairs and Right to Appraisal.
When the association enlisted his services in the middle of the 2019 legislative session, the focus was the safe repair bill, and though it passed through multiple committees and all the way to the House floor, it was ultimately defeated by the clock with the session ending before it could be heard; it stalled out in the House in 2021, like many bills did due to constraints caused by the pandemic.
During the 2021 legislative session, ABAT also introduced a bill that sought to mandate Right to Appraisal be included on all insurance policies. While that legislation passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 91-50 and progressed to the Senate as the session winded down, it never made it out of committee. Still, Smith expressed pleasure with the progress made and confidence that this coming session will prove more fruitful.
“ABAT did a great job of testifying…Members showed up, showed support and contacted their legislators, and the results were huge. We’ve spent the interim talking with legislators and educating them on the issues, and in addition to starting a lot earlier this time around, we’re working to get us a true champion in the Senate to carry our legislation across the finish line. I have a lot of hope for the Right to Appraisal bill as well as the safe repair bill.”
Smith encouraged shops to contact their state representatives and senators, whose contact information can be found at
wrm.capitol.texas.gov, to share their concerns and garner their support. “They want to hear from you, their constituents. But if they don’t know about your issues, they cannot help. We are voters and real businesses here in Texas, and we need to call and email them so they know what you’re going through because it’s their job to take care of you.”
As part of ABAT’s efforts to get legislation passed in 2023, the association has been collecting data and gathering over 500 consumer complaints throughout 2022; however, when the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) dismissed those complaints as being filed by ABAT, the association engaged the services of Texas Watch’s Kelly Taft, who has been following up with those consumers and refiling those complaints so “when we sit in front of legislators, we’ll have proof,” Richards explained. “We’ll have numbers to show.”
Providing a progress report on the initiative, Taft shared that she has called 116 of the 500 consumers who previously filed complaints with TDI, which currently reflect an average underpayment of around $3,000 by insurance companies.
“You all did an amazing job getting a lot of complaints collected and submitted to TDI, so we’ve got a handful of good stories and folks who have been willing to share their stories with the media and the legislature, [but] we don’t have a super huge data set right now; we need more data to competently present this information to lawmakers, so please send us your stories,” she pled, noting that she has only received ONE new complaint since October. “If you can get the customers to me, we can take it from there; the most people you connect us with, the bigger impact we can have at the Capitol.”
Elaborating that the purpose of the initiative is to “help your customers fight back when they’ve been under-indemnified” by their insurers, Taft urged shops to complete the online form at saferepairs.org; from there, Taft will reach out to the consumers to help them file a complaint with TDI to hold insurance companies accountable, contact lawmakers to encourage them to mandate Right to Appraisal in Texas and present data to the legislature during the upcoming session.
“We cannot do this without you. Shops have a great deal of untapped political power in the form of your customers. Your role in connecting us with your clients is essential; you are the glue that holds this operation together,” Taft encouraged.
ABAT always strives to provide member shops with all the resources needed to run a successful business, and this information-packed session also included presentations about two valuable resources Texas shops can arm themselves with as they head into the new year.
Eric Frazer (Decisely) shared information on the new healthcare plan available to members of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), offering solutions for small businesses in all 50 states. “We make it scalable and technology-friendly, and we are providing results that you will see both at the level of your employees and their families and their paychecks but also on the P&L of your businesses through the premiums you’re paying. We are turning healthcare on its head a little bit!”
As he touted the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of Decisely’s business operating system, the bulk of Frazer’s presentation focused on Gravie, healthcare insurance that is delivered on the Cigna and Aetna networks and which offers a variety of no-cost services as well as several plans that offer tiered options for out-of-pocket maximums.
“We’ve seen a 10-30 percent premium savings that we can offer SCRS members,” Frazer boasted. “More importantly, because 88 percent of the care is provided at no out-of-pocket cost to your actual staff, they are saving an average of $1,000 a year per enrolled family.We’re saving shops an average of $1,200 per employee per year in premiums, and in the six short weeks since SCRS opened this program, we have saved member businesses a total of $650,000 in premiums!”
Although Gravie is only available to businesses with 10 or more employees, Decisely also offers another program that utilizes the Blue Cross/Blue Shield network for micro businesses. “Our solutions are for every business, small or large, within the ecosystem of automotive and collision through SCRS.” Only SCRS members can access this benefit, but anyone can learn more about the program by completing the webform at SCRSbenefitscenter.com.
The final presentation focused on the Employee Retention Tax Credits (ERTC) and was presented by Brad Mewes (The Mewes Group), who explained that the only remaining COVID program left in the United States is coming to an end quickly but can be “pretty substantial financially” to business owners who can demonstrate that they qualify. Available to businesses that have been impacted by COVID, the ERTC offers a credit of up to $26,000 per employee, though Mewes acknowledged that most clients see credits in the $10,000-$15,000 range.
In order to qualify, a business must demonstrate one of three things: a decrease in gross receipts, a partial suspension of operations or a partial suspension of operations as a result of supply chain disruption. Since Texas saw fewer COVID restrictions than other parts of the country, Mewes suggested that the third qualifier may be most apt for Lone Star shops since “suppliers operate in different states, jurisdictions and with different sets of governmental orders. Suppliers across the US were shut down based on different mandates, and that impacted shops around the country. How do we actually prove this? We create documentation that reflects your facts and circumstances to demonstrate how your business was impacted.
“Think about it like writing a supplement,” he continued. “You might have somebody write a big supplement, but if it’s well-written with good photos, line notes that reference back to the OEM repair guidelines and matching invoices, it’s more likely to get paid because all the documentation is there. But if you have a supplement with blurry photos, missing invoices and few notes, we all know what happens there too.
While the program can be extremely beneficial, the complexity of its 300-page rulebook can be intimidating which is why few CPAs handle the ERTC, according to Mewes, who suggested hiring experts like his company. The Mewes Group can be reached through mewescfo.com.
Want more? Check out the December 2022 issue of Texas Automotive!