The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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4 Uncertain Fitness Industry Legislative Trends We’re Watching

This post was originally published in the IHRSA Advocate.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

“Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know, is bad, or amoral, at least. You can't act if you don't know.”

Whether you are familiar with this Ray Bradbury quote or not, this quote can be applied across a number of industries—including the health club industry.

One of my first tasks when I started working at IHRSA was to read all 39 state consumer protection laws governing health club contracts and create a summary of each state law.

Since then, I’ve been involved—with the help of a lot of great IHRSA staff—with the monitoring of every bill introduced by any state legislature that would directly affect health clubs. So it was reasonable to think I had seen it all, but I hadn’t. I’m seeing some trends coming the industry’s way that I really don’t like, and I want to bring them to your attention.

Because, as Ray Bradbury says, “knowing is good” and we must be prepared in case something wicked this way comes:

  1. New States in Play: We are seeing legislation that would impact the industry in states we have never worked in before—Nebraska, West Virginia, Montana, and Indiana. So, if you operate in a state where you thought, “I don’t have to worry about a law that will hurt my business,” think again.
  2. Travelling Legislation: The rate that a legislative idea can travel from state-to-state has become exponentially faster. Legislators have always looked to other states to shape their own legislation, but it is now happening so fast. For example, a Wyoming bill copies a New Jersey automatic renewal bill word-for- word. So, it is no longer safe to assume that what happens in one state stays in that state.
  3. Surprising Taxes: During the recession years, I warned that if you operate in a state that does not tax membership dues, assume they are going to try to do it. Most states were so poor they were willing to tax anything that wouldn’t put up a fight. As the economy got better, and the research on the importance of exercise became stronger, I thought the battle would die down. The problem now is that many states have a broken revenue system that has to be fixed. The sales tax battles in West Virginia and Pennsylvania are good examples of this problem potentially impacting clubs.
  4. Other Industries’ Battles: The growing likelihood that consumer protection action in other industries is going to hurt your business. For example, we are seeing legislation from California that would limit your ability to offer trial memberships. Not targeted at our industry but if passed, it would change the way some clubs operate. 

Now that you know the wicked that could be coming your way, here’s how you can act:

  • Do you know you state legislators? Or more importantly, do your state legislators know the good work you are doing at your club? If they don’t, resolve right now to change that. We can help you figure out the best steps to change that but you need to decide to do it.
  • Read your legislative alerts and take action when asked. Technology is making it easier and easier to get your voice—and when needed, your members’ voices— heard. Together we are a very powerful industry.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open. Get in touch with IHRSA if you have on-the-ground information or political connections we might not know about.
  • Your donation to the ILC has never been more important. Every dollar that you donate is used to hire a lobbyist or track laws to protect your business from harm or look for opportunities to grow your business. With more states taking more and more action against health clubs, the need to hire lobbyists to cover additional states is growing significantly. As IHRSA Public Policy Committee Chair Jim Zupanic likes to say “If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.” (If you’ve not pledged for this year, please contact Meredith Poppler ( If you already have, there’s no time like the present to invite your peers to join the ILC.) 

In short, don’t be complacent. Because IHRSA isn’t.

IHRSA Public Policy has a great track record of stopping legislation that can harm your club -- 135 wins to 4 losses. But, don’t assume that because we almost always win, we will continue to almost always win. Don’t take it for granted. Get involved today.