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Entries in legislative threats (15)


4 Uncertain Fitness Industry Legislative Trends We’re Watching

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 industriesincluding 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 involvedwith the help of a lot of great IHRSA staffwith 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.

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Don’t Let Legislative Threats Disrupt Your Gym’s Daily Business Routine

Think about everything that you’ve done since the moment you walked through the doors of your gym this morning. This includes everything that constitutes a successful business day, like the laundry list of operational tasks you must perform and the personalized interactions that you have with members to ensure they are satisfied with their fitness experiences.

Now, think about what would happen if your entire routine was suddenly disrupted.

Continue reading "Don’t Let Legislative Threats Disrupt Your Gym’s Daily Business Routine."

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Keep Aware with IHRSA’s Legislative Threat Report

IHRSA’s Public Policy team is constantly on the lookout for legislation that may threaten U.S. health clubs.

To do this, the team reviews legislation that could hinder profitability or create burdensome regulations. Once identified, they work in your best interest to protect your club against proposals that would discourage healthy behaviors. 

"Legislative surprises can happen, but through our process of reviewing, anticipating, and monitoring, we do our best to make sure the surprises are rare and even then, we are prepared to address these challenges," says Executive Vice President of Public Policy Helen Durkin. 

In the coming year, we expect to see the following threats:  

  • Restrictions on membership contracts
  • Personal training regulations
  • Sales tax on memberships
  • Locker room privacy  

To brief you on these issues and more, we created The 2016 Legislative Threat Report. This new resource provides case studies of threats IHRSA has faced in the past and looks ahead to the issues that we anticipate to see during the 2016 legislative sessions.

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IHRSA Advocacy Provides The Protection We Need

Insurance protects the things we hold dear: our homes, our health, our automobiles, our lives, and our livelihoods. For health club operators, the ultimate “insurance,” perhaps, is IHRSA’s public policy team.

Helen Durkin, JD, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global public policy, and her group of “agents” are constantly on the lookout for impending problems, such as tax-exempt competition, burdensome restrictions on member contracts, and taxing health club memberships. Their mission: to protect IHRSA members and their businesses at the local, state, and federal levels.

The threats they address are often so inconspicuous that, if it weren’t for the team’s prompt and efficient responses, you might not be aware how many there are, and how dangerous they are. The 2015 record for Durkin’s crew is an astonishing 13 wins.

Recently, I spoke with Jim Worthington, the owner and president of the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), in Newtown, PA, about a risk he’s faced. A proposal has been placed on the legislative docket to impose a sales tax on all of the health clubs in that state. If enacted, it would cost Worthington’s business more than $1 million a year.

Recognizing the danger, Worthington and Linda Mitchell, NAC’s director of public and community relations, did what any IHRSA member can and should do: They called on Durkin and her team, who immediately joined forces with them and their allies. Working with the support of local lobbyists retained by IHRSA, the group has petitioned state representatives aggressively.

The objective: to prevent passage of a law that would tax the public’s pursuit of healthy lifestyles.

“A monumental effort had to be mounted, and would have been impossible without the IHRSA team,” says Mitchell. “In order to help produce over 13,000 messages to state legislators in just one week, we had to not only engage our members and employees, but join IHRSA in reaching other clubs throughout the state. IHRSA staff and their lobbyist in Harrisburg supplied the strategy and technological resources, as well as minute-by-minute feedback in real time. It was a great example of marketing and communications at its best.”

The fate of this particular proposal remained uncertain when this column was written, so the industry’s vigilance and opposition remain both real and strong.

As an IHRSA member, I know that my investment in the association goes a long way—toward the annual convention and trade show, industry research, and CBI … and, importantly, to support IHRSA’s public policy team. They provide the insurance we can’t afford to live without.

To learn more, visit


2016 Legislative Threats: AEDs, Privacy, and More

This post is the fourth in a series of four case studies that demonstrate how IHRSA works to protect your health club from legislation that could harm your business. View the first post here, the second post here, and the third post here.

Over the last few weeks, IHRSA has highlighted threats posed by state legislatures to impose restrictions on health club membership contracts, limit access to qualified personal trainers, and to tax healthy lifestyles. While these are some of the issues that are likely to appear in multiple state legislatures, there are a number of other topics that could arise in 2016 and negatively impact your health club.

IHRSA’s Public Policy team has become very adept at predicting where we will fight battles and proactively work to mitigate threats. However, politics is inherently unpredictable, with lawmakers subject to pressure from constituents, current events, and their own ambitions. What follows are a few of the issues that could arise in your state in 2016.

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)

Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia require health clubs to maintain an AED on premises. Given how states often borrow legislative language from one another, it is possible that each of the other 39 states could consider requiring clubs to house an AED at some point. For states that already have a mandate, there exists the threat of the law being changed to increase legal risks for clubs.

In every case, IHRSA works to ensure that bills mandating AEDs provide health club operators and staff with adequate liability protection for both the use and non-use of an AED, contain reasonable staffing requirements, and provide adequate compliance time. Heading into 2016, IHRSA anticipates extra attention will be given to the issue in Connecticut, Georgia, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.


Over the last few years, one of the most commonly addressed issues by state legislatures across the country is that of extending civil rights protections to transgender individuals. IHRSA does not view this type of legislation, which grants necessary protections in regard to employment, housing, and education, as a threat.

However, IHRSA is working to educate lawmakers on how these laws uniquely impact health club locker rooms and may expose well-intentioned operators to increased legal risks. IHRSA expects the issue to continue to gain momentum, with a likelihood of every state giving some consideration to transgender rights, if they have not enacted a bill already (17 states have passed laws granting protections in places of public accommodation).

And more…

IHRSA deals with many types of legislation that could impact every aspect of your health club business. Childcare, spas, tanning, liability waivers—you name it. This year, we anticipate childcare and/or kids’ camps legislation in Arizona, California, Illinois, and Minnesota, rules for spas and pools in Massachusetts, and rules for clubs that offer tanning in almost every state. We are also keeping an eye out for proposals that would restrict or prohibit the use of liability waivers in clubs, an issue that could arise in any state in which consumer protection becomes a hot topic.

The best way for you to prepare for any one of these issues, or any other that might arise, is to stay well informed by subscribing to IHRSA’s Legislative Alerts and routinely visiting your state page. Also, if you hear of any other legal or legislative updates going on in your state, please share them with IHRSA and other clubs in your area.


2016 Legislative Threats: Personal Trainer Licensure

This post is the second in a series of four case studies that demonstrate how IHRSA works to protect your health club from legislation that could harm your business. View the first post here.

Across the country, state legislatures do not dictate to health club operators which personal trainers best fit the needs of their business and membership. However, legislation proposing legal requirements for trainers has been making rounds for 20 years and has been considered in more than a dozen state legislatures. In January 2014, the Council of Washington, D.C. became the first to enact a bill that called for registration of trainers in the district. 

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The bill passed by the Council required registration of trainers, but largely left responsibility for determining what certifications and background trainers must have to continue working in D.C. to the district’s Board of Physical Therapy.

IHRSA Adopts Different Strategy Than Most

While many stakeholders took to lobbying the Board in favor of, or opposition to specific requirements, IHRSA worked with its district lobbyist and local club operators to educate the Council and the Mayor’s office on how the entire concept of personal trainers regulated by physical therapists would likely restrict access to safe, effective training services in the district. This past fall, the Council and Mayor both agreed with IHRSA’s position and took action to preempt rules being issued by the Board of Physical Therapy, removing the threat of misguided regulation of D.C. personal fitness trainers.

These bills do not spring from a rash of serious injuries caused by personal trainers. When California took up the issue in 2009, it was because a legislator sought to hire a trainer for his teenage daughter and had a hard time understanding what made one trainer more qualified than the next. The same year, a bill was filed in Massachusetts following a state representative’s attempt to find a fitness instructor for his elderly mother. In 2008, New Jersey legislation was introduced at the behest of a “school” that was issuing its own, unaccredited trainer certifications.

Legislators introduce these bills to ensure that their constituencies have access to legitimate personal trainers. IHRSA has spoken to every one of the bill authors and not once has their intent been to inflict damage on personal trainers or have the state become overly involved in the industry.

Best Intentions Gone Wrong

Unfortunately, that is exactly what these bills unintentionally accomplish. The burdensome nature of some proposals does more than impose excessive fees for trainers or training requirements that aren’t quite in-line with the industry’s best practices. The New Jersey bill would have required trainers to undergo 300 in-person classroom hours, a 50-hour unpaid internship, and pass a state administered licensing exam. The Massachusetts legislation would have required an advanced degree. Other states would have made it difficult for someone born outside of the U.S. to work as a trainer.

As these bills arise, IHRSA works to ensure that the legislation does not limit a clubs’ access to qualified personal trainers, or make fitness services more expensive and difficult to acquire for consumers. IHRSA recommends certification of personal trainers by an accredited third party.

What 2016 Looks Like for Personal Trainer Legislation

Based on legislative trends, conversations with state lawmakers and regulators, and intelligence gathered from our lobbying teams and member clubs across the country, IHRSA predicts that we will once again face a number of bills that will propose new requirements for trainers in states.

A number of indicators suggest legislators will consider the issue in multiple states in 2016, most notably in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

IHRSA’s Public Policy team has worked to ensure that the industry is prepared to protect itself in each of these states. But if you aren’t located in one of these states, you aren’t quite off the hook. Legislative issues spread quickly across state lines so it is very important to stay on top what is going on in your state, even if it is not listed above. Be sure you are signed up to receive IHRSA’s Legislative Alerts and routinely visit IHRSA’s state pages to get the latest on issues that might impact your club.


2016 Legislative Threats: Restrictions on Membership Contracts

This post is the first in a series of four case studies that demonstrate how IHRSA works to protect your health club from legislation that could harm your business. 

In 2014, a bill was brought before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that aimed to protect consumers from unwittingly subscribing to contracts that renewed automatically in perpetuity. The bill’s proponents believed that the state’s existing law essentially forced consumers to pay for goods and services they did not use because they failed to notice a so-called “evergreen clause” in a contract’s fine print. They also believed the loophole was being exploited by unscrupulous businesses to quietly bleed funds from consumers.

However, as it was written, the bill would have not only imposed its requirements on bad actors in unregulated sectors of the state economy; the legislation would have also added to requirements of already regulated industries, including health clubs, whose governing regulations explicitly address automatic renewals.

IHRSA, coordinating with our lobbyist in Harrisburg and our members in the area, went on the offensive, educating lawmakers on the existing rules and the standard practices within the industry to ensure members are satisfied. Following these efforts, the sponsor amended the bill in order to specifically exempt health clubs. When similar legislation was taken up again this past year, only one industry remained excluded from the bill’s burdensome requirements: ours.

What occurred in Pennsylvania—a legislator seeking to regulate a contract provision like automatic renewal, without knowing how different industries utilize the tool—happens more than you might think. Often, health clubs are swept up in legislation intended for another industry (recently in Missouri, IHRSA worked to shelter health clubs from legislation aimed at providers of home alarm systems). There are also cases in which a legislator will craft a bill in knee-jerk haste after hearing from a constituent who has a dispute with their local club. 

States often seek to regulate health club membership contracts in other ways, beyond targeting automatic renewal provisions, that either pose an administrative or cost burden for health clubs, or would serve to hinder club profitability in some other way. Common examples of contract restriction legislation include: antiquated notification requirements (e.g. all renewal notifications must be sent via certified mail) and limiting health clubs’ ability to make use of cost-efficient dues collection methods, like electronic fund transfers (EFTs).

Based on recent legislative trends, conversations with state lawmakers and regulators and intelligence gathered from our lobbying teams and member clubs across the country, IHRSA predicts that we will once again face a number of bills that would restrict how a health club signs and retains its members in the upcoming sessions.

A number of indicators suggest legislators will consider the issue in multiple states in 2016, including: Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.

IHRSA’s Public Policy team has worked to ensure that the industry is prepared to protect itself in each of these states. However, given how these bills arise (often either by accident or anecdote) there are likely to be states not on the list that consider requiring a major, costly overhaul of your membership agreements. This makes it very important to stay on top what is going on in your state, so that you can join IHRSA’s efforts to protect your business when the time inevitably comes. Be sure you are signed up to receive IHRSA’s Legislative Alerts and routinely visit IHRSA’s state pages to get the latest on issues that might impact your club.


What Would Happen to Your Health Club if...

What would happen if dues at your club went up by 8% but every penny of the increase went to the government not the club? 

When the government imposes a sales tax on your dues, the cost of joining your club goes up, but you don’t see any of that revenue. Given all the problems caused by inactivity, you would think that governments would not impose a tax on membership dues since it is a barrier to healthy exercise, but states (and cities) continue to consider taxing health club dues and services.

Think this isn’t likely? Think again.

Read more.

Click to read more ...


Keep Your Business Safe, and Growing

If you appreciate the work IHRSA is doing to keep your business safe from government intrusion, and/or our efforts to grow the number of people exercising in clubs, please consider supporting those efforts by contributing to the Industry Leadership Council (ILC).

Every dollar pledged is very much appreciated, and put to the best of uses.

For some of the many reasons to contribute or be more involved, check out: 

Questions, email Meredith Poppler.


Oregon Session Closed

Oregon adjourned its 2015 legislative session last week without enacting any new rules for health clubs in the state.

Throughout the 2015 session, IHRSA carefully reviewed each introduced bill, searching for legislation that would impact the health club industry either positively or negatively, prepared to notify Oregon clubs when advocacy is needed. 

Specifically, IHRSA worked to support HB 2390 - which would have created a tax incentive for Oregon businesses to offer workplace wellness programs. The bill proposed an income tax deduction for companies that facilitated employee participation in fitness and weight management programs, likely including the purchase of a health club membership. HB 2390 failed to advance before the end of the session.

Prior to the start of the session, IHRSA was prepared to defend Oregon’s health club industry against legislation that – if reintroduced - would have allowed state and local governments to enact regulations, establish licensing requirements, and administer inspection programs for state health clubs. However, after educating state lawmakers on the issue, no bill was introduced this year.

Read more about the Oregon health club industry here.