The locker room is a central feature in most health clubs, offering members a convenient place to shower and dress, and somewhere to store their belongings during a workout. But locker rooms are also host to some of the most sensitive legal issues facing clubs, namely personal privacy and security. However, good locker room design and clear policies can prevent potentially heated issues.
IHRSA Industry Watch provides insight on how policy issues affect not only the health club industry, but your bottom line. You'll learn about efforts to protect the industry, and promote health clubs as a solution to the inactivity epidemic. You’ll also find information on pressing industry issues, industry leaders and leadership opportunities, health promotion opportunities and more.
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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 Oregon's health club indistry here.
Anticipating future trends and capitalizing on them is one of the cornerstones of success. Doing so keeps your business fresh, fun, and ahead of the competition.
Just ask Magnus Lindkvist, the futurist and trendspotter, and a keynote speaker at IHRSA 2015 in March, who captivated his audience and earned a rousing standing ovation. He had the same effect when he spoke at the 14th Annual IHRSA European Congress in Amsterdam last year.
Lindkvist may be adept at getting a feel for the future, but how can others go about it?
“To trendspot,” says Lindkvist, “the first thing you need to do is overhaul your ‘information diet.’ … You should strive to be provoked by a new idea, or concept, or person, at least once a week.”
Taking that advice to heart, IHRSA has asked a number of industry leaders to share their thoughts on the progress the industry has made thus far, and their recommendations on how it can move beyond that to encourage more people to adopt healthy lifestyles in the years to come.
That valuable feedback has now been compiled in a new report, Forecasting the Future of the Health Club Industry, with the generous support of IHRSA’s Industry Leadership Council (ILC).
If you’re a longtime IHRSA member, you know that laws, be they local, state, or federal, can have a significant impact on the profitability, and even the viability, of clubs. And state legislation can sometimes be particularly troublesome.
As an example, in the ’70s and ’80s, many states passed laws designed to regulate membership contracts; and clubs that didn’t abide by them were required to pay a fine.
Back then, state legislatures held all of the power in terms of which proposals would become law, and how those bills would affect clubs. But today, fortunately, IHRSA can help you create contracts that will benefit both you and your members; and it can also assist with other important matters.
Each year, IHRSA’s advocacy team works to defend the industry’s interests against harmful legislation. Year after year, bills are introduced that would impose new regulatory burdens on clubs, rather than updating and fine-tuning old, outdated sections of existing laws.
IHRSA Public Policy has two main areas of focus, one on enacting policies that increase health club membership, and one on protecting members from burdensome legislation.
Increasing Health Club Membership
In 2014, IHRSA supported legislation in 10 different states that would have created either a tax incentive for individuals to join a health club and/or businesses to promote an employee wellness program. Additionally, IHRSA sought to remove existing financial barriers to exercise, working to create opportunities to repeal the sales tax on club memberships in 4 states.
Entering the 2015 legislative session, IHRSA anticipated opportunities to advance incentives for individuals to join a health club and/or businesses to promote an employee wellness program in 11 states. IHRSA also identified 6 states with possible opportunities to repeal an existing sales tax on health club services. Throughout the 2015 session, IHRSA worked to advance 17 pieces of legislation in 9 states. In addition to growing the industry, these bills can serve to promote a healthier population, reduce healthcare costs, and increase productivity levels.
Protecting Clubs from Burdensome Regulations
Despite the fact that states have largely found more sound budgetary footings since the economic downturn in 2008, states continue to consider legislation that would tax health club dues and services. The two most recent proposals came from the Council of Washington, D.C and Pennsylvania lawmakers. IHRSA worked with clubs and fitness consumers in both cases to oppose the surcharge on members’ dues. The tax passed in D.C., represents IHRSA’s only legislative loss in 2014. However, IHRSA and IHRSA members are already working to repeal the tax. And though IHRSA was able to declare victory over the proposed tax in Pennsylvania in 2014, the issue is again on the table in 2015.
In addition to the sales tax battles, IHRSA engaged member clubs in 7 grassroots advocacy campaigns over the past year, generating over 9,000 messages in support of pro-industry policies. To date, none of those bills have been enacted into law and IHRSA has achieved legislative “victories” over 6 of the most potentially harmful bills that were introduced this year.
A less dramatic and visible task - but fundamentally important - is to identify and neutralize threats to the industry before broad-scale grassroots advocacy is necessary. Prior to the start of the 2015 session, IHRSA identified 26 high-level threats to the profitability and/or operations of health clubs across the 50 states. The public policy team along with our lobbyists and health club operators have been successful in proactively working with these state lawmakers to prevent the introduction of potentially harmful legislation.
At the end of 2014, Seth Godin, marketing guru and former IHRSA keynote speaker, published another book. This one, entitled “What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn)”, encourages readers to become “ruckus makers”.
When I got to the page with a photo of 29 physicists from the 1927 Solvay Congress in Brussels, I couldn’t stop thinking of the industry leaders who founded IHRSA.
Seventeen people in this photo won the Nobel Prize for Physics. But here’s the thing. They weren’t invited because they won the Nobel Prize. They won the Nobel Prize because they got invited.
That kind of greatness, fueled by association, is a recurring theme in the history of the health club industry.
In April, IHRSA launched a grassroots advocacy campaign to fight against a potential expansion of the sales tax to include health club services.
Since then, Democrats and Republicans in the statehouse have each introduced their own alternative tax reform packages. The Democrats' plan mirrors the Republican governor's in its proposed expansion of the state sales tax to include currently untaxed services, including health clubs. The Republicans' package does not expand the sales tax. The legislature's Joint Committee on Appropriations is now working to reconcile all three proposals into a single plan.
IHRSA is encouraging Maine health club operators to speak out against this sales tax on healthy lifestyles by contacting state legislators to inform them that health club services are not just an “amusement,” but are instead a crucial component in improving the health and happiness of Maine’s citizens.
See this CBI article for more on the wellness tax issue. And see talking points to educate your lawmakers here.
And to help IHRSA protect clubs from harmful legislation and taxes in all fifty states, pledge your support today to the Industry Leadership Council.
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 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:
The IHRSA Foundation will make debut at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting and Exercise is Medicine ® World Conference in San Diego from May 26th-May 30th.
Amy Bantham, IHRSA’s Vice President of Government Relations and Health Promotion, Dr. Eddie Phillips, and other representatives of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine will be present their detailed research - which describes the link between physician’s attitudes towards exercise and health clubs, and their likelihood of prescribing physical activity to their patients.
The mission of the IHRSA Foundation is to promote healthy lifestyles through participation in regular exercise. The foundation will encourage regular physical activity by working with clubs to offer evidence-based health promotion programs to better prevent and manage chronic diseases.
For more information on the IHRSA Foundation, please visit ihrsa.org/foundation.
Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf, recently announced his plan to expand the current sales tax to untaxed services, including health clubs.
This week, Representative Jake Wheatley will introduce legislation that would finance the governor’s tax reform proposals.
IHRSA is calling on health club operators in the state to oppose this sales tax by reaching out to state representatives and informing them of the negative impact that this tax would have on healthy lifestyles.
We will continue to fight this tax on wellness and keep you informed of any updates.