5 Scary Pieces of Fitness-related Legislation that Could Have Become Law

    It's important to remember when legislative threats to your business arise, your grassroots opposition and help can make all the difference. Here's a look at 5 bills we fought against with your help.

    Legal Raised Hand Column

    You’ve worked hard building a successful gym and business. The last thing you need is legislation that would make running your gym more expensive.

    Over the years, we’ve seen bills that could have shaken the fitness industry to its core, frightening the toughest of owners. With the help of gym owners and their members, we’ve worked tirelessly to guard the industry and defeat scary legislation that’s introduced. So, as a trick-or-treat this Halloween, we’re counting down five scary bills from years past.

    5. $100 a day, every day

    In Massachusetts, legislation was introduced in 2015 to require state inspection of each health club and its exercise equipment at least once every six months. House Bill 3736 proposed that a club found to be out of compliance pay a $100 fine each day that any faulty equipment remained available for use.

    IHRSA and its Boston-based lobbyist opposed the bill and prepared to take additional steps if the bill gained momentum, which it did not. Of course, it’s important for gyms to have equipment that is not faulty, but this kind of over-regulation would be cumbersome.

    4. Strict licensing rules for personal trainers

    This sort of regulation does not currently exist. In 2014, legislation introduced in Florida would have imposed new fees, oversight, and examinations for personal trainers and placed control over the industry in the hands of state regulators. This likely would have also increased costs for fitness consumers. IHRSA successfully worked to oppose Senate Bill 1616.

    3. Voided membership agreements

    What’s the point of having a contract? In 2013, New Jersey lawmakers considered a bill that would have allowed health club members to cancel a membership contract at any time, regardless of the contract’s terms. Assembly Bill 3942 would have required all health club contracts to contain a clause allowing the contract to be canceled at the request of the buyer. It would have allowed members to end a membership agreement for any reason, at any time. Health clubs would have 15 days to honor a cancellation request, at which point the club would only be entitled to a prorated share of the contract’s price. IHRSA stopped this bill from becoming law.

    2. Taxing personal training sessions

    A proposal to charge the state sales tax on personal training services in California was introduced and defeated in 2012. When IHRSA alerted its members to the tax proposal, our advocacy campaign generated over 500 emails to the California Assembly asking them to oppose any tax on healthy lifestyles. Assembly Bill 2540 would have imposed the state’s sales tax on various services, including personal training, but failed to advance into law.

    1. Favoring tax-exempt competition

    Why would a consumer at a non-profit be treated differently than one at a commercial health club? In Ohio, legislators have considered repealing the sales tax on fitness memberships - but only for non-profit fitness facilities. House Bill 334, introduced in 2015, proposed to exempt membership to a fitness facility from the 5.75% sales tax if the facility had 501(c)3 tax-exempt status with the IRS.

    IHRSA supports legislation that makes engaging in a healthy lifestyle more affordable. However, the bill would have left in place the state’s sales tax on services provided by commercial health clubs, creating a disadvantage for some clubs in the industry. The bill did not advance into law last session, but it has been introduced in the current legislative session.

    Fortunately, it’s not all scary—plenty of legislators are committed to healthy communities and introduce bills to promote physical activity in schools and the workplace. When legislative threats arise, legislators are receptive to our grassroots opposition and IHRSA lobbying. That’s where we need your help! Be sure to subscribe to the IHRSA Advocate to stay on top of the latest legislative and legal news applicable to your business, and fear not.

    Author avatar

    Suzanne Trainor

    Suzanne Trainor previously served as IHRSA’s Government Relations Coordinator—a position that included tracking legislation at the state and federal levels, as well as communicating IHRSA's policy positions to key decision-makers.