The 2017 IHRSA Advocacy Impact Report with 2018 Legislative Forecasting

    See how IHRSA's advocacy team promoted and protected health clubs in 2017, and learn about the issues we expect to see this year.

    IHRSA's advocacy efforts are routed in the twin goals of protecting and promoting the health club industry. While you may prefer less government involvement in the club industry, the reality is, your state and national government introduce policies that could have a significant impact—for better or worse—on your business. Our job at IHRSA is to maximize the good, while minimizing the bad.

    Accomplishing these goals involves:

    • Direct advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels
    • Bringing the voices and interests of the industry (club operators, club members, and fitness consumers) directly to elected officials
    • Coalition building to increase our voice, extend our reach, and promote the industry’s impact on health, happiness, and prosperity
    • Shaping public opinion to ensure that health clubs are highly regarded resources for physical activity and wellness

    As a busy club operator, we know you have a lot of demands on your time. That is why we created this report—to provide you with a brief overview that explains the threats and opportunities your business faces. So, dig in with the knowledge that we have your back, and contact our team if you have any questions.

    IHRSA’s 2017 advocacy efforts at the federal, state, and global level successfully promoted and protected the health club industry.

    Federal

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    State

    Several bills that would have expanded the sales tax to health club membership and services were stopped in 5 states—West Virginia, Montana, Illinois, Wyoming, and Maine––saving:

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    “IHRSA’s advocacy is essential to growing, promoting and protecting the industry. Every ILC contribution makes a difference in this effort ... If you are an ILC member, thanks very much for your support. If you are not an ILC member, we invite you to join the team and make your voice heard.”

    Jim Zupancic, Chairman/CEO/General Counsel

    Stafford Hills Club, Tualatin, OR

    Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

    IHRSA supports AED legislation that contains necessary liability protectionsuse and non-usefor club owners and their employees, reasonable staffing requirements for staffed and unstaffed clubs, and adequate compliance time.


    PROTECT

    Massachusetts 
    Having worked with the legislative sponsor on preserving the immunity protections for clubs, IHRSA provided a letter of testimony in support of House Bill 2278 which expands the Massachusetts health club AED mandate. If the bill advances in 2018, it will require clubs to draft and rehearse emergency response policies and procedures and ensure the AED is secure, easily accessible, well-marked, publicized, known among trained staff, and near a method of communication.

    New York
    IHRSA monitored Senate Bill 6357, legislation to expand the New York health club AED mandate to health clubs with 50 or more patrons. Current law states that health clubs with 500 or more patrons must have an AED on the premises with at least one trained staff member present. The legislation will carry over to 2018.

    Tennessee
    IHRSA monitored House Bill 94, which would have required public places with 500 or more occupants to have at least one AED available, and have at least one staff person present and trained in its usage. The legislation will carry over to 2018.

    Automatic Renewal

    IHRSA supports contract provisions that allow for automatic continuation of service at the end of the original term on a month-to-month, at-will basis, as it offers consumers increased choice and flexibility.


    PROTECT

    Massachusetts
    House Bill 3471, which also directed businesses to send consumers notice of automatic renewal between the 30th and 60th day prior to renewal, has not advanced since its June hearing, and IHRSA expects it to be moot for the remainder of the state’s two-year session. The bill sponsor’s office heard concerns from IHRSA member clubs and the association, and indicated it would not move forward with the legislation.

    New York
    Assembly Bill 5223/Senate Bill 265 proposes that it shall be unlawful for a business that automatically renews a consumer agreement to: (1) Fail to present the renewal terms in a clear and conspicuous manner; (2) Charge the consumer without first obtaining the consumer’s affirmative consent to the agreement containing the renewal terms; (3) Fail to provide an acknowledgement of the renewal terms and cancellation policy in a manner that is capable of being retained by the consumer. IHRSA opposed the bill’s consideration in the Assembly, and is working with its New York lobbyist to influence the legislation if it is considered by the Senate.

    Vermont
    House Bill 286 proposes three regulations for automatically renewing contracts: (1) the contract must state the terms of the automatic renewal provision in plain, unambiguous language; (2) the consumer must take an affirmative action to opt-in to the automatic renewal provision; (3) the business must provide written or electronic notice between the 30th and 60th day prior to the contract’s cancellation date, notifying the consumer that the contract will automatically renew unless the consumer cancels the contract. IHRSA communicated the association’s position on automatic renewal restrictions to the sponsor. The bill has not advanced but is eligible for consideration in 2018.

    Washington, D.C.
    The D.C. legislative body considered Bill 20, legislation imposing automatic renewal disclosure and notification requirements, in 2017. IHRSA submitted written testimony opposing the legislation’s possible negative impact on clubs. The bill is eligible for further consideration in 2018.


    VICTORY

    Alabama
    House Bill 405 would have required clubs and other businesses to send written notification to consumers between the 30th and 60th day before contract renewal, if the original contract lasted 12 months. IHRSA contacted the sponsor regarding the legislation, which did not receive a committee hearing, or otherwise advance to become law.

    Minnesota
    Following a request from IHRSA, the Minnesota legislature rejected a proposal temporarily inserted into House File 676 that would have required businesses to send stand-alone automatic renewal notification mailings to consumers. Similar proposals are pending in the two-year legislature, but this particular stringent bill has been defeated.

    New Jersey
    IHRSA defeated two proposals seeking to regulate the use of automatic renewal provisions. Assembly Bill 2450, which would have required sellers of certain automatically renewing contracts to notify a consumer between the 30th and 60th day prior to the cancellation deadline, failed to become law, and Assembly Bill 1113, which would have required all health clubs to send notification to health club consumers via registered or certified mail within 60 to 90 days before automatic renewal, also did not advance this session.

    Virginia
    House Bill 2430 included a provision prohibiting a business from charging a consumer for an automatically renewing contract—unless the business first obtained affirmative consent from the consumer, among other restrictions. IHRSA contacted the sponsor, who agreed to exempt health clubs on the basis that the Virginia Health Club Act already regulates renewal of contracts for health club services. The sponsor re-drafted the bill to exclude health clubs ahead of a committee vote, and the committee voted not to advance the legislation

    Wyoming
    IHRSA submitted testimony opposing House Bill 227, legislation proposing regulation of automatically renewing contracts, to key leaders in the Senate, which opted not to consider the House proposal. If passed, the bill would have required clubs offering certain contracts to provide written or electronic notification of contract renewal between the 30th and 90th day prior to the cancellation deadline.

    Consumer Protection

    IHRSA supports consumer protection legislation that safeguards the public against fraud, deceit, and financial hardship while fostering and encouraging competition, fair dealing, and prosperity in the health and fitness industry.


    PROTECT

    Massachusetts 
    IHRSA registered concerns with legislation (that will carry over to 2018) regulating promotional free trials or gifts. House Bill 165 had its legislative hearing in June and has not advanced since. The bill would require businesses offering a free trial to notify the consumer several days before billing, among other restrictions.

    Regarding separate consumer protection legislation, House Bill 1983, which would prohibit a health club from imposing any type of fee for a specified amount of time if the club member experiences a disability during that time, and extend the length of the contract at no additional cost, IHRSA communicated with the sponsor and legislative committee to discuss possible unintended complications, such as the impact to clubs that have an existing policy to freeze membership for medical or non-medical circumstances. The bill had its legislative hearing in June and has not advanced since.

    Florida 
    IHRSA monitored and communicated to members on House Bill 467/Senate Bill 498, legislation concerning the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that included a provision excluding employer-run fitness facilities or programs from the definition of a health studio. The legislation was enacted. This means a program or facility offered by an organization for the exclusive use of its employees and their family members is not subject to regulation as a health studio.

    Texas
    At the request of the Texas Secretary of State, charged with administering the state’s health club specific statute and registering businesses as health clubs, legislators considered House Bill 2216/Senate Bill 1420. The bill, which did not become law, proposed the following changes to the statute that governs health club consumer protections: (1) Removing businesses that solely sell prepaid personal training services consisting of a specified number of sessions from regulation as a health club, or businesses that solely offer an outdoor physical exercise program held at a public facility, or businesses that solely offer yoga; (2) Specifying that a health club contract refers to an agreement between a seller and purchaser by which the purchaser becomes a member of a health club or is granted access to the facilities of the health club; (3) Deleting diet planning from the description of health club services; (4) Substituting the term health club for all references to health spa. According to the Secretary of State’s office, the bill was meant to clarify current practices by the office. IHRSA and our Texas lobbyist monitored the bill and kept in communication with interested parties.

    Utah
    Senate Bill 33, legislation to reform the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, amended the health club statute to expressly grant the state the power to revoke, suspend, or refuse renewal of a health club registration (permit) if the business was in violation of state law or submitted a misleading registration application. IHRSA supported the legislative intent to remove ambiguity in the law.


    VICTORY

    California 
    When first introduced, Senate Bill 313 proposed that a business require consumers to sign a standalone authorization form, and comply with similar administrative burdens, in order to offer a promotional free trial or gift. IHRSA was concerned this would result in health clubs having to issue two membership agreements for new customers, in some circumstances, creating difficulty in billing the consumer for services. Through IHRSA’s Sacramento lobbyist, the association worked with a broad business coalition to advocate changes to the bill, which were accepted by both the House and Senate. The bill was simplified to require businesses to conspicuously convey the terms of a free trial or offer, including the price after the promotional trial concludes.

    Connecticut
    Senate Bill 822, “An Act Concerning Consumer Contracts,” failed to become law in 2017. The bill proposed to protect seniors who enter into consumer contracts by specifying certain cooling-off periods, as well as font and formatting rules. IHRSA advocated that the bill conflicted with existing law for health club contracts, and it died in committee.

    Indiana
    If it had passed, Senate Bill 291, “Right to Work Out,” would have permitted residents to use a health club without paying dues or charges, starting July 1, 2017, potentially causing the closure of fitness centers across Indiana. Throughout the session, IHRSA communicated with key members of the bill’s committee to ensure the bill did not receive a hearing or advance in the legislative process—and was prepared to engage clubs in advocacy, if needed. The sponsor authored the legislation as a response to right-to-work laws, adopted in some states to prohibit labor unions from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

    Personal Trainer Regulation

    IHRSA works to ensure that legislation does not limit a club's access to qualified personal trainers, or make fitness services more expensive and difficult to acquire for consumers.


    PROTECT

    Nebraska  
    IHRSA submitted testimony expressing concerns with the inclusion of fitness professionals in legislation intended as a broad package of occupational reform. Legislative Bill 299 would permit a state board to regulate personal trainers, and strength and conditioning specialists, along with more than 150 occupations, with managerial tools including licensure, government certification, or state recognition, as chosen by an occupational board. The legislation did not advance in the first year of Nebraska’s two-year session.

    Sales Tax

    IHRSA opposes taxes on health club memberships and services. IHRSA believes that government should encourage regular exercise and healthy lifestyles, not discourage them by taxing health club memberships and services.


    BUILDING MOMENTUM

    Washington, D.C.
    Members of the D.C. legislative body proposed legislation that would eliminate the sales tax on health clubs and fitness studios. Bill 126, introduced in February and referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue, has yet to receive a hearing. IHRSA supports the measure—as it does all proposals to eliminate sales tax on health club services—and will advocate in its favor.


    PROTECT

    Georgia
    House Bill 543, dubbed the ‘FairTax’ Plan, would eliminate all sales tax exemptions and expand the tax to services in Georgia—likely imposing the tax on health club memberships and services. IHRSA is monitoring this legislation, which will carry over to 2018.

    Kansas
    To raise additional revenue, an amendment to House Bill 2380 sought to add services in recreational establishments to the state sales tax (membership is already taxed, but personal training is not). The amendment has not advanced since its introduction. Separately, multiple proposals were filed to expand the membership tax to non-profit or government operated fitness facilities, currently exempt from the tax. Those proposals have not advanced into law.

    Nebraska
    Though health club membership is already subject to the state sales tax in Nebraska, services, such as personal training, are not taxed. Legislative Bill 312 was introduced to expand the sales tax to instruction in recreational activities (in addition to music and golf), which stands to impact group fitness classes and personal training in health clubs. The legislation has not advanced since its spring hearing.

    Ohio
    Members of the Ohio House introduced legislation that would repeal the sales tax on gym membership, but only for non-profit facilities. IHRSA’s position is that a sales tax repeal should benefit consumers at all fitness facilities, not just the non-profit customers. House Bill 177 remains pending in its committee, which has received testimony from IHRSA and its members.

    Pennsylvania  
    Pennsylvania, a state that both struggles to meet its budget objectives and has grassroots support to replace property taxes with an expanded sales tax, poses a continuing threat to the health club industry. Legislation that would impose a 7% tax on health club membership and services, among other types of consumer purchases in order to eliminate property tax burdens, will carry over to 2018. IHRSA and Pennsylvania health clubs were active in opposing Senate Bill 76 this past year

    Washington
    Senate Bill 5937A proposes to create a sales tax exemption for membership at a CrossFit, as long as the facility has 300 or fewer members. IHRSA’s position is that a sales tax repeal should benefit all fitness consumers. IHRSA will continue to monitor the bill in 2018 and will engage if the bill’s committee considers the issue through a public hearing.


    VICTORY

    Illinois
    Legislators considered expanding the sales tax to cover additional consumer purchases—including fitness memberships—as part of some budget and revenue proposals. However, a tax on fitness didn’t advance to the final version of Senate Bill 9. IHRSA closely monitored the bill, and IHRSA member clubs let their elected officials know they opposed any tax on fitness. Ultimately, legislators chose to raise the personal income tax and increase the corporate income tax. IHRSA estimates that it would’ve cost each club in Illinois approximately $37,000 per year if the state sales tax was applied to health clubs.

    Maine
    IHRSA defeated a proposal to expand the Maine sales tax to health club membership, helping save the average club $32,000 per year. Governor Paul LePage proposed taxing health club membership in his original budget blueprint in January and in a revised proposal released in May. Maine health club owners, operators, and consumers rallied against the proposed tax, contacting their state representatives and senators and attending public hearings on the budget. In July, the budget, without a tax on wellness, became law.

    Montana
    After 260 messages were sent to lawmakers via an IHRSA grassroots advocacy campaign, the House voted down House Bill 620, which called for a 2% sales tax on personal property and services, including charges for sporting, athletic, and recreational activities. A separate bill, House Bill 640, called for a 4% sales tax on the same purchases. After IHRSA sent testimony to key lawmakers opposing House Bill 640, the House Taxation Committee did not advance the bill to the House floor. Both pieces of legislation were an attempt to replace Montana’s property tax system. IHRSA estimates that a 2% sales tax would’ve cost each club $14,000 per year, and a 4% tax would’ve cost each club $28,000 per year, based on industry data.

    West Virginia
    IHRSA and its members successfully advocated against expanding the state sales tax to include memberships at a fitness facility and saved the average health club approximately $38,000 per year. Ten pieces of legislation, all drafted with the aim of lowering the personal income tax while increasing and expanding the sales tax, threatened the current sales tax exemption for fitness memberships. All of those bills were defeated, and two legislators were inclined to introduce a standalone amendment to preserve the exemption.

    Wyoming
    House Bill 243, legislation proposing to apply the Wyoming sales tax to services at physical fitness centers and membership sports clubs, did not advance this session. IHRSA and a Wyoming-based club submitted testimony opposing the bill. The House Revenue committee voted unanimously not to tax fitness. IHRSA estimates the bill would have cost each club $28,000 per year, based on industry data and a 4% sales tax.

    Advancing the Health Club Industry

    “The potential legislative threats that exist, are frankly, never-ending ... I’m happy to donate each year because I know the lessons learned fighting in Minnesota are going to help me in Maine someday, and so are the legal issues causing problems in New York. ”

    Scott Gillespie, Owner & General Manager

    Saco Sport & Fitness, Saco, Maine

    Increasing Opportunities to Pass the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act

    IHRSA’s team worked to increase support for the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act in 2017. Some of the highlights from last year include:

    • 118 Congressional sponsors and co-sponsors secured for PHIT
    • 8,323 #PassPHIT messages delivered to Congress
    • 872,379 people reached on social media with a pro-affordable exercise message via a #PassPHIT Thunderclap

    Increasing Access to Physical Education and Activity for Children

    IHRSA is committed to advancing regular participation in physical activity for all ages. By establishing healthy habits from a young age, we are able to build the foundation for a lifetime of good health. We encourage every state to join us in supporting initiatives that encourage kids to be active.


    BUILDING MOMENTUM

    Arkansas
    Lawmakers considered a bill that would require at least 340 minutes/week of physical activity including recess, physical education, and unstructured play for grades K-4 and 265 minutes of physical education training and instruction and unstructured play for grades 5-6. The bill passed in altered form, creating a pilot program to test the extended physical activity time in two schools for the 2018-2019 school years.

    Connecticut
    Connecticut advanced legislation to prevent childhood obesity by creating healthier environments in early childhood education, prohibiting or limiting the serving of sweetened beverages, prohibiting or limiting children's access to mobile cellular telephones, computers, video games, and movies, and increasing participation in physical activity. The bill advanced through the Senate and was reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Education, but did not pass.

    Louisiana
    Louisiana passed legislation creating the Work Out Now: WON Louisiana Legislative Commission, which will work with local leaders and communities on obesity prevention. IHRSA will watch for opportunities for health clubs to engage with the WON Commission in the future.


    VICTORY

    Florida
    Florida passed legislation to grant a minimum of 20 consecutive minutes of recess for K-5 students. IHRSA submitted testimony in support of House Bill 67, whose provision was incorporated in an omnibus spending bill, House Bill 7079.

    Michigan
    For the third consecutive year, Michigan allocated $1 million for a school children's healthy exercise program to promote and advance physical health for kids in grades K-8.

    Texas
    Texas amended its education code to require school districts to provide data on student health and physical education when completing the School Health Survey to ensure regular physical activity is consistently delivered in schools.

    Financial Incentives for Wellness

    While budget constraints can make passage of financial incentives challenging, IHRSA was able to work with lawmakers in three states to incentivize physical activity.


    BUILDING MOMENTUM

    Mississippi 
    Mississippi advanced a small business wellness tax credit that would have provided an income tax credit to employers, by way of matching 50% of the costs of implementing a wellness program, which can incorporate employer-sponsored club membership. The bill passed the House but died in Senate committee.


    PROTECT

    Massachusetts
    In 2017, IHRSA lobbied to extend the Massachusetts wellness tax credit, which was passed in 2012, with a five year limit ending December 31, 2017. Amendments to extend the tax credit, which grant an income tax credit to businesses towards 25% of the costs of implementing a wellness program, were introduced in the budget process and in healthcare cost containment legislation; however, the amendments did not pass. As a result, IHRSA is working with its local lobbyist to introduce a tax incentive in 2018, so that businesses can continue to have an incentive to sponsor club memberships for their employees.


    VICTORY

    Maine
    IHRSA successfully protected a tax incentive for small businesses offering workplace wellness programs. The credit, available to businesses with fewer than 20 employees, provides up to $100 per employee or up to $2,000 per year. IHRSA applauds incentives that make it easier for businesses to purchase or subsidize club memberships for their employees.

    “Thank you for your team efforts to protect clubs, members, and potential members from ill-conceived legislation.”

    John Galiani, Founder & Co-Executive Chairman

    US Fitness Holdings LLC, McLean, VA

    Bringing the Voice of the Health Club Industry to the Global Arena

    More than 200 workplace wellness experts, government officials, and participants from multinational consumer corporations gathered at the IHRSA-sponsored Business at OECD (BIAC) Forum on Health, Growth and Productivity in Paris to discuss the importance of creating health policies that promote economic growth, productivity, and well-being.

    In 2017, the #WhyGetActive social media campaign, a worldwide platform for sharing the many compelling reasons for being physically active, reached 992,468 Twitter users, for a total lifetime reach of 2.9 million users.

    Business on OECD (BIAC) Forum on Health, Growth and Productivity

    In October, IHRSA’s Helen Durkin spoke during a panel on investing in a healthier future during the Business at OECD (BIAC) Forum on Health, Growth and Productivity in Paris, France. The OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Its mission is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world, and it provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.

    Gathered at the Forum were senior business representatives—selected CEOs, high-level government officials, OECD leadership and academia, and relevant OECD stakeholders—all discussing the proactive role of the private sector in attaining better health, growth, and productivity for the world.

    World Health Organization

    IHRSA submitted comments to the WHO regarding a draft global plan to promote physical activity.

    Memorandum of Understanding Between IHRSA and EOSE

    IHRSA and the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE) announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two associations in London during the IHRSA European Congress in October 2017. The agreement will act as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and collaboration between the two organizations.

    The IHRSA Foundation

    IHRSA and its members have consistently worked to lay the groundwork for a world in which physical activity is accessible for all people, and the benefits of exercise are well-recognized. With those end-goals in mind, IHRSA created the IHRSA Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, to amplify the industry's efforts to bring health through exercise to more people.

    The IHRSA Foundation’s mission is to promote health through exercise, helping health clubs offer outcomes-based health promotion programs. Specifically, the IHRSA Foundation seeks to:

    • Research outcomes-based wellness programs delivered in health clubs,
    • Provide educational resources to support wellness programs, and
    • Promote programs that support health through exercise

    The ACCESS Health Initiative is the IHRSA Foundation’s five-year strategic effort created to remove the barriers to physical activity for people with chronic conditions through participant-focused, multi-dimensional wellness programs. ACCESS Health is a collection of programs made up of ACCESS Health Cancer Wellness, ACCESS Health Diabetes, ACCESS Health Chronic Disease, and ACCESS Health Inclusive Fitness. In 2017, ACCESS Health pilot projects were completed at six clubs in the U.S. and two clubs in Ireland. The pilot projects represent a successful partnership between the IHRSA Foundation, IHRSA member clubs, and UFIT USA. In 2018, the IHRSA Foundation is focused on implementing the next phase of pilot projects at the existing locations and looking for opportunities to expand to new clubs.

    Partnerships and Coalitions

    IHRSA works with partners and coalitions to increase our voice, extend our reach, and promote the industry’s role in increasing the physically active population.


    PHIT Coalition

    The PHIT coalition, co-chaired by IHRSA and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) works to garner support for the PHIT Act. Throughout the year, IHRSA and coalition partners met with members of the House and Senate, asking them to co-sponsor PHIT. In the 115th Congress, PHIT has 118 bipartisan sponsors, 105 from the House and 13 from the Senate.

    The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity

    IHRSA serves on the board and is honored to be the President Elect of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) alongside organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American Heart Association (AHA), Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, the MEND Foundation, Myzone, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, the National Physical Activity Society, NIRA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, and SHAPE America. As part of NCPPA, IHRSA is working with coalition partners to promote physical activity and advance initiatives like the CEO Pledge and the PHIT Act.

    Congressional Fitness Caucus

    In October, IHRSA sponsored the #WhyGetActive Health Policy Fair on Capitol Hill, hosted by the Congressional Fitness Caucus. The event brought together policy makers, congressional staffers, and physical activity advocates to discuss and advance policies to encourage physical activity.

    The day-long event featured interactive exhibits from IHRSA members and allies, while IHRSA staff and IHRSA Board Members promoted the benefits—both physical and fiscal—that health clubs provide to the country.

    Active Schools Policy and Advocacy Working Group

    IHRSA supports policies that make physical activity accessible and affordable for children, including physical education guidelines, recess, and funding for programs. In 2017, IHRSA joined with Active Schools, an organization committed to ensure schools offer 60 minutes of daily physical activity or education, to work on future initiatives that promote physical activity for children.

    “IHRSA's public policy efforts are keeping state legislators across the land from passing laws that could put clubs in a real pickle. IHRSA's success rate on the state level is truly remarkable.”

    Norm Cates, Publisher

    Club Insider News, Marietta, GA

    Industry Threats and Issues

    2017 was one of the most politically charged years in decades, and it seems like this trend will continue in 2018.

    It is an election year—federally and in most states—and lawmakers will also be wrestling with the fiscal implications of federal tax reform and partisan conflicts. This means nervous lawmakers staring down budget deficits and reelection will be eager to take action early in the year and pass bills to tout as accomplishments for their campaigns, so some states will be very active early in the year. That said, there is also potential for an unusual amount of legislative paralysis as several capitals are losing long-time lawmakers due to retirements or scandals. With those trends in mind, IHRSA has identified the following legislative threats to club operations in 2018.

    Restrictions on Membership Contracts

    Every year states consider many ways to regulate health club membership contracts (e.g., creating onerous requirements for automatic renewal, capping the amount or length of a contract, and regulating the use of electronic fund transfers (EFTs)). A number of indicators suggest legislators will consider similar restrictions in Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C., in 2018.

    Sales Tax

    Unlike the federal government, state governments must balance their budgets each fiscal year, making cuts to existing programs or seeking new revenue via sales tax expansions. Imposing a sales tax on health clubs raises costs for members and creates a disincentive to join a gym. Indicators suggest legislators in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming will consider a sales tax on health club membership this year.

    Personal Trainer Licensing

    Legislators have been proposing to regulate personal trainers for more than two decades. While these proposals are often well-intentioned, seeking to ensure consumers have access to qualified personal trainers, they often have unintended consequences. Poorly written personal trainer regulations (typically licensure) have the potential to both substantially increase the cost trainers incur to comply with requirements and reduce, if not temporarily eliminate, the pool of trainers available. For clubs generating significant revenue from personal training sessions, onerous trainer requirements pose major financial threats. IHRSA anticipates that legislators will consider the issue in 2018, most notably in California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, and New Hampshire.

    Locker Room Privacy

    In recent years several state legislatures have extended civil rights protections to transgender individuals. Laws granting protections for transgender individuals in places of public accommodation may create practical challenges for health clubs. IHRSA provides information to help IHRSA members navigate this issue and monitors locker room privacy legislation, seeking clarity for businesses. Locker room privacy issues, including having cell phones in locker rooms, will be seen in a number of states in 2018, including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)

    Legislatures frequently introduce bills that mandate automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in health clubs. IHRSA works to ensure these bills and existing laws provide health clubs, operators, and staff with adequate liability protection for the use and nonuse of an AED, contain reasonable staffing requirements, and provide adequate compliance time. Indicators suggest AEDs could be under consideration by legislators in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.

    Opportunities for Industry Growth

    With our lobbyists and members across the country, IHRSA is actively working to advance policies that will encourage physical activity, increase access to physical and health education, and recognize the industry for its contributions to health and wellness.


    The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act

    IHRSA first worked with allies to create and introduce the PHIT Act in Congress in 2006. PHIT, which would allow the use of pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified fitness expenses, such as health club memberships, has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress ever since. In 2018, with Congress and the Trump Administration looking to pass an omnibus spending bill and expand the use of Health Savings Accounts, there are opportunities for PHIT to be incorporated into moving legislation.

    Therefore, we are asking you to support inclusion of PHIT in the omnibus spending bill and educate your members about the importance of passing PHIT. IHRSA created a Get PHIT Toolkit that you can use to educate members about the legislation and show them why they should add their voices to the Pass PHIT advocacy campaigns.

    The Workplace Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act

    The WHIP Act would make employer-provided fitness benefits—whether on or off-site—an untaxed benefit. IHRSA’s federal lobbying team is pursuing opportunities to advance the proposal in 2018.

    Physical Education

    Over the last three years, an average of 34 bills that would encourage or promote physical education, physical activity, and healthy habits in schools have been introduced each year in a total of 23 different states. In 2017, 53 bills were introduced, and four were signed into law by the state governor, a good sign of momentum on the issue. Some of these bills proposed mandatory physical education and/or activity in the form of recess, rewards for schools that met activity goals, greater enforcement and tracking of existing physical education laws, and additional funding for physical education. Based on historical trends, states most likely to consider physical education and/or activity legislation in 2018 are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    Every Kid Healthy Week Around the Country

    In 2017, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas passed legislation designating the week of April 24-28 as Every Kid Healthy Week, and California passed a bill designating the fourth week in April Every Kid Healthy Week in perpetuity. This legislation allowed industry professionals to speak to lawmakers about a positive issue with broad, bipartisan support and gave the industry recognition for its work to reduce child obesity through physical activity. In 2018, IHRSA expects Connecticut and Florida to dedicate the fourth week in April as Every Kid Healthy Week.

    Fitness Incentives for Wellness

    Due to widespread state budget shortfalls, policies providing financial incentives for wellness can be difficult to advance. However, several states took up this issue in 2017, and are expected to do so again in 2018, including Mississippi and New York. The Mississippi bill, which would have given an income tax credit to employers who pay for qualified wellness programs passed the House but died in the Senate.

    A similar policy, enacted in Massachusetts in 2012, expired at the end of 2017. IHRSA is working to get the policy reauthorized as part of budget or healthcare finance legislation in 2018.

    In Minnesota, IHRSA and the FIT MN coalition—a coalition of Minnesota-based IHRSA and Industry Leadership Council members—have been working to pass legislation that would create an incentive for businesses to offer subsidized health club memberships to their employees. The 2017 proposal would have provided a $30 individual tax credit for employer-sponsored membership, as long as a member used the club eight or more times each month. Unfortunately, the provision did not pass. IHRSA is open to supporting similar measures if they arise in 2018.

    Promoting a Healthier Population

    As healthcare costs rise, more states are interested in encouraging and facilitating healthy behaviors, and some have introduced broader wellness policies. These policies include obesity prevention in Louisiana and Nevada and taxes on sweetened beverages to fund obesity prevention or public health in Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, and Rhode Island. Bills in 2018 promoting wellness are expected in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania.

    Thank You Industry Leadership Council

    The entire industry owes a world of thanks to the 100+ fitness industry businesses (clubs, suppliers, and individuals) representing thousands of clubs whose generous contributions support these efforts. See a full list and learn how you can get involved by visiting the Industry Leadership Council page.

    “I joined the ILC because I was passionate about providing financial support so we can be proactive around protecting and growing the industry ... Additionally, I have massively enjoyed the ILC education component offered at the annual IHRSA convention.”

    Luke Carlson, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist & ACSM Cancer Exercise Trainer

    Discover Strength, Bloomington, MN

    To be more involved in IHRSA advocacy ...

    • Subscribe to the IHRSA Advocate newsletter, your guide to knowing and understanding the policies that influence daily health club operations.
    • Attend the Industry Leadership Council Meeting during IHRSA 2018 in San Diego, CA. Contact Meredith Poppler for details or see the ILC 2018 Experience.
    • Join the Industry Leadership Council, a leadership group comprised of club operators, industry professionals, and industry suppliers that understand the importance of investing time and resources to grow, promote and protect the industry.
    • Contact the IHRSA advocacy staff.

    IHRSA’s advocacy team promotes health clubs as the primary vehicle for increasing the physically active population and protects club operations from harmful legislation that would negatively impact business. We are dedicated to growing the industry and raising awareness of the benefits of regular exercise and activity promotion, and most importantly, we are happy to serve you.

    For media inquiries, please contact IHRSA public relations.

    Author avatar

    Shannon Vogler @vogler_shannon

    Shannon Vogler is the Communications and Public Relations Coordinator for IHRSA. Shannon writes articles, press releases, and the IHRSA Advocate newsletter to make IHRSA members aware of policy issues that impact health clubs. She also speaks with media influencers about the benefits of working out and joining a gym. When she's not writing, Shannon enjoys running and cheering for the New England Patriots.