Boston — Despite the tough economy, many for-profit health club operators are still donating money to help the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) with its federal and state lobbying efforts. In 2009, IHRSA member clubs pledged $950,000 to the association's Industry Defense Fund, IHRSA announced last month.

The money, which was for the 2009 fiscal year that ended June 30, was given by the 54 members of IHRSA's Public Policy Council (formerly the Industry Leadership Council).

The Public Policy Council was established 10 years ago by club operators to fund efforts to protect the industry against unwarranted regulation and taxation, while positioning the industry at the forefront of health promotion and wellness policy, according to IHRSA.

In 2009, IHRSA had 18 legislative wins and no losses on the state level.

As 47 states face budget deficits, some state legislators and governors see taxing services such as health clubs as an attractive option to earn additional revenue, IHRSA says. At the state level, IHRSA has lobbied to prevent business regulations that it considers harmful, including proposals to tax club membership dues, bills restricting or prohibiting automatic renewals, bills mandating licensure requirements for personal trainers, and bills that mandate AEDs in health clubs but don't provide liability protection.

IHRSA also uses contributions to the fund to support legislation that grows the industry, such as the Workforce Health Improvement Program Act and the Personal Health Investment Today Act. Funding also helps run an IHRSA Washington office, build a nationwide grassroots network and host the annual IHRSA-member advocacy day on Capitol Hill.

IHRSA is now enrolling contributors for the Public Policy Council class of fiscal year 2010. To pledge, you can visit http://ihrsa.org/pledge.