I used to be what you would call an “uninformed voter.” I felt a duty to vote, but I didn't pay much attention to where the candidates stood on issues, focusing more on how honest and well-spoken they seemed. While honesty and communication are still important to me, I now spend time reading about where candidates stand on issues, and while none of them ever agrees with all of my viewpoints (and some of the issues are so complex that I'm not even sure of my point of view), at least I feel that I am now an informed voter who has made a choice based on more than gut reaction.
This makes me feel more involved in the political process. Believe it or not, politicians want our involvement. They want to hear from us. They want to know that we are taking an active role in the issues that affect us.
As business owners and operators, your views on issues matter to your local and federal legislators. Several bills sitting in various committees within the federal government could affect the fitness business. The more informed you are about these bills and the more you let your legislators know how you feel about them, the better the chance these bills will pass or fail (depending on your stance on each). Politicians care about the bills they are told their constituents care about.
One of the latest federal bills to be introduced is the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) bill (HR 5479), which expands what can be paid out of a person's pre-tax health investment account (health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, medical savings accounts) to include the cost of physical fitness programs and exercise equipment. Some estimates say this bill could save individuals up to 25 percent to 30 percent on their club memberships. As of press time, the bill was in the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (HR 1634 and S 772) has been around for some time and deals with corporate wellness and the Internal Revenue Service. It was reintroduced last year and as of press time was sitting in the House Committee on Ways and Means and in the Senate Committee on Finance. If this act passes, employers would be allowed to deduct employees' health club membership costs without classifying the benefit as additional income for employees.
The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Notification Act (HR 2804) would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to require that a business be given the opportunity to correct alleged violations of the ADA Act before a lawsuit could be filed against it. As of press time, the bill was in the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Other bills affecting fitness facilities and business owners are being discussed on a local and state level, including bills to ban automatic membership renewals and to tax health club memberships.
I encourage you to become better informed about local, state and federal legislation and then act upon that knowledge by writing your legislators, calling them and even visiting them to discuss the issues. Many federal bills languish in committees for several sessions before any significant action occurs on them. By showing you care about these bills and you want action sooner rather than later, you can make a difference — especially if you enlist the help of your members to contact legislators. You can follow fitness-related bills by visiting Web sites that track legislation. Here are two good ones: http://thomas.loc.gov and www.govtrack.us.