This week, IAAPA’s North American Government Relations Subcomittee will be on Capitol Hill for its annual Advocacy Day (the name is actually something of a misnomer, since it actually takes place over two days). On Tuesday and Wednesday, March 24-25, twenty-three members of the committee (including me) as well as invited guests from other IAAPA committees and members of the industry, will be meeting with elected officials in the House and Senate, their staffs, the Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and other government officials to communicate the industry’s interests to those that shape federal policy. In all, we have scheduled thirty-six legislative meetings, including meetings with seventeen members of Congress, in only two days.
This year, IAAPA’s Government Relations Department, as well as the North American Government Relations Subcommittee, is asking for your help to make Advocacy Day 2015 an even bigger success than it usually is. In addition to our physical presence on the Hill this week, we are asking you to take part in the first-ever Virtual Advocacy Day! What’s that, you ask? Well, while we are meeting face-to-face with members of Congress and other policy-makers in Washington, we want you to take to social media with the hashtag “#IAAPAVAD” to amplify the messages that Advocacy Day attendees are bringing to DC. Tweet your Senators! Tweet your Representatives! Tweet the CPSC, the State Department, the Transportation Department, the FAA! Show them that you care about the industry and the issues that affect it.
So, what are the issues that we will be addressing over the next few days and how can you help? Well, keep reading to find out more about our priority issues and how you can contact your representatives and policy makers.
Federal Ride Safety Oversight:
Safety is the number one priority for the industry. And our track record is something we can all be very proud of, with the most recent statistics showing that the chances of being seriously injured on an amusement ride (requiring hospitalization) are about 1 in 16 million and the chances of being fatally injured on an amusement ride are about 1 in 750 million. In other words, you are more than fifty times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be seriously injured on an amusement ride and more than four times more likely to win the Powerball jackpot than you are to be fatally injured on an amusement ride. Nonetheless, some critics of the industry claim that federal oversight of fixed-site rides is necessary. Unfortunately, these critics have a difficult time expressing exactly why or how federal oversight will improve upon an already extremely impressive safety record. IAAPA supports effective state and local regulation and the adoption of ASTM F24 standards throughout the country, but does not support federal legislation to bring fixed site rides under the canopy of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel Program
The J-1 Visa program is an invaluable opportunity to enrich the guest and employee experience in U.S. amusement parks and entertainment facilities. It brings high quality employees from all over the world to our facilities to provide them with exposure to the cultural and social fabric of the United States. The program is sponsored by the U.S. State Department and, for many years, has been an unqualified success in the amusement industry. Unfortunately, due to some unfortunate incidents involving J-1 visa students outside the industry, as well as efforts to make sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration system (of which, the J-1 program is not a part), the J-1 program has been the subject of legislative, regulatory, and public opinion review for the last several years. IAAPA does not support new regulation which would make it more difficult, if not impossible, for U.S. facilities to participate in the J-1 program, including onerous employer provisions and increased fees, nor does IAAPA support inclusion of the J-1 Summer Work and Travel program in broader immigration reform legislation.
Did you know that current highway funding in the United States expires May 31, 2015? Clearly, the lack of continued funding for an effective system of interstate highways directly impacts our industry. The attractions industry relies heavily on transportation infrastructure to get guests and materials to facilities safely and efficiently. IAAPA therefore supports the passage of a highway reauthorization bill before funding ends on May 31.
FLSA Overtime Rules
Last year, the President directed the Department of Labor to “modernize” the FLSA overtime Among the potential changes that could be coming as a result of this directive include significant increases to the salary level required for overtime exemption to apply, adjustments to the formula used to determine eligibility of the overtime exemptions, and eliminating the ability of mangers to engage in management (i.e. exempt) and non-exempt work concurrently. A proposed rule on overtime is expected soon. If adopted, rules such as those described above could force employers in the amusement industry to reclassify certain employees as non-exempt (and, thus, subject to overtime wages) or raise their salaries to meet a higher exemption baseline. This could well result in substantial burdens on employers and, potentially, reductions in wages, hours, and employees at U.S. facilities. IAAPA therefore does not support such changes to the overtime regulations.regulations.
Unmanned Aerial Systems
A new issue for the attractions industry this year is drones. For years, there were no specific rules, and thus a great deal of uncertainty, governing the use of drones in U.S. airspace. But recently, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued proposed rules on the use of drones for commercial purposes and, while some believed these rules would be more onerous and restrictive than what were ultimately proposed, the existing rules nonetheless contain some restrictions that will potentially make it difficult for the attraction industry to use unmanned aerial vehicles for maintenance, inspection, or entertainment purposes. The attractions industry obviously has an interest in using drones for these purposes, and in limiting recreational use of drones by the general public over amusement parks and recreational facilities.
What Can You Do To Support Virtual Advocacy Day?
On Tuesday, March 24 and Wednesday, March 25, we want you to contact your representatives in Congress as well as the Department of Labor, the Consumer Products Safety Commission, the Transportation Department, and / or the Federal Aviation Administration using the hashtag “#IAAPAVAD” to express your support for IAAPA’s positions on these issues.
And to help you out …
- Click here for a list of Congressional Twitter handles.
- Twitter Handle for the U.S. Department of Labor: @USDEPTOFLABOR
- Twitter Handle for the Consumer Products Safety Commission: @USCPSC
- Twitter Handle for the U.S. Department of Transportation: @USDOT
- Twitter Handle for the Federal Aviation Administration: @FAANews
Participate in Virtual Advocacy Day and help us help the attractions industry in Washington this week!