Important Legislative Update

"The national agenda has
been completely changed. Attitudes and priorities are dramatically
different."


Don Reigle, APCO Legislative Consultant

There are four national priorities:

  • War preparation
  • Economy - US and global (areas of concentration: stock, transportation,
    tourism, technology)
  • Rebuilding the wounded - restoring public confidence
  • Dealing with global economic challenges - redirecting dollars to international
    relationships

We are also dealing with the psychological impact on the public.

  • Finance
  • Security
  • Anxiety

How will this influence the camp professional and
camp business?

Below you will find our best assessment of the current environment and
the impact on issues that directly impact the camp industry. At best,
we can only offer projections on anticipated action and recommendations
for response. We will continuously evaluate the emerging legislative responses
and distribute new knowledge as swiftly as possible.

More importantly, we need to recognize the psychological impact on our
camp families. Families will have fewer discretionary dollars and the
value of the camp experience will receive greater scrutiny. Domestic security
issues and communications systems will be of great interest to our families.
On the other hand, children, families, and adults will need the security
and positive influence of the camp experience more than ever. As such,
it is our moral obligation to preserve and promote the camp experience.

CIPRIS

Background
CIPRIS is an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) program
designed to track the whereabouts of foreign students in the United States.
Section 641 of IIRAIRA directs the INS to establish a nationwide system
to electronically collect information relating to all foreign students
and exchange program participants. This program was designed to track
the four-year student. However, J-1 visas were included in the interpretation.
A tracking fee of $95 was included to cover the cost of the electronic
system. The ACA and a coalition successfully supported a legislative strategy
that amended the program to limit the amount of the fee imposed upon camp
counselors, au pairs and summer work program participants to $40 or less.
This ruling included under HR 3767 (Public Law No. 106-396) went into
effect on October 30, 2000. Until September 2001, ACA was continuing to
work to have the bill repealed. September 21st, ACA removed our call to
action to repeal CIPRIS during this period of national crisis.

Immigration

Current Status
There is a strong emotional argument around domestic security.
As a result, there are multiple efforts to contain and control security
risks. Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA-D), Senator Christopher Bond (MO-R),
and Senator Tancredo (CO-R) are working on bills that could alter the
immigration programs significantly. Senator Feinstein plans to introduce
legislation that would reform the U.S. student visa program. This proposed
legislation would impose a six-month moratorium on student visas and give
$23.3 million dollars in federal funds to the Immigration and Naturalization
Service to implement an electronic foreign student tracking system. It
is anticipated bills would be introduced in January or February; however,
they could move sooner. The bills would go into effect immediately following
passage.

Again, it is felt this effort is geared toward the four-year student
not the typical J-1 visa. ACA hopes to differentiate the J-1 from the
other visa applicants. We believe a moratorium on J-1 visas would be an
unintended side effect. ACA plans to play a supportive role in domestic
security as well as help maintain positive international relations. APCO,
ACA's legislative consultant firm, and the international placement services
will attempt to represent our opportunity to have a positive influence
on the economy, security, and positive international relations. Dialogue
with key people is being initiated.

Potential Impact

Regardless of outcome, camps should expect a reduced number of international
counselors and support staff at camp this year. Visas approved will more
than likely come with additional paperwork and tracking requirements.
Camps working with international staff should also anticipate higher airfares
and less convenience. It should also be understood that the immigration
issue would influence all camps whether they have international staff
or not. Nearly, 35,000 international staff work in US camps each year.
A reduction in international staff will affect the entire industry as
we seek personnel.

Another component camp professionals will need to consider will be the
need for psychological comfort of the campers, parent, and international
staff. Parents may have concerns about international staff and the background
screenings employed. Campers may have fears about those who look different.
International staff may have concerns about their safety. Training, screening
and hiring procedures, and security issues all need to be revisited this
year given the change in our world.

Social Security

Background

Effective January, 1997, Social Security numbers are required of additional
classes of employees, which include J-1 international counselors. The
regulations require numbers for all persons with over $2750 in income,
but at the same time exclude certain persons required to file only federal
income tax "informational returns." There is inconsistency in
the interpretation and issuance of social security cards.

Current Status

It is anticipated this issue will intersect with the domestic security
and immigration efforts. APCO staff will be asking for a CBO cost-out
as well as seeking a member of Congress to request a formal interpretation
of the Social Security requirements for J-1 visa recipients. Once obtained,
a strategy will be identified.

Minimum Wage

Background

In the last year, a minimum wage increase has been anticipated. A plan
for incremental changes in minimum wage, over a two-year period, was being
discussed resulting in a total increase of $6.15.

Current Status

Given our current economic environment, we now expect a minimum wage bill
will be introduced in October that will immediately go into effect 30
days after passage. We anticipate a $1.50 an hour increase. This bill
will have bi-partisan and Presidential support.

Impact on Camps

The body of law which addresses minimum wage and hour requirements is
the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), first adopted in 1938. Under this
ruling is a special exception for seasonal amusement/recreational establishment.
As a general rule, most SEASONAL camps are specifically exempt from the
requirement to pay the minimum wage or overtime. This applies to organized
camps which:

  1. Operate for seven months or less in a year, or
  2. During the preceding calendar year, the establishment's average receipts
    for any six months of the year were not more than one-third of its average
    receipts for the other six months.

For additional information, you can refer to The
CampLine, October 2000
.

What should camps do?

  • Evaluate your camp operations to determine compliance with the federal
    minimum wage exemption requirements.
  • Consider your state's interpretation of this federal ruling.
  • Anticipate budget and record-keeping implications.

Criminal Background Checks

Background

President Clinton signed The Volunteers for Children Act, an amendment
to the National Child Protection Act of 1993, into law on October 9, 1998.
The act gives "qualified entities" the ability to request fingerprint-based
national criminal history background checks of volunteers and employees.
This law allows organizations to run an applicant's fingerprints through
a national database. While this is an important development in legislation
protecting children, inconsistencies in implementation among states exist.
While states are beginning to establish requirements for background checks,
they vary widely. The current state and county systems available to employers
are woefully inadequate. Access to a national system currently requires
paper fingerprinting and a costly fee.

Current Status

Although there has not been any action to advance this effort, it is anticipated
there might be an opportunity in today's climate to intersect this issue
with any number of federal security initiatives. In the meantime, APCO
is talking with the F.B.I. to see if we can tap directly into their database.

What can camps do?

  1. There are a number of background check service providers. (From ACA's
    Buying Guide: Checkpoint, Inc. (301) 468-2313, Guide to Background Investigation
    (800) 247-8713, Lang Investigations (800) 621-8992, National Background
    Investigators (410) 798-0072.)
  2. Continue to follow ACA standards on screening and hiring procedures.
  3. Consider using a licensed investigator.

Camp Safety

Background

We have seen a number of federal efforts to address camp safety over the
past year. To date, no action has been taken.

Current Status

It is clear camp safety is taking on a new and expanded version of risk
management. It will be important that ACA and ACA camps take an affirmative
approach to their new and expanded role in safety during this time of
psychological anxiety. It is anticipated camp professionals across the
country will begin to dialogue with one another as well as with other
professionals with like concerns in order to continue to provide safe
and caring camp communities.

Elements to Consider

  • The scope of the issues today. What are the new risks and challenges
    we face?
  • Our capacity to address such challenges. What human and fiscal resources
    will be needed? Diverted?
  • The communication demands that we will face. Parent demands?
  • Our adaptability to respond appropriately.
  • Responding while protecting the character of the camp experience.
  • Resources needed to respond. Training? Knowledge and expertise?

Public Lands

Background

The Outfitter Policy Act of 2001 (HR 2386 and S 978) would "establish
terms and conditions for use of certain Federal lands by outfitters and
to facilitate public opportunities for the recreational us and enjoyment
of such lands." HR 1461 would amend the National Parks Omnibus Management
Act to remove the exemption that non-profit organizations currently have
from obtaining commercial use for the use of public lands.

Current Status

Due to world events, this issue is simply off the table. WE do not anticipate
any action this year. We will continue to monitor for action.

Transportation

Background

Safety Requirements for Operators of Small Passenger-Carrying Commercial
Motor Vehicle used in Interstate Commerce: requires motor carriers operating
commercial motor vehicle used to transport between 9 and 15 passengers
(including the driver) in interstate commerce "to comply with the
safety regulations when they are directly compensated for such services,
and the transportation of any passenger covers a distance greater than
75 air miles (86.3 statute miles or 138.9 kilometers)."

Current Status

APCOs interprets the ruling as not relating to the camp community. This
ruling is currently not focused on camps. The federal ruling does not
require camps to have their drivers obtain Commercial Driver's Licenses
or take alcohol and drug tests.

What should camps consider:

  • Be sure to consider your state regulations since they are often more
    strict than the federal interpretation.
  • When purchasing new vehicles consider the emerging trends in vehicle
    safety so you can appropriately invest your dollar.
  • Compare purchasing vehicles to leasing vehicles.

Briefings

After School Programs

Those providing after-school programs: The "No Child Left Behind"
(HR 1) education initiative of the President allots $400 million of the
$2.2 billion budget to go to funding for after-school programs. To receive
funding for these programs, states must first apply for grants from the
Department of Education. Individual schools within the state must then
apply to the state educational agency for funds to implement an individual
program. Camps already involved in a camp-school partnership to deliver
such services should talk to their school about future opportunities.
Those camps interested in camp-school partnerships may use this legislation
to initiate the dialogue.

Lyme Disease Initiative of 2001

HR 1254 introduced by Rep. Smith establishes a program conducted through
the Department of Health and Human Services to reduce the number of cases
of Lyme disease. It is a five-year plan to improve detection tests, review
and improve the surveillance and reporting system of Lyme disease cases,
and to reduce the risk of contracting the disease through public education
and tick population reduction techniques. This bill has been referred
to several subcommittees of the House Agriculture, Energy and Commerce,
Armed Services, and Resource committees.

Next Issue

A number of these issues will be explored in detail. New information and
knowledge that will be emerging over the next several months in Congress
will afford us the opportunity to consider strategic responses to the
future.

For current information, go to www.ACAcamps.org/publicpolicy.

 

Originally published in the 2001 Fall issue
of The CampLine.

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