[Nfbmo] Fwd: Fw: Fwd: The Blitz

Gene Fleeman gfleeman55 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 2 19:40:45 UTC 2017

Passing this along from the National Assoc. of Blind Merchants,
and the National Federation of the Blind Entrepreneur initiative.

Gene Fleeman
Board member, BVMEC
President, Missouri Assoc. of Blind Merchants



Summer, 2017

​You have to love these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer don’t you?  You
think things will slow down so you can enjoy some ice tea out on the
patio.  Instead, someone hits the accelerator and the Randolph-Sheppard
Program is thrust into warp speed ahead.  It’s hard to keep up.  There has
been so much going on that it’s hard to know where to start.  But you have
to start somewhere so here we go.

Register Now for the Music City BLAST – BLAST is just 6 short weeks
away.  Registration
is still open so hurry and sign up.  It will be a Music City BLAST
September 12-15 at the Nashville Airport Marriott Hotel. We will be returning
to the site of the 2011 BLAST. Nashville is a fun city and we plan on
making it a fun and informative experience for everyone who attends.  Plan
on being there in time for the pre-conference breakout sessions that start
at 1:00 CDT on Tuesday, September 12th.  We have great sessions planed on how
to improve the bottom line, theft prevention, micromarkets, office coffee
services, SSDI, writing business plans, jail commissaries and more.  We
have invited Jesse Hartle of RSA to do a session for members of Committees
of Blind Vendors.  If you are a rest area vendor, you will want to attend a
special meeting on Tuesday afternoon at 5:00 PM to discuss the pending
threat of commercialization.  We have some awesome general sessions planned
highlighted by a half-day session being conducted by Bonnie Knutson and
William Donohue of the Michigan State University Executive Leadership
Development Program.  And don’t leave early.  We are saving many of our
Randolph-Sheppard specific issues for Friday morning so we can have a
thorough discussion.  You don’t want to miss the Music City BLAST.  Register
now by going to our website athttp://blindmerchants.org/

Rest Area Commercialization Ramping Up – In the last issue of The
Blitz, we reported
about HR 1990 that was introduced by Congressman Banks that would allow
states to commercialize the interstate rest areas.  NABM representatives
met with the Congressman’s office as well as the co-sponsor Congressman
Courtney of Connecticut.  President Trump released his proposed budget for
FY 2018 and although no money was appropriated for such a project, the
budget document stated the Administration supported the idea conceptually.
>From everything we hear, a rest area commercialization proposal will be
included in the President’s much-anticipated trillion-dollar infrastructure
bill.  If this is true, Randolph-Sheppard proponents will have a serious
challenge in defeating it.  But the National Association of Blind Merchants
and the National Federation of the Blind feel the community is up to the

​The Strategy – In order to preserve these locations for blind
entrepreneurs, it will take a grassroots effort.  That includes:

➢ In the next few days, you hear about a website NABM President Nicky Gacos
has agreed to set up so you can send letters of concern to your members of
Congress.  It will be similar to the one we did last year when you helped
us flood the Department of Defense with over 4,700 comments when it
proposed rules that would have devastated opportunities for blind vendors
on military bases.  Rest areas commercialization would affect far more
blind people so we anticipate having even more letters sent to Congress.
Be on the look out for that notice in a matter of just a few days.
➢ Members of Congress will be taking their summer break in a couple of
weeks. They will be back home in their states listening to constituents.
They will undoubtedly hear a lot about Obamacare, immigration, tax reform,
etc.  We need to make sure they hear from you about the prospects of rest
area commercialization.  The issue may not be on their radar screen yet
which is a good thing.  The first they hear about it needs to come from us
so we can help shape their opinions early on.  When they are home, we want
you to make an appointment and go talk with them in person.  Go to their
town hall meetings.  Make sure they know who you are and how this bill
could impact your life.  In the next few days, we will be getting talking
points out to help you.
➢ NABM and the NFB will continue to talk with the relevant committees in
Congress and will continue to be part of the coalition that opposes rest
area commercialization.  We will be working on media stories, op-eds, and
more in order to tell our story.
➢ We are already planning another D.C. Fly In for next spring.  Rest area
commercialization won’t be our only topic but it will be one of the most
➢ And finally, you should attend BLAST to be part of the discussions on
this issue as we develop future strategies.

Another Word on Commercialization - You will recall from the last issue of
The Blitz that we reported the New York Department of Transportation was
pushing the envelope by setting up self-checkout stores at a few rest areas
rather than selling products through vending machines as required by the
law.  The Federal Highway Administration intervened and told NYDOT that the
micromarkets violated current law but agreed to let them continue to
operate 2 sites until the FHWA could put out guidance.  With the change in
administrations, that guidance has not been issued and there is no timeline
for when it will.  We recently heard that now Minnesota wants to follow
suit.  When we heard about New York, NABM President Nicky Gacos wrote to
the FHWA expressing concern.  When we heard about Minnesota, Gacos
requested a meeting with the FHWA.  The FHWA was well aware of our issues
and they complimented us on the job we were doing educating key players on
the issue.  The central issue here is whether or not a micromarket is a
vending machine because only sales through vending machines are permissible
without a change in the law.  The FHWA could choose to define “vending
machine” in a way that allows micromarkets at the rest areas.  NABM and the
NFBEI do not support such a definition.

Department of Defense: No Sign of Détente –Although there’s not a lot of
bad news to report, the battle with the Department of Defense continues
with no end in sight.  It is a senseless battle with DOD seemingly thumbing
its nose at the law.  Here are a few developments:

➢ No Movement on DOD Regs – We have passed the one year mark since DOD
published proposed regulations that would have severely limited
opportunities for blind entrepreneurs to manage military dining contracts.
The rules have not been finalized and do not appear to be close.  Their
website says they are still being edited so there has apparently been no
decision to drop the effort.  Not playing it safe, advocates continue to
solicit support frommembers of Congress.  One or our blind entrepreneurs in
Texas, Harvey Johnson, has been successful in getting Congressman Pete
Sessions of Texas involved.  He has written letters to both DOD and to the
Department of Education.  He is a strongally.
➢ Fort Campbell – The Federal Court case is over and the State of Kentucky
prevailed.  The Randolph-Sheppard priority applies to dining facility
attendant services (DFA).  It appears the Army is prepared to accept the
inevitable and has agreed to directly negotiate with the SLA for the
provision of the DFA services.  Congrats to the SLA.
➢ Fort Sill – In the last issue, I mistakenly stated we were still waiting
on the decision in the Fort Sill arbitration case.  We had actually
received that decision prior to that issue of The Blitz going to press.
And the good news is it was one of the strangest decisions we have gotten
to date.  The panel held that the Randolph-Sheppard priority definitely
applies to DFA services.  We think the panel got it right.
➢ Fort Riley – The Kansas SLA had challenged the Army’s attempt to award a
contract to AbilityOne asserting that the Randolph-Sheppard priority did
not apply since the contract had been changed from full food to DFA. Just
like at Fort Sill, Fort Campbell, and Fort Stewart, an arbitration panel
had a different opinion ruling that the priority does apply.  It was just
one more victory for the good guys.
➢ Vending at Issue – Kentucky isn’t satisfied with one victory in the troop
dining case.  It thinks the Army should comply with the Act and allow blind
vendors to manage traditional vending facilities as well.  The Army has
taken the position that the priority does not apply because no building at
Fort Knox has more than 100 employees.  This of course is a
mischaracterization of what the law says and the Kentucky SLA has filled
for arbitration.  Florida is doing the same thing.  The SLA there is going
after the vending at Tyndall and Eglin Air Force bases.  The Florida SLA
remains aggressive in pursuing opportunities that rightfully belong to
blind.  Kudos to the Kentucky and SLA’s.  Creating vending facilities on
military bases has been a priority for NABM and the NFBEI and we would like
to see every state with a military base follow Kentucky’s lead.
➢ More Arbitrations in Process – We said there are no signs of detente.
There are cases at various stages of the process in at least 6 different
states.  We applaud the SLA’s that are fighting the fight on behalf of
blind entrepreneurs but call on DOD to end the madness and comply with the
➢ Marine RFP Coming Soon – It is expected that the Marines will be issuing
an RFP any day now for its two multi-state troop dining contracts.  One
contract will cover bases in California and Arizona and the other will
cover the Marine bases on the East Coast.  We anticipate the RFP will come
out with a Randolph-Sheppard priority.  California and Arizona are working
together to submit a joint bid and have selected Don James and FSIG as its
teaming partner.  South Carolina and North Carolina are working together with
South Carolina taking the lead on the East Coast bid.  We congratulate the
states for working together on this endeavor and are confident that
Randolph-Sheppard has a legitimate chance of getting one or both contracts.

NABM/NFBEI Fly-In a Huge Success- NABM sponsored its second D.C. Fly In in
May and it was a huge success.  80 blind entrepreneurs, advocates, and
other stakeholders showed up to let their voices be heard.  The Fly In was
supported by the National Federation of the Blind’s National Center which
provided much needed logistical support and boots on the ground.  We
focused on the four following issues:

1. Rest area commercialization
2. DoD rulemaking
3. Traditional Randolph-Sheppard facilities on military bases
4. Department of Veterans Affairs

We focused on bringing in blind entrepreneurs who had members on key
committees with jurisdiction over these issues.  We believe tangible
progress was made on several of these issues.  If you are interested in
learning more about the issues and our positions, go to
http://blindmerchants.org/nabm-enjoys-productive-fly/ .  The Fly In was so
successful, plans are already underway for one next year.

American Heart Association Declaring War on Randolph-Sheppard? – Although
there has been no formal declaration, it sure seems like the American Heart
Association has declared war on Randolph-Sheppard.  And it has changed its
battle tactics to a more effective strategy.  At first, the AHA was
attempting to get bills introduced in state legislatures.  However, once
the blindness community and vending industries learned of such proposed
pieces of legislation, they were able to mobilize and beat back these
efforts.  However, the AHA is now going state by state working behind
closed doors to get governors to issue executive orders regarding healthy
vending on state properties.  On the surface it must sound like a good idea
to governors.  Who isn’t in favor of a healthy workforce?  But they are not
aware of the impact such actions have on blind entrepreneurs and they are
being sold a bill of goods in terms of the health benefits of such an
executive order.  The dangerous thing is that the state BEP’s are not
involved in many of these discussions.  In fact, they may not even know
conversations are taking place.  The Louisiana Governor recently signed
such an order and the SLA and blind entrepreneurs knew nothing about it until
NABM and the NFBEI shared the already signed EO with them.  That’s not a
reflection on the SLA nor the blindness community.  It is testament to the
strategies of the AHA whichapparently does not want public debate on their
issues.  Combine the AHA efforts with the different sugar and beverage tax
initiatives we are facing, one can’t help but feel paranoid.  The Cook
County beverage tax just withstood a legal challenge so our vendors in
Chicago will be paying a penny and a half tax on every ounce they sell.
Seattle approved a 1.75 cent per ounce on sugary drinks.  There are similar
efforts underway in other municipalities.  When such taxes are proposed,
blind entrepreneurs must get involved in the political system and fight the
taxes.  NAMA is fighting against them and could use your help.

There’s Good News and Bad News When It Comes to State Laws – Well do you
want the good news or bad news first?  Let’s start with the good.  Oregon
blind entrepreneurs were successful in getting their Little
Randolph-Sheppard Act updated and strengthened.  They strengthened the
priority and cleared up some ambiguities.  The bad news is the Oklahoma
legislature voted to remove the priority blind entrepreneurs had to manage
inmate commissaries.   The SLA had only one commissary but it was a large
one at the Tulsa County Jail and the Sheriff there was successful in
getting the law changed. The blindness community, including the Oklahoma
NFB affiliate and blind entrepreneurs, rallied to oppose the bill but it
wasn’t’ enough.  Here is a link to a story about the Oregon bill:

Merchants Meet at National Federation of the Blind National Convention
– Approximately
75 persons attended the NABM division meeting held in conjunction with the
annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando in
July.  In all, almost 2,500 people attended the NFB convention.  President
Gacos had an impressive and relevant agenda for those who attended the
merchants meeting.  NABM elected 2 new board members at the meeting.  They


​Zach Snow – Georgia

​Melba Taylor – Maryland

Congratulations to both.  Congratulations also to Melba for starting an
NABM Division in Maryland.


NAMA News – NAMA continues to recognize the value blind entrepreneurs bring
to their organization and the working relationship between NABM and NAMA
just gets stronger.  That is due in large part tothe fact NABM President
Nicky Gacos sits on the NAMA board of directors.

o NAMA OneShow – The RSA Management Group and NABM sponsored a half-day
training for Randolph-Sheppard entrepreneurs who attended the NAMA OneShow
in Las Vegas in April   There was a great turnout as approximately 60
people participated.
o NAMA Fly In –NAMA hosted its “NAMA Takes The Hill” event in July.  There
was a strong Randolph-Sheppard presence at the gathering.  The 3 issues
focused on calorie disclosure, deregulation, and tax reform.  Blind
entrepreneurs also took the opportunity to discussRandolph-Sheppard issues
with their members of Congress.  In all, over 300 people attended the
fly-in which was NAMA’s third.

RSA News – Our federal partners at the Rehabilitation Services
Administration are adjusting to the change in administrations but continue
to stay busy on Randolph-Sheppard issues. NABM and the NFB met with the
Acting Assistant Secretary in June to discuss Randolph-Sheppard areas of
concern.  Those included:

➢ RSA’s reluctance to intervene when it knows federal agencies are
violating the Randolph-Sheppard Act;
➢ RSA’s position on military dining;
➢ RSA’s failure to provide guidance on important issues; and,
➢ The lack of staff support for Randolph-Sheppard

It was a very productive meeting and it will produce some fruit.  Also, on
the RSA front:

➢ RSA Commissioner – The President has not nominated anyone for the RSA
Commissioner’s job yet.   We were saddened to hear that Ed Anthony, RSA
Deputy Commissioner and Acting RSA Commissioner, was resigning in June.  We
wish him well.  We were happy that a veteran like Carol Dobak was appointed
to serve as interim in both positions until they can be filled.
➢ Arbitration Archives – After strong encouragement from both NCSAB and NABM,
RSA will soon be putting on its website archives of arbitration decisions.
There has been a need for a long time for a clearinghouse so people
researching cases could read the actual decisions in these cases and not
just the summaries in the Federal Register.  It will take some time for
them to get the decisions up but they are starting with some of the more
recent ones.  Thanks to Jesse Hartle and Company for finally making this

NCSAB News – The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind met in
Bethesda in April following the meeting of the Council of State
Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation.  CSAVR sponsored training for
state attorneys and Terry Smith was one of the presenters on
Randolph-Sheppard arbitrations.  Then NCSAB did a full day of training on
Randolph-Sheppard.  Again, NABM and the NFBEI participated.

What To Do About Food Trucks – As the popularity of food trucks grows; we
are getting lots of questions about how food trucks fit into the
Randolph-Sheppard priority.  First, let’s start with the basics.  A food
truck meets the definition of a “vending facility”; therefore, the SLA has
the priority.  If a federal entity wants food trucks on its property, it
must first offer the opportunityto the SLA.  The SLA and blind entrepreneur
can then either arrange for a third party to provide the service with a
commission going to the blind entrepreneur or figure out a way to allow the
blind entrepreneur to operate a food truck.  We understand the challenges
of SLA’s buying food trucks but it is a much better option and creates far
more income potential for the blind entrepreneur.  If the SLA declines the
opportunity, it has little ground upon which to base a challenge.

Need Assistance with Social Security? – A few months back, NABM President Nicky
Gacos announced a new service we were providing to blind entrepreneurs who
were having difficulty with Social Security over their SSDI.  We are
utilizing the services of Michael Dalto who is a nationally know Social
Security expert.  The response has been overwhelming.  We are two months
into the six-month pilot project and we are getting many inquiries.  If you
have questions about your SSDI or are having issues with the Social
Security Administration, we can help.   Contact Nicky Gacos at
nickycolorado at netscape.netor call him at 1-888-687-6226 and press Extension

President Gacos Keeping Good Company – In the last issue of The Blitz, you
saw NABM President Nicky Gacos pictured with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
and actor Robert De Niro.  He stepped it up recently.   Go to
www.blindmerchants.org and you will see him pictured with former Vice
President Joseph Biden.  Gacos doesn’t involve himself in partisan politics
but this again shows the stature of the National Association of Blind
Merchants when its President is at the same functions as such high-level

Dates to Remember

➢ September 12-15, 2017 – BLAST, Nashville, Tennessee
➢ November 15-17, 2017 – National Council of State Agencies for the Blind
Fall Conference – Greenville, South Carolina

On the Road Again – The last few months have been busy travel months.  NABM
and the NFBEI were in North Carolina, Maine, Ohio Missouri, and Arizona for
annual BEP meetings.  Terry Smith was in Delaware doing a program
evaluation and
in Pennsylvania working on rules.  Toss in the NAMA OneShow, 2 fly-ins, and
a national convention, a lot of miles were logged.

Use a Micro Chips to Pay for Your Snacks – Here’s an article you futurists
may want to read.  A Wisconsin company is giving its employees the option
of implanting a microchip under their skin which they can then use to pay
for food and do other things.  Check it out at http://www.abc10.com/

You Can Still Help – Do you like what NABM/NFBEI are doing to advocate for
the program on a national level and to assist individual state programs and
blind entrepreneurs?  Do you enjoy reading The Blitz and being kept
informed about what is going on in the Randolph-Sheppard community?  If so,
we can use your financial support.  Over half of our support comes from the
NFBEI subscriptions but we count on donations to make up the rest.  If you
would like to contribute to the cause, we would welcome your donation.  You
can donate by sending a check to:

National Association of Blind Merchants

7450 Chapman Highway, #319

Knoxville, TN  37920

Make the check payable to NABM and write “NFBEI” in the memo portion of the
check.  Your support is greatly appreciated.

You can also donate by going to our website at www.blindmerchants.org and
we have a new way you can contribute.  We can do bank drafts if you want to
sign up for monthly giving.  Contact Terry Smith if you are interested in
setting up bank draft donations

If your state is one of the 14 that doesn’t subscribe to the services of
the NFBEI, we’d welcome your involvement.  Terry Smith would be happy to
discuss the services with you.

Share Your News with Everyone- Help us keep everyone informed about what is
happening around the country.  Let us hear from you.  Tell us what is going
on in your state.  What is happening in one state affects what is going on
in another, and the NFBEI is the vehicle to keep everyone updated on what
is going on out there.



The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the
characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the
expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles
between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want;
blindness is not what holds you back.
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