[vendtalk] UPDATE ON HR 7

Kevan Worley kevanworley at blindmerchants.org
Thu Feb 16 16:51:54 UTC 2012


I wanted to follow up with everyone on the efforts to amend HR 7 to allow
commercialization of the interstate rest areas and to thank all of those who
responded so quickly to our call to action.  You were phenomenal.
Congressman LaTourette has definitely heard loud and clear that his
amendment would be devastating to blind entrepreneurs and that the National
Federation of the Blind and the National Association of Blind Merchants
intended on protecting those hard working blind individuals who now earn
their living with vending machines at the interstate rest areas.  


When we first heard of the amendment, the NFB issued a press release.  In
it, Dr. Marc Maurer called for the amendment to be withdrawn.  This press
release was sent to every member of Congress and some media outlets.  The
release resulted in many calls to our national office from Congressional
offices.  We sent out an alert to our many fine blind entrepreneurs and to
key state affiliates.  You came through with flying colors as literally
hundreds of calls were made to Congressional offices.  One co-sponsor
withdrew his support for the bill.  Other Congressional offices pledged
their support to oppose the amendment.  


As it currently stands, we are cautiously optimistic the amendment will not
pass as originally proposed.  Congressman LaTourette's  office is still
working to try to develop language to ensure that blind entrepreneurs are
not adversely affected.  We understand now that a vote by the full House on
HR 7 has been delayed and will now not go to the floor for a vote before the
week of February 27th.  This will allow them time to reconsider the
amendment and/or develop language that eases our concerns.  


Thanks to all of you and the efforts of John Pare, Lauren McLaney, Chris
Danielsoen, Nicky Gacos, Kevan Worley, and others at NFB's national office
including Dr. Maurer's personal involvement, we are optimistic that we can
defeat this amendment.  However, if it passes, it will go to conference with
the Senate which has already passed the bill without any commercialization
language.  The Senate has historically opposed commercialization efforts so
we will get another chance to defeat the effort at that point.  We will need
your efforts again if that occurs.  


One other point needs to be made.  As the process unfolded this week, there
was some talk about allowing commercialization but giving a priority to
blind entrepreneurs.  On the surface, that is tempting but everything that
glitters isn't always gold.  If commercialization passed with a priority for
the blind, many state licensing agencies would not be in position to develop
the type of partnership arrangements that would be required.  No state has
the resources to build a multimillion dollar travel center that provides a
wide range of services to the traveling public including food, gas, etc.  It
would require the states to team with a private entity who could put forth
the capital outlay.  If the SLA passed on the opportunity, as I'm sure many
would, the state departments of transportation would then be free to invite
other third parties into the rest areas thus making the vending
opportunities currently enjoyed by blind entrepreneurs virtually
meaningless.  Although the NFB and  NABM are willing to look at a thoroughly
thought out plan that would create opportunities for blind entrepreneurs, we
are not willing to rush into agreeing to language in an amendment that could
have severe consequences.  We are more than willing to sit down with
proponents of commercialization during the coming year to consider options.
But for now, we say "No" to commercialization.  


Let me say that I am proud of all of you who sprang into action.  NABM and
the NFB have once again demonstrated that when we mobilize NFB members and
blind vendors across the country, the voice of the blind will be heard.
Thanks to all of you.  


Terry C. Smith

Business Opportunity Specialist




Kevan Worley

Executive Director

National Association of Blind Merchants


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