[vendtalk] March/February National Federation of the Blind Entrepreneur Initiative Blitz

Kevan Worley kevanworley at blindmerchants.org
Fri Apr 4 17:36:19 UTC 2014

Greetings colleagues,

Below, and attached, you will find our Blitz newsletter for February-March. I believe you will see that the work we are doing is compelling, important work. We urge everyone to get the Blitz! Read the Blitz! And then share the Blitz! with all of our friends and colleagues. I feel confident that you will agree with me that the work of Terry Smith, NFBEI, Business Opportunity Specialist, and the entire support team is essential for the protection and expansion of meaningful business opportunities for blind and visually impaired Americans. The content below was developed and written by Terry, any errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar are mine, not Terry's. Enjoy!

The NFBEI Blitz
February, 2014 - March, 2014
As I sit and write this, the latest issue of The Blitz, I look out my window and I see blooming Bradford Pear and cherry trees.  Spring has sprung and hopefully the coldest and snowiest winter in recent memory is behind us.  I know our friends on the East Coast join in that hope as I know they are tired of digging out of one snow after another.  For Randolph-Sheppard, the winter months were not a time for hibernation.  As this rendition of The Blitz will show, the freezing temperatures did not cool Randolph-Sheppard activity.  There is much to report on things that have been happening and the activities of your NFBEI.  So, let's get on with it.
Back to the Future - VA Issues New Policy Directive - After much effort by the NFBEI with assistance from NCSAB, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a new Randolph-Sheppard policy directive.  To say the directive was disappointing would be a gross understatement. The PD simply restates the law and does nothing to reconcile the conflict between the Randolph-Sheppard priority and the Veterans Canteen Service.  The directive does tell us who at the VA is responsible for what in regards to Randolph-Sheppard but other than that there is virtually no change from the previous directive.   If anything, the directive is worse because it emphasizes that the VA has no obligation to Randolph-Sheppard if there are fewer than 100 employees and/or 15,000 square feet.  The saddest part of all is that even though the policy directive makes it clear that the Randolph-Sheppard priority applies to VA facilities, we've seen no inclination on the part of the VA to comply with its own directive.  We continue to talk with the VA and have a follow up meeting in the works.  We are also still discussing the matter with RSA and our political contacts.  We continue to advocate and have other strategies in the planning stages.  We will keep you posted.  In the meantime, if anyone wants to see the policy directive in question, we will be happy to send it to them.  We sent it out to all of the BEP Directors but sometimes things get lost.
Kentucky Hits Homerun at Fort Campbell - If you are a regular reader of The Blitz, you were aware that the Kentucky SLA and the Department of the Army were involved in a federal arbitration case involving a food service contract at Fort Campbell.  The SLA had the contract but the scope of work changed and no longer required cooking.  The Army issued a solicitation for the contract without a Randolph-Sheppard priority.  The SLA, to its great credit, filed for arbitration.  The state was smart to select Susan Gashel, who also serves as general counsel for the National Association of Blind Merchants, as its member on the panel. Randolph-Sheppard legal subject matter expert Peter Nolan, Esq. was called as an expert witness.  It proved to be a deadly 1-2 punch as the panel majority concluded that the Army erred in issuing the solicitation without the Randolph-Sheppard priority.  The panel concluded much to our delight that the priority does in fact apply to food services other than just full food or what is commonly referred to as dining facility attendant (DFA) services.  Although the decision was a welcome development in the debate over what constitutes a cafeteria, we recognize that arbitration decisions do not have precedential weight in terms of how other arbitration panels might rule on similar cases.  But one can reason that other arbitration panels will give serious consideration to the logic applied in the Fort Campbell case.  We will probably soon find out as the same issue may soon be arbitrated by Florida (Tyndall AFB), Arizona (Luke AFB), and Georgia (Fort Stewart).  The NFBEI is strongly encouraging states to challenge any solicitation for DFA services that do not include the Randolph-Sheppard priority and we are working closely with those states.  We also strongly encourage states to be sure to appoint someone knowledgeable about troop dining and the Randolph-Sheppard Program as the panel member and spend the necessary funds to bring in expert witnesses who can help make their case.  It worked in Kentucky. For a list of recognized subject matter experts feel free to be in contact with us.
AbilityOne Conversations Producing Collaborative Effort - In February, we had another meeting with AbilityOne.  One of the winter's many snowstorms forced us to meet by telephone but it was a productive meeting nonetheless.  The discussions did not include any examination of the dispute between Randolph-Sheppard and the JWOD Program.  Rather it focused on ways the two programs can collaborate on other initiatives and progress was made in that regard.  NCSAB is playing a critical role in these discussions and we are optimistic that more progress lies ahead.  Let us emphasize that we are in no way abandoning JWOD debate.  Our position remains a strong as ever.  But we have moved those discussions to other arenas where the potential for successful resolution is greater.  We are committed to a process that will allow both Randolph-Sheppard and JWOD to thrive.
Hadley Partnership Launch is a Huge Success -In the last issue of The Blitz, we announced the new partnership with Hadley School for the Blind.  Blind entrepreneurs can take selected courses at Hadley and earn a designation as an Entrepreneur of Excellence from NABM.  We are excited that 32 blind entrepreneurs have enrolled in the program.  We are also conducting Randolph-Sheppard on the Web webinars every other month.  These webinars discuss important topics of interest to blind entrepreneurs.  Our first webinar in February was on Social Security Disability Insurance and the special rules that apply to Randolph-Sheppard vendors.  Over 60 people registered for this webinar which exceeded even our expectations and the feedback we've received has been outstanding.  We have followed and assisted several entrepreneurs who followed up with us after the webinar.  Our next webinar will be the afternoon of April 22 and will feature a discussion of micro markets.  These micro markets are taking the country by storm and Randolph-Sheppard needs to be part of the trend.  Please log in and participate.  BEP staff is welcome and encouraged to participate in these webinars. Hadley archives all of these webinars, so if you can't participate live you can still go in and listen.  To learn more about this partnership and to enroll visit www.hadley.edu/nabm<http://www.hadley.edu/nabm>.
Be on the Watch for the Transportation Bill - From what we are hearing, we may see the Surface Transportation Act Reauthorization come out as early as April.  There is an effort underway to bring forward a bi-partisan bill that needs to pass before October 1st.  We continue to work with NCSAB and other stakeholders to monitor the situation.  At this point, we have no reason to believe that the bill will include any provisions related to commercializing the interstate rest areas.  However, we must remain vigilant and we will pass on any information that we get on the introduction of the bill and its contents.
More Rest Area News - It seems there is a good deal of news involving the interstate rest areas.  We want to keep you posted on developments in these states.
Competition from Non-Profits -    We continue to hear that blind entrepreneurs who operate vending at interstate rest areas are experiencing competition from non-profit organizations to a greater degree than ever before. These non-profits are setting up and providing items to the traveling public at no cost but accepting donations instead.  We have brought this problem to the attention of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and have a written reply from them basically indicating there is nothing in the law that prohibits such activities.  We do not necessarily agree and a meeting is being planned to explore this problem in more detail.  We acknowledge that the law allows coffee to be given away but we see no authority for non-profits to offer anything other than coffee.  Giving away bottled water, soft drinks, and even snacks in exchange for a donation goes far beyond what we believe is allowable under the law.  If your state is experiencing such competition, I need to know about it.  Please let me know.
California Vendors Introduce Legislation - The blind entrepreneurs at California's rest stops have been successful in getting legislation introduced to forbid the California Department of Transportation (CALTRAN) from charging the blind entrepreneurs for utilities.  CALTRAN is in the process of requiring that meters be installed at the vending shelters and the blind entrepreneurs pay for electricity.  This will literally force some blind entrepreneurs out of business.  The NFBEI provided significant technical assistance in the drafting of the bill. We sent a letter to each member of the Transportation Committee urging passing of the bill. Each member of the Transportation Committee also received a call from the NABM office. The bill has support from the California consumer organizations. The bill passed unanimously in its first committee.  We believe state law now forbids the requirement that blind entrepreneurs pay for utilities but both CALTRAN and the Department of Rehabilitation apparently disagree.  This bill will treat rest area entrepreneurs the same as all other Randolph-Sheppard vendors on state property who are not required to pay utilities.
Ohio Pursues Lottery - The Ohio SLA is looking at the first known BEP to offer lottery tickets at their interstate rest areas.  When the Surface Transportation Act was reauthorized in 2012, we were successful in getting language included in the bill that grants a priority to blind vendors to operate lottery machines at the rest areas.  To our knowledge, Ohio will be the first SLA to take advantage of this provision.  If I am wrong and another state is already selling lottery tickets, please let me know.
Rest Areas: State or Federal? -    In recent months, the question has come up in a few states as to whether rest areas are on state or federal property.  This is an important distinction because different rules apply.  Just to clarify, interstate rest areas are on state property; therefore, the federal regulations on how these funds are to be used do not apply.  Use of these funds is governed by state rules and regulations.  There is nothing that prevents a state from treating the funds the same as federal.  How to use these funds is something that should be jointly determined by the Agency and Elected Committee of Blind Vendors.
Vending Labeling Requirements Delayed - The FDA has announced a delay in the regulations requiring labeling of caloric content in restaurants and vending machines.  The requirement was included as a provision in the Affordable Care Act.  Final rules were expected in early 2014 but will now be delayed until at least the end of the year.  The FDA received many comments on the proposed rules and is still working through those comments and considering changes.  The National Association of Blind Merchants did submit comments. Once issued, the requirement will apply to all Randolph-Sheppard snack bars and to vending machines.  There is expected to be an exception made for vending machine operators who own and service fewer than 20 vending machines but we can't say that with absolute certainty until the final rules are issued.
Another Possible Multi-State Opportunity - GSA has issued a solicitation for cafeteria service at Federal Trade Commission sites in both Virginia and the District of Columbia.  The solicitation recognizes the Randolph-Sheppard priority which is a positive thing.  The key is how to bid on a contract that crosses state lines.  We have reported in past issues of The Blitz that South Carolina is pursuing a bid that covers Army hospitals in 8 states.  Virginia is interested in bidding on this contract and has reached out to the D.C. agency to see if it is agreeable to allow the Virginia SLA to pursue the contract on its own.  Allowing one state to bid on behalf of all other states appears to be the best model for these multi-state bids. We are optimistic that this may be a real opportunity to get the first Randolph-Sheppard contract that crosses state lines.
Speaking of Multi-State Contracts - As noted earlier, the South Carolina SLA is pursuing a contract to manage the cafeteria services at 8 Army hospitals in 8 different states.  The solicitation was issued without a Randolph-Sheppard priority and the Army refused to amend the solicitation to include the priority.  It is the Army's position that the priority does not apply since the contract is for a patient nutrition care service.  The SLA filed for arbitration and RSA refused to convene a panel after concluding that no violation of the Act had occurred yet.  In our opinion, this interpretation of the law is incorrect and quite surprising.  The SLA has requested that RSA reconsider this decision.  The NFBEI wrote to RSA pointing out the errors in RSA's thinking in denying the convening of a panel.  As The Blitz goes to press, we have been told that a letter is in the Commissioner's office awaiting signature.  We have no idea whether or not RSA will reverse course but we are optimistic that the law will be strictly enforced, and the panel will be convened before the Army issues a contract rather than after the contract has been awarded.
Examining that Mythical National Parks Exemption - Are national parks exempt from the Randolph-Sheppard priority?  There is a limited exemption.  If the Park Service issues a solicitation for multiple services not typically provided by Randolph-Sheppard vendors and bundle the vending services with the same contract, they are indeed exempt.  For example, if a solicitation is issued for operating a lodge, maintaining the grounds, operating a gift shop, and operating snack bars / vending machines, no priority must be extended to the blind entrepreneur.  However, we are learning that many parks have contracts for just the gift shops and we believe that the priority clearly applies in such cases.  We are currently engaged in dialogue with the National Park Service on this matter and an in-person meeting is being scheduled.  We will keep you posted on any developments.

Gacos Testifies at U.S. Mint Stakeholders Briefing- As part of NAMA's advocacy outreach, industry leaders and Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Eric Dell attended a U.S. Mint stakeholder meeting in March. The meeting provided NAMA the opportunity to discuss with Mint management how changes in the metallic content of coins would adversely affect the vending industry.  We reported in the last issue of The Blitz that HR 1719 would change the metallic content of the penny and nickel and perhaps the quarter.  New coins would not work in current coin mechanisms meaning vending machine operators would have to modify the existing coin mechanisms.  The cost to the vending industry would literally be hundreds of millions of dollars.  Nicky Gacos, President of the National Association of Blind Merchants, who serves on NAMA's Government Operations Committee, testified at the briefing on behalf of blind entrepreneurs.  If enacted, this bill could bankrupt some BEP's.
Oregon Changes Directions on VA Strategy - Oregon Seeks Opinion from RSA on VA Arbitration Decision - If you are a regular reader of The Blitz, you know that the Oregon SLA won arbitration against the Department of Veterans Affairs in a case involving the White City VA. However the VA has refused to comply with the panel's ruling.  The NFBEI strongly urged the SLA to appeal the case to federal court. It was our understanding that this was going to happen.  However, the AG, citing a Ninth Circuit Court ruling, has opted instead to ask RSA to intervene and render an opinion.  RSA is essentially being asked to issue an interpretation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act that will either confirm or reject the interpretation of the arbitration panel. It is hoped that an RSA interpretation will help resolve the issue or at least strengthen the case if it goes forward to the court system.  We are not so confident that RSA (1) Will provide the interpretation; or, (2) Will provide an interpretation that is favorable to Randolph-Sheppard.  Rendering an opinion would set a precedent that could require RSA to confirm or reject all arbitration panel decisions which is something RSA has historically said it doesn't have the authority to do. It is a complicated issue and will be interesting to watch.
BLAST Registration is Ready - Get ready for a Lone Star BLAST November 18-20 in Austin, Texas.  BLAST will wrap up with a banquet on Thursday evening, November 20th, but the NFBEI will conduct a Friday morning session.  The site is up and you can begin registering and making hotel reservations now by going to www.blindmerchants.org<http://www.blindmerchants.org>.  Plan on being at the premiere training event in the Randolph-Sheppard field that will feature the largest exhibit hall ever.
NFBEI / NCSAB Announce Follow-Up Attorney Training - In November, 2012, NCSAB and the NFBEI teamed to offer the first ever training for state attorneys who work in the Randolph-Sheppard area. The training was enormously successful and the attorneys have asked for follow up training.  This training will be offered on November 18 in conjunction with BLAST.  BEP staff training will be held the same day.  In the morning, the attorneys and BEP staff will be together as Randolph-Sheppard topics are presented.  In the afternoon, the attorneys will break out and their training will shift to Vocational Rehabilitation topics.
RSA to Fill Randolph-Sheppard Specialist Position - We are still patiently waiting for RSA to announce the appointment of a Randolph-Sheppard Specialist to replace Dan Frye. Dan left in October to assume the position of Director of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind.  It is our belief that an individual has been selected and we are just waiting on paperwork to be completed.  We continue to advocate for RSA to hire two people and Commissioner LaBreck agrees a second position is needed.  It's just a matter of getting the second position approved.  We will be shocked if someone isn't on board when the next issue of The Blitz comes out.
RSA-15 Revisions are in the Works -   RSA has created a work group to review the RSA-15 and to make recommendations for changes.  The RSA-15 is the form states use to report on Randolph-Sheppard activities in their states.  The work group met by conference call on March 31st and the NFBEI and NABM are represented on the group.  Based upon the input at the first meeting, it appears that only minor changes will be made.  One change that is under consideration is requiring the states to report the number of business consultants employed.  We frequently get asked the ratio of business consultants to blind entrepreneurs.  We do have an old NCSAB survey that we can refer to but we have nothing current.  This will help us a great deal as we look at staffing levels in the states.  We also intend to collect data about how many satellite facilities are opened and not just stand alone facilities.  This form will be submitted to the federal approval process and is expected to be utilized by BEP's to report data for the year ending on September 30 of this year.
On the Road Again - Annual blind vendor meetings / upward mobility training sessions are already underway in many states.  I was in South Carolina in February and in Idaho in March.  But we are just getting into the season so travel schedules are about to get very busy.  We are already committed to be in Michigan, New Jersey, Alaska, Maryland, Tennessee, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona in the coming months.  We would love to participate in your annual meeting.  Let us know when it is and where it is going to be and we will try to be there.  If your state subscribes to the NFBEI services, we can have someone there to present on multiple topics at no cost to the BEP's.
Harnessing the Power - New Buying Group Exceeding Expectations - More than 800 operators, licensed under Randolph-Sheppard, have now signed up for the RSA Buying Group. We are told that 4th quarter rebates are being processed and audited. Those who qualify for 4th quarter rebates should receive their checks via email under the subject line Verify Valid.  For further information about the RSA Buying Group you can contact John Murn at JMurn at rsabuyinggroup.com<mailto:JMurn at rsabuyinggroup.com>.  You must be sure to provide your name, address, and account numbers for Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and other major suppliers.
Sustaining the NFBEI - Do you like what the NFBEI is doing to advocate for the program on a national level and to assist individual state programs?  If so, we can use your financial support.  If you would like to contribute to the cause, we would welcome your donation.  You can send a check made out to NABM and note in the memo portion of the check that it is for the NFBEI.  Checks can be mailed to:
National Association of Blind Merchants
1837 S Nevada Ave.
PMB 243
Colorado Springs, CO 80905
NABM is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Almost half of our funding comes from state agencies who take advantage of our membership / subscription service.  Currently, 25 states participate and a couple more may soon be coming on board.  We are very proud of this level of participation.  You can help ensure our future funding by encouraging your state to join in.  A recommendation from the Elected Committee of Blind Vendors would carry a lot of weight in a state's decision.  Remember, a state can use set aside dollars, state or highway unassigned funds, and/or federal dollars to pay for the membership / subscription service.
Whew!  What a busy two months.  And it is about to get even busier.  We will continue to use The Blitz to keep you updated on Randolph-Sheppard issues and activities of the NFBEI.  If there are things going on in your state, let us hear from you.  Contact me directly,  or through our NABM office at 866-543-6808, or kevanworley at blindmerchants.org<mailto:kevanworley at blindmerchants.org>.
Terry Smith
NFB Entrepreneurs Initiative
tsmith at nfb.org<mailto:tsmith at nfb.org>
(423) 468-4969


At your service,

[cid:image001.jpg at 01CDBCF2.C07B8380]

Kevan Worley
Executive Director
National Association of Blind Merchants
kevanworley at blindmerchants.org<mailto:kevanworley at blindmerchants.org>

Wondering what to do with your old car or truck? Donating your vehicle to the National Federation of the Blind is convenient and may qualify you for a tax deduction. Call 1-855-659-9314 or visit www.carshelpingtheblind.org<www.carshelpingtheblind.org%20> Your donation can take the blind further

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