Monday, January 28, 2008

Legislative Summit: More Than Just Ride Regulation

If you’ve been reading this space regularly in the past couple months, you know the U.S. amusement industry is dealing with important legislative issues right now on several fronts. Federal ride regulation is obviously at the top of the list, but there’s a lot more happening on Capitol Hill that can affect the business, especially in indirect ways.

Trouble is, life inside the D.C. Beltway can often seem like a different universe to the rest of the country. To help make sense of the seemingly chaotic environment that inhabits the nation’s capitol, IAAPA is hosting its annual Legislative Summit March 11-12 downtown.

You can find more information about the summit here, but I thought it might be helpful to get a bit more personal perspective on what the two-day seminar has to offer from someone who’s been to one in the past. Last week I spoke with Denise Beckson, director of operations and human resources at Morey’s Piers in New Jersey, to get her take on why she came last year, what she learned, and why she’s coming back again in a few weeks.

Jeremy Schoolfield: Why did you attend the 2007 summit? Denise Beckson: There is a lot of regulation in our industry, and it was important for me to make sure I was aware of legislative issues coming down the pike. I wanted to understand how it all works.

JS: What was your overall experience like last year? DB: I was really impressed with the summit. The first day had speakers from various government agencies that were very informative. Then on the second day we met with the legislative representative from our district, which was really valuable. It gave you a concise summary of the issues, and the opportunity to develop a relationship with your elected officials. You could start to discuss those issues and how they impact your business and the tourism in your area.

JS: What did you take away from last year’s event? DB: It gave me a better understanding of the legislative process and opened the door to a relationship [in Congress] so when I might have an issue approaching, I have somebody in that office I can call. There is a lot that affects our industry beyond ride regulation, such as visa and immigration legislation. The summit summarized everything out there that could impact our business.

JS: Why are you coming back this year? What are you looking forward to? DB: It’s an important step in protecting your business, understanding where you’re going to have to eventually make changes in the future so you can plan and budget appropriately. It was definitely worth attending, and I’ve certainly talked it up to other people. Congress is constantly changing. Next year there will be new legislators in there, and it’s good to understand where the issues are headed and what’s coming down the road. That way we can be proactive, instead of reactive.

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