Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Call for Comments: CPSIA Database Provisions

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently soliciting comments on a proposed rule on the public database provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act (CPSIA). These provisions were especially controversial during consideration of the CPSIA, as there is a huge potential for abuse and misuse of the public database if it is not properly controlled.

IAAPA is seeking input from our members to include in our public comment. All comments submitted during the regulatory process are “public,” but if you submit your comments as part of the IAAPA comment, we can keep your comment anonymous.

The deadline to submit comments to CPSC is July 23. If you would like to file your own comments, you can do so at www.regulations.gov. If you would like your comments included in IAAPA’s public comment, please e-mail them to me by Monday, July 19.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Will you please support IAAPA PAC?

Last week, I attended a conference on best practices for GR professionals. One thing I learned in a session on Political Action Committees is that the number-one reason association members don’t support their association PAC is that they are not asked.

But of course it’s not that easy.

While a corporation can solicit any member of its restricted class (generally speaking, the salaried professionals and their families), and a union can just take part of a member’s dues and put it towards political activities, a trade association like IAAPA is required to get prior approval to solicit before we can even tell you simple information like which IAAPA members gave to the PAC last year, or how you can secure a front row seat at the General Managers and Owners’ Breakfast at IAAPA Attractions Expo.

IAAPA’s online prior approval form allows members to give prior approval for up to three years, and also gives members the choice of allowing IAAPA to solicit just the member or the restricted class of the member’s company (which you’ll need to do if you are interested in our easy-to-administer payroll deduction program). Completing a prior approval form doesn’t commit you to giving any money to the PAC; it simply allows me to send you invitations to events, news about PAC contributions, and other information you may find useful.

Supporting IAAPA PAC represents a true investment in the attractions industry and makes a real difference in our association’s and the industry’s future. I hope you'll make the choice to get involved in IAAPA PAC and help us support candidates who support our industry. For more information, visit our PAC web page or e-mail me at ssee@IAAPA.org.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Regulatory Spotlight: OSHA

While the Senate is deadlocked on the tax extenders bill, and House leadership is attempting to minimize losses this November through the DISCLOSE Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is creating regulations that are of interest to the attractions industry:

OSHA Slip and Fall Rule
A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on slips and falls was published in the May 24 issue of the Federal Register. A public hearing on the revised changes will be held after the public comment period ends on August 23. IAAPA members are encouraged to submit comments on this rule, either on their own or by e-mailing them to us for inclusion in an industry comment.

The proposed rule will revise the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards for general industry workers, and make them comparable to the existing standards for construction and maritime workers. The revised regulations will also allow OSHA to fine employers who let workers climb ladders without fall protection.

There are an estimated 20 workplace fatalities per year in the United States due to slips and falls.

For more information on fall protection, please visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page.

OSHA Hexavalent Chromium Rule
As of June 15, employers must notify employees of all hexavalent chromium exposures in the workplace. The final rule revises a provision in OSHA's Hexavalent Chromium standard that required workers be notified only when they experienced exposures exceeding the permissible exposure limit.

Occupational exposures to Hexavalent Chromium can occur among workers handling pigments, spray paints, and coatings containing chromates; operating chrome plating baths; and welding or cutting metals containing chromium, such as stainless steel. Workers breathing Hexavalent Chromium compounds in high concentrations over extended periods of time may risk developing lung cancer, irritation, or damage to the eyes and skin. Workers exposed to Hexavalent Chromium are at greater risk for lung cancer and damage to the nose, throat, and respiratory tract.

For more information on Hexavalent Chromium, please visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page.

OSHA Training Standards Policy Statement
In April, OSHA sent a memorandum to its regional administrators regarding an employer’s obligations for training employees. The memo, which applies to agriculture, construction, general industry, and maritime training requirements, states “an employer must instruct its employees using both a language and vocabulary that the employees can understand.” The memo gives examples for employees who don’t speak English, employees with limited vocabularies, and employees who are illiterate, and it says employers must conduct the training in a way the employee can understand.

To assist employers with Spanish-speaking employees, OSHA has created a web-based assistance tool.

The memo also provides enforcement guidance for regional compliance officers who are responsible for checking and verifying employers have provided training to employees.

IAAPA will continue to monitor OSHA and other regulating bodies and disseminate information to members as necessary.

Friday, June 18, 2010

'Cool' Merch and the Start of an Award-Winning Article

People love to ask writers, "Where do your ideas come from?" Well, in this case, I actually have a good answer (for a change).

Monday night I received a Gold Excel Award from Association Media and Publishing for a story I wrote last year on merchandise trends in the attractions industry. To read the story, click here.

Obviously I'm proud to win a first-place writing award, but I'm especially proud it was for this story, because I can remember exactly where I was when I thought it up: standing in line at a store!

I took an extra day in Orlando after IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 to enjoy all our industry has to offer, and eventually ended up that Saturday evening in November at the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney doing some Christmas shopping. In the men's department I found this awesome "Pirates of the Caribbean" "two-fer"—where it looks like a T-shirt on top of a longsleeve shirt, but it's really just one shirt—that didn't look like your stereotypical amusement park shirt. The pirate skull logo was off center and up on the left shoulder, and it had some designs down only one of the sleeves. It was definitely geared toward a 20-something (at the time!) like me, I thought.

As I stood in line to buy it, I watched as other guys came into the department. The shirt was up on a second-level rack way over in the corner—not out in the middle of the floor on a big display or something—and yet just about every male around my age who walked through seemed to notice it and at least stop and look seriously at it, if not grab one for themselves.

Obviously, I wasn't the only guy looking for a piece of nontraditional theme park clothing. And, thus, an award-winning story was born. Obviously Disney was looking to be a little more trendy, hip, … "cool" with this shirt, and it worked on me. Was this intentional? Do they do this often? How big a part of their merchandising effort is material like this? All those questions started percolating.

I filed that scene away in my brain and returned to it several months later when I was planning to go to Disney's Hollywood Studios for the "American Idol Experience" premiere. I always try and make the most out of my trips to Orlando, so I asked my PR contact about my idea—is Disney trying to be "cooler" with its merchandise? The answer was a resounding "Yes!" because, as it turns out, Downtown Disney was about to launch its Tren-D store, which coincided perfectly with the germ of my potential article. And off I went …

Everyone who works in a creative field—whether it's writing stories or building attractions—knows winning awards is a tenuous thing; you can't let them define what you do, because you're bound to be disappointed. Either you believe the work is good or you don't, and you have to be satisfied with that. I've certainly entered WAY more contests than I've actually won.

But it sure does feel good to win, right? So I want to say a big thank you to the folks in Walt Disney World PR and Merchandise, first and foremost, for helping to kick this story off, and also to all the other sources in that article who were generous enough to talk about their ideas, philosophies, and product lines with me.

Whether it's a new shirt or a new roller coaster, there is amazing stuff going on in this industry every day, and I definitely am privileged to write about it—awards or not.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coaster Crew Looking for Donations to Benefit GKTW

Amusement Park enthusiast group The Coaster Crew is hosting its fourth annual Single Riders event this weekend at Kings Dominion to raise money for Give Kids The World.

All day Sunday, approximately 30 Crewers will wait on the exit ramps of coasters throughout the park and hop into trains that need a single seat filled here and there. They've gathered sponsorships for how many laps they take, and all the money will go to GKTW.  Coaster Crew's Clint Novak told me the group's raised $11,957 over the first three years, including $3,000 in 2009; he's hoping to get close to a whopping $10,000 this year.

Though the event is upon us, there's still a way parks can help. After Single Riders wraps, Coaster Crew will host an eBay auction for park-related items. If you have something you're just planning on throwing out, snap a quick picture of it and send it to Clint at coasterclint@coastercrew.com. Or just snail-mail him the item and he'll take care of the rest. One park's trash is another park fan's treasure, you know.

"Either way, coaster geeks like myself love stuff that parks and manufacturers throw away! So any donated items would help out a lot," he said.

And, finally, don't forget to keep clicking your support of GKTW at Pepsi's online grant contest

Health Care Reform Update: Grandfathered Plans

This week the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services released the Interim Final Rule for Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Coverage Relating to Status as a Grandfathered Health Plan under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The Department of Health and Human Services has prepared a summary of the grandfathering provisions, but below is a summary prepared by IAAPA's consultants. (This summary is not legal advice and IAAPA members should consult with their attorneys and human resources professionals when creating their compliance strategies with this and all laws):

Pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("the Affordable Care Act"), health plans that existed on March 23, 2010, are "grandfathered" and therefore exempt from some of the new law's provisions. For plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2010, all plans (including grandfathered plans) are subject to certain health care reforms including no lifetime limits on coverage, no rescissions of coverage except in the case of fraud or intentional misrepresentation, extension of parents' coverage to most adults under age 26, prohibition on excessive waiting periods, and requirements to provide consumers with a standardized and easy-to-understand summary of coverage. However, grandfathered plans are exempt from other provisions in the Affordable Care Act at least until Jan. 1, 2014.

Given the potential importance of maintaining grandfathered status, the question arises as to what changes, if any, may be made in a plan without causing the plan to forfeit grandfathered status because the changes are significant enough to render the plan not a plan that existed on March 23, 2010. The interim final regulations seek to address this issue.

The interim final regulations provide that a group health plan or health insurance coverage no longer will be considered a grandfathered health plan if a plan sponsor or an issuer:
  • Eliminates all or substantially all benefits to diagnose or treat a particular condition. The elimination of benefits for any necessary element to diagnose or treat a condition is considered the elimination of all or substantially all benefits to diagnose or treat a particular condition.
  • Increases a percentage cost-sharing requirement (such as coinsurance) above the level at which it was on March 23, 201.
  • Increases fixed-amount cost-sharing requirements other than copayments, such as a $500 deductible or a $2,500 out-of-pocket limit, by a total percentage measured from March 23, 2010, that is more than the sum of medical inflation and 15 percentage points.
  • Increases copayments by an amount that exceeds the greater of: a total percentage measured from March 23, 2010, that is more than the sum of medical inflation plus 15 percentage points, or $5 increased by medical inflation;
  • For a group health plan or group health insurance coverage, an employer or employee organization decreases its contribution rate by more than five percentage points below the contribution rate on March 23, 2010.
  • With respect to annual limits (1) a group health plan, or group or individual health insurance coverage, that, on March 23, 2010, did not impose an overall annual or lifetime limit on the dollar value of all benefits imposes an overall annual limit on the dollar value of benefits; (2) a group health plan, or group or individual health insurance coverage, that, on March 23, 2010, imposed an overall lifetime limit on the dollar value of all benefits but no overall annual limit on the dollar value of all benefits adopts an overall annual limit at a dollar value that is lower than the dollar value of the lifetime limit on March 23, 2010; or (3) a group health plan, or group or individual health insurance coverage, that, on March 23, 2010, imposed an overall annual limit on the dollar value of all benefits decreases the dollar value of the annual limit (regardless of whether the plan or health insurance coverage also imposes an overall lifetime limit on the dollar value of all benefits).
The interim final rule acknowledges there may be other changes in a plan which could trigger a forfeiture of grandfathered status. To this end, the Departments specifically requested comments on whether the following changes should result in the cessation of grandfathered health plan status: (1) changes to plan structure (such as switching from a health reimbursement arrangement to major medical coverage); (2) changes in a network plan's provider network; (3) changes to a prescription drug formulary, and if so, what magnitude of changes would have to be made; and (4) any other substantial change to overall benefit design. IAAPA members are encouraged to send their comments on these items to us and we will include them in our public comment.

To maintain grandfathered health plan status under these interim final regulations, a plan or issuer must maintain records that document the plan or policy terms in connection with the coverage in effect on March 23, 2010, and any other documents necessary to verify, explain, or clarify is status as a grandfathered health plan. The records must be made available for examination by participants, beneficiaries, individual policy subscribers, or a state or federal agency official.

Plans or health insurance coverage that intend to be a grandfathered health plan also must include a statement, in any plan materials provided to participants or beneficiaries (in the individual market, primary subscriber), describing the benefits provided under the plan or health insurance coverage, and that the plan or coverage is intended to be a grandfathered health plan within the meaning of section 1251 of the Affordable Care Act. In these interim final regulations, the Departments provide a model statement plans and issuers may use to satisfy the disclosure requirement.

Archived Health Care Webinar Now Available
Last week, IAAPA hosted a webinar on health care reform. Members can log in to the IAAPA website and view the archived footage of this program.

Monday, June 14, 2010

IAAPA's Charles Bray on the Passing of Holiday World's Will Koch

Everyone at IAAPA was saddened to hear of the death of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari owner and president Will Koch. Here is a statement from our president and CEO, Charles Bray:

“Today is a sad day for the worldwide attractions industry. We’ve lost a true industry pioneer and friend in Will Koch. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, the Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari staff, and the park’s loyal guests who all loved Will.”

“Will is known throughout the industry for his commitment to listening to and taking care of his guests and employees. To Will, the park guests are more than patrons, they are members of the Holiday World family.”

“We have watched Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari thrive and grow under Will's leadership. He is known throughout the industry for being innovative and for upholding high-quality operating standards. Will and the Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari team championed industry innovations such as offering free soft drinks, free sunscreen, and free parking for guests and earned multiple industry awards including the prestigious Applause award for industry excellence and numerous Golden Ticket Awards for friendliest staff, cleanest park, and top-quality roller coasters. They also believe in maintaining direct contact with their guests and using their feedback to refine park operations. As a part of that commitment, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari became an early adopter of social media including the use of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter."

“Will was always willing to share his knowledge, experience, time, and talents with others throughout the worldwide attractions industry. He has been involved in and supported IAAPA for many years and his contributions will be missed. Will was a member of the IAAPA board of directors from 2003 to 2006 and he served on a number of IAAPA committees, including the executive committee, strategic planning committee, small amusement parks committee, exhibitor awards committee, service awards committee, and the government relations committee." 

“We will all miss him.”  

Friday, June 11, 2010

More Sixes, More Fun

This season Six Flags not only brought back the popular icon Mr. Six after a few years’ hiatus, but the company added a sidekick to ramp up the fun. Little Six—the “Robin” to Mr. Six’s “Batman”—now joins Mr. Six on the quest to find the most fun they can in Six Flags’ updated “More Flags, More Fun” campaign. FUNWORLD caught up with Jessica Sokolowski, senior director of advertising with Six Flags, to discuss the evolution of the Mr. Six campaign and why it’s so popular.

What inspired Six Flags to bring Mr. Six back after the hiatus?
A couple of things lead us to the decision to bring Mr. Six back. First we know Mr. Six is beloved by many and in a down economy we wanted t lean into the familiar. Second, it became apparent to us that there was still a demand for Mr. Six after conducting focus groups for our “More Flags. More Fun” campaign across the country. All but two groups asked, unaided, that we bring him back.

Where did the idea for a miniature sidekick come from, and what do you want him to accomplish?
There’s always been questions about Mr. Six—where he came from, what does he do in the offseason, does he have a family? We thought it would be a great way to share a little more about Mr. Six and evolve the campaign overall by introducing a sidekick. He’s not his son or grandson or brother. They’re kind of like the superheroes of fun; Mr. Six is to Batman as Little Six is to Robin. They’re the dynamic duo of thrills.

From a creative perspective, what was involved in the process of bringing Little Six into the fold?
We wanted to add to the mystique behind Mr. Six and evolve the campaign by introducing a companion. Since Mr. Six represents the spirit of Six Flags, we wanted to bring in a character that represents the spirit, or the kid, in all of us. In a brainstorm, we had an epiphany to bring the “kid in all of us” to life via a sidekick for Mr. Six—Little Six.

What has been the overall response from your customers?
All in all, the response has been positive. People really respond to Mr. Six, and all indicators are that the campaign continues to break through. What’s interesting about Mr. Six is, [people] either love him or they’re not sure about him. It’s the same way with Little Six. The best thing for us is, regardless, if people have an opinion about it, he always starts a conversation, and people love talking about him. That works for us. If you don’t like him that’s OK, at least you have a point of view about him.

How has the power of viral marketing and social media fueled the interest in the new campaign?
We’ve engaged in a lot of activity on the viral and social media front, from viral videos about Little Six to flash mobs at the CNN Center with Mr. and Little Six. It’s been a fun space to work in with these characters.
But one noteworthy effort was when we put them both on The Today Show. We walked them into the audience and when Al [Roker] saw Mr. Six and Little Six, he made a big fuss, and they played the music, and Meredith [Vieira] did the dance. We posted that on our Facebook page, and on the “Today” show, it ended up being the viewers’ favorite moment of the week. Once they did that, [the characters’] approval ratings soared.

What is the key to Mr. Six's—and, by extension, his sidekick's—popularity?
Mr. Six—there’s something about him. He seems to appeal to everyone: families, parents, kids, and even teens. It’s a rarity to find something that a teenager and a mom would both like.

What has the Mr. Six campaign done for Six Flags as a whole?
We originally brought him to market in 2004 and almost immediately he became part of pop culture. He’s been on “Good Morning America,” David Letterman, “The Daily Show,” “Saturday Night Live.” Beyond that, for Six Flags, Mr. Six is an extension of the Six Flags brand. He personifies the Six Flags experience and makes you feel more alive, like that incredible feeling you get on that first drop of a coaster, or that big splash into a wave pool, or when you feed a giraffe up close. The energy and the excitement he brings remind you how amazing a day at Six Flags is over anything else.

What’s in store for the characters in the future?
We’re always looking for ways to evolve the campaign and evolve his role. That’s TBD, but certainly worth watching. Keep your eyes open to see what’s coming next with Mr. Six.

View the new “More Flags, More Fun” campaign here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Resources Available on Health Care Reform

As regular readers of this blog know, the health care legislation signed into law by President Obama in March has many implications for the attractions industry. The fact that the law is actually two different pieces of legislation—further complicated by the many “holes” that need to be filled in during the regulatory process—make it difficult to navigate, especially for small and seasonal businesses.

At its April meeting, the IAAPA Government Relations committee established a task force of industry professionals to help IAAPA GR staff and our consultants analyze the new law and determine where we could be most effective in the rulemaking process. The task force worked throughout April and May and produced two products we hope will be useful to IAAPA members as you begin to think about compliance.

IAAPA published a summary of key provisions that will most likely impact the attractions industry over the next four years. Members are encouraged to review the summary with their attorneys and Human Resources professionals. The summary addresses the employer responsibility provisions, food labeling requirements, tax credits, and other useful information, and provides a timeline for when various provisions go into effect.

On June 9, at 1 p.m. EDT, IAAPA will host a special webinar on health care reform. The webinar will be led by George Olsen of Williams & Jensen, a leading expert on health policy. By participating in this webinar, IAAPA members will learn about the provisions of the new law that uniquely affect the attractions industry, where further guidance is needed, and about IAAPA's ongoing legislative and regulatory efforts. Specifically, George will address:
  • Employer responsibilities and penalties
  • "Grandfathered" plans and things to consider before making changes to your current health plan
  • Food labeling provisions
  • A timeline for implementation
The webinar will feature an extended question-and-answer period where members can get guidance on the law and its implications for their businesses.

The webinar is free for IAAPA members, but you must register in advance.

As I said above, the health care reform issue is far from over. IAAPA is continuing to work on health care reform through the legislative and regulatory process, and will keep members aware of any developments.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Helping GKTW One Click at a Time

Our friends at Give Kids The World are asking for help raising money to refurbish some of their villas at the Village. Below is information from GKTW on how you can assist just by clicking your mouse:

Starting today, you can help Give Kids The World Village earn $250,000 with just the click of your mouse. Our idea to "refresh" the Village is now live on the Pepsi Refresh Project web site—and we need your help!

By voting once a day, every day in June you can help Give Kids The World receive this grant to refurbish our Village villas.

Follow these easy steps:

1. Visit www.refresheverything.com/givekidstheworld and click the "Vote for this idea" button.
2. A popup window will appear where you will enter your information and sign in.
3. After signing in, you will be taken back to the Give Kids The World page. Click "Vote for this idea" to submit your vote.
4. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues to "Vote 2 Refresh" GKTW.
5. Repeat once a day, every day until June 30.

It really is that simple to help us reach this amazing goal. Our success is in your hands!