Travel Promotion Act Set to Pass Senate
Legislation to establish a government sanctioned, nonprofit corporation to promote inbound foreign travel to the U.S. is set for a vote in the Senate this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday afternoon. The bill, modified from the introduced version, establishes a board of directors made up of travel industry professionals to oversee the promotion, information and welcome to foreign travelers to the United States. One of the board members will come from the attractions or recreation industry. The U.S. has been losing market share among international travelers and this corporation will spend up to $200 million per year promoting travel into the U.S.
The corporation will be funded through a $10 travel promotion program fee collected on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). That fee is expected to raise up to $100 million. The other $100 million will be raised from the assessments on the travel industry from in-kind or fee assessments. The industry assessment is reportedly limited to $20 million annually, which means $80 million will be in the form of in-kind, international advertising, much of which is already being done by airlines, major attractions, hotels, states and some cities. This bill is seen as a positive step forward by the travel industry in the effort to reverse the declining share of international travel.
Results of September Survey of Wrap-up for 2009 Summer Season
The results from the September 2009 Summer Season survey regarding business outcome is available on-line under member resources at Americaoutdoors.org Click on the Survey Results September 2009 to download the PDF. To participate in the Survey, click Here. You may need to enable cookies on your browser’s privacy setting under Tools or Options. The survey will be closed by early next week and the final results posted on the AOA site for access by members.
Employee Mandates in Health Care Reform Bills Vary in House and Senate
As amended at the end of July and passed by the House Commerce Committee, H.R. 3200, includes mandates for coverage for any business with an aggregate annual payroll over $500,000. This threshold was increased from $250,000. Employers, which do not provide qualified coverage to full time employees, their families and to part-time workers (in proportion to hours worked), pay a surcharge according to the following schedule.
If the annual payroll of such employer for the preceding calendar year:
Does not exceed $500,000 0 percent
Exceeds $500,000, but does not exceed $585,000 2 percent
Exceeds $585,000, but does not exceed $670,000 4 percent
Exceeds $670,000, but does not exceed $750,000 6 percent
Over $750,000 8 percent
Tax credits are provided initially for businesses providing coverage but those credits phase out over time since the bill is supposed to be deficit neutral in five years.
While the Senate version being negotiated by Senator Baucus has not been released, it is not expected to have the same employer mandates. It is expected to include some penalty for businesses with a specified number of employees which do not provide coverage to employees. According to ABC News, the Baucus bill is expected to require all citizens to have health insurance by 2013 (except for the very poor, Native Americans and religious objectors) or pay a $3,800 fine. Taxes and fees on health insurance companies for policies with higher premiums ($8,000 or more for individuals and $21,000 for a family of four) would help pay for expanding coverage. Medicaid coverage would be expanded to those within 133% of the poverty level and subsidies provided for those up to 300% of the poverty level to help them buy insurance. The Baucus bill is not expected to include a public option, but authorizes nonprofit “cooperatives”. A ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions will be included but insurance companies may charge higher rates for smokers
.Forest Service Permittees with Temporary Permits Should Request Conversion to Priority Use before September 17th Unless the Agency Has Already Informed You of Their Intent
Outfitters with Forest Service Temporary Use Permits need to inform the agency by September 17th if they wish to have those permits converted to long term, priority use permits. In some cases the agency has already notified permittees of their intent to convert the permit from temporary to priority use. If that notification was in writing, the outfitter may not need to take additional action unless there is some extenuating circumstance in the letter or a requirement for you to agree to conditions, such as cost recovery. If you have any questions you should contact your authorizing officer (Forest Service employee who signed the permit) and/or call David Brown at America Outdoors Association (865-558-3595).
Outfitters with priority use permits, which are up for renewal, should write the agency confirming their intent to have their permits renewed, which is technically required in some permit language. If the agency is having difficulty completing the documentation prior to next season, you should contact the authorizing officer regarding how they intend to authorize your use for next season. Again, call the AOA office if we can be of assistance.