As much as we all probably feel a bit burned out by the constant bombardment of political news, staying informed on current local, state, and federal legislation is extremely important for all NIRSA members. Why is this? Because decisions made by our government officials can potentially have an enormous impact on so much—including our day-to-day operations, staffing decisions, and long-term strategic planning.
As someone who has always had an interest in policy and government, becoming a member of the Government Affairs Committee was an obvious way for me to stay involved with NIRSA and help our organization navigate potential political obstacles.
A piece of legislation that I have been actively monitoring is the PHIT Act. This proposed legislation, if passed, would make it easier and more affordable for individuals to pay for gym memberships, athletic leagues, etc., by using pre-tax dollars from their personal health savings accounts. The passage of this act has the potential to positively impact the wellbeing of millions of Americans, in addition to potentially creating additional revenue for recreation centers around the country.
At the state level, Texas recently passed SB 212, which has increased the reporting requirements for Texas universities regarding sexual assault claims. As higher education professionals, it was important to be informed about this bill. Its passing has resulted in our division (and department) reviewing our standard operating procedures regarding sexual assault claims and ensuring all staff members understand their reporting responsibilities.
For our members who may not be as politically inclined, the Government Affairs Committee is going to do our best to make sure you all receive the most important and up-to-date information available for all potential legislation that could affect higher education and/or campus recreation.
It is important that NIRSA and our institutions be proactive in monitoring legislation at all three levels (local, state, and federal) of government. The committee is currently working on a policy matrix that we will utilize to make recommendations to the NIRSA Board of Directors when necessary. With that information, the NIRSA Board of Directors can then make decisions regarding the Association’s involvement with specific legislation. It’s important that NIRSA have a seat at the table in order to help support or oppose legislation as it relates to higher education and, more importantly, campus recreation.
This can only be done with proactive members, and our committee is committed to paying attention to the political landscape at all three levels. As you can imagine, there is always a lot being discussed and proposed; the policy matrix will also help our committee in prioritizing which issues to focus our communications on.
Of course, we can’t do it alone, so if you know of legislation or other issues that you feel the committee should review and/or provide information to the membership at-large about, please let us know!
- For more information, please contact NIRSA Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships Erin O’Sullivan.