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RE: Opposition to Proposed Randolph-Sheppard Legislation

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RE: Opposition to Proposed Randolph-Sheppard Legislation

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has been an active champion of opportunities available under the Randolph-Sheppard Act because they offer competitive wages, which far too often are unavailable to blind people; entrepreneurial opportunities to manage vending facilities available in no other disability employment program; and chances for blind people to be seen by society performing meaningful work, which helps change the negative perceptions that many have about the capacity of the blind; and

WHEREAS, in October 2005 Senator Enzi of Wyoming, who then chaired the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (the HELP committee) and now serves as the ranking Republican member of the HELP committee, held an oversight hearing to consider programs under the Randolph-Sheppard Act and the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act--a hearing in which baseless, attention-grabbing assertions were made regarding the Vending Facility Program under the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

WHEREAS, the HELP committee continued to investigate the two programs, gathering information from experts and supporters of each program with a view toward introducing legislation to modernize these two programs; and

WHEREAS, once the actual drafting of legislation began, the committee never showed its work to supporters of the Randolph-Sheppard program for our opinions regarding possible changes in the act and finally introduced a bill--S 3112 the Javits-Wagner-O’day and Randolph-Sheppard Modernization Act of 2008--which does little to modernize, but much to over-regulate and complicate the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

WHEREAS, with regard to military dining contracts, S 3112 eliminates the priority for the blind, putting the blind on a par with 8(a) companies, Alaska Native Corporations, and other entities that have the legal right to compete for a far greater array of federal contracts, and also renders the fair hearing and arbitration provisions inapplicable for military dining--provisions that if enacted would inevitably result in a loss of the priority and arbitration rights throughout the federal government; and

WHEREAS, this legislation would ultimately reserve 50 percent of new facilities for individuals with disabilities other than blindness, but do nothing either to enhance the ability of state licensing agencies to create new facilities or to assure that those federal agencies that shirk their responsibilities under the act can no longer do so, dividing the same limited-opportunity pie among more individuals, resulting in a substantial loss of opportunities for vendors; and

WHEREAS, in our proposal to modernize Randolph-Sheppard, the National Federation of the Blind urged that its administration be moved from the Department of Education, because of its complete lack of support for the law, to a federal agency with a business or entrepreneurial focus, but this legislation would move administration to the same committee that oversees the JWOD Act--a committee entirely void of any institutional knowledge of Randolph-Sheppard, and one that is in fact likely to be hostile toward Randolph-Sheppard given the many years of conflict between it and JWOD; and

WHEREAS, this legislation would give more power to the state licensing agencies in their relationship with licensed vendors, dramatically increase vendors’ paperwork and reporting burdens, and require their immediate payment of rent and utilities, which would drive many out of business and render many existing vending facilities unsuitable unless they are given a reasonable time for transition to this burdensome obligation: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 2008, in the city of Dallas, Texas, that this organization express our fervent opposition to S 3112, the Randolph-Sheppard and Javits-Wagner-O’day Modernization Act of 2008; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge Congress to enact legislation to modernize the Randolph-Sheppard Act that aggressively increases the type and number of opportunities for blind business people, leverages partnerships between Randolph-Sheppard vendors and other business interests, and increases self-sufficiency of those participating in the Vending Facility Program.

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