Regarding the Commercialization of Interstate Rest Areas
WHEREAS, Congress, in 1936, enacted the Randolph-Sheppard Act to “provide blind persons with remunerative employment,” to “enlarge their economic opportunities, and encourage their self-support through the operation of vending facilities in federal buildings,” and subsequent amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act have further clarified Congress’s intent and have continued to expand economic opportunities for blind entrepreneurs; and
WHEREAS, in 1982 Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut recognized the opportunity that existed for blind entrepreneurs at interstate rest areas and subsequently introduced the “Kennelly Amendment” to the Surface Transportation Act, which authorized state licensing agencies designated to administer the Randolph-Sheppard Program the priority to operate vending machines at interstate rest areas; and
WHEREAS, because of the passage of the “Kennelly Amendment,” today, 20 percent of blind entrepreneurs who participate in the Randolph-Sheppard Program operate vending machines at interstate rest areas nation-wide; and
WHEREAS, the livelihood of these approximately four hundred blind entrepreneurs is now being jeopardized by Congressional efforts which seek to commercialize these interstate rest areas, most recently with the introduction of H.R. 1990 in the 115th Congress by Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana, which seeks to amend Title 23, United States Code, to allow food concessions at state-owned interstate rest areas; and
WHEREAS, the result of commercialization of interstate rest areas would be directly felt by blind entrepreneurs, who would then be forced to compete with well-established and well-recognized franchises, essentially putting these blind entrepreneurs out of work almost overnight: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourteenth day of July, 2017, in the City of Orlando, Florida, that this organization urge that Congressman Jim Banks withdraw H.R. 1990 from consideration in the 115th Congress until the concerns of the blind entrepreneurs who earn their living from vending machines in our nation’s interstate rest areas are adequately addressed.