Since the House and Senate passed identical amendments on different legislative vehicles in the last week of April, ASAE and other organizations have been actively working to educate Congress on the impact of these amendments on association meetings and government-private sector collaboration. ASAE has published other documents that outline the issue itself, but this document will outline the strategy on educating Congress on this issue and where the issue stands as of the end of May.
Efforts to this Point: ASAE and other associations immediately undertook a two-pronged strategy the day the amendments were passed. ASAE collected over 2,100 organizational signatures on an open letter to Congress that was delivered to Capitol Hill on May 7. In addition, ASAE and others held meetings strategically targeting key offices on this issue: sponsors of the amendments, leadership and committee staff on the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs and House Oversight & Government Reform Committees (the committees of jurisdiction), House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, and leadership of both parties in both chambers. The information gleamed from these meetings can be summarized as:
- All offices supported the amendments as a response to the GSA scandal, even in some instances after just reading the first line referencing GSA before signing off on it.
- An overwhelming number of offices and staff recognized that the language would be harmful to association meetings once the specific language was pointed out to them.
- The offices most familiar with the issue are willing to discuss modifications that address our concerns.
The response from the private sector has also been incredibly helpful in bringing attention to this issue. In addition to ASAE’s sign-on letter, a number of coalitions and organizations have sent their own formal letters to the Hill. For example, the National Association of Realtors sent an open letter to Congress asking for changes to these amendments. Other coalitions like the Military Coalition also sent letters of support for ASAE’s position. These types of communication have helped spread the message that many different communities are concerned that the amendments will harm association meetings and conferences.
While the Congressional strategy was underway, the Office of Management and Budget released a directive to federal agencies to cut their FY13 travel budgets by 30% and cap spending on government-sponsored conferences at $500,000 within 90 days of the memo being issued. The directive would also increase reporting, oversight, and financial disclosure of the cost of attending these meetings. The new restrictions could impact decisions on which conferences federal employees attend, and ultimately could result in a decrease in federal attendees attending private meetings, but the language does not limit agencies from sending people to only one association meeting a year.
Result of Initial Efforts and Next Steps: The legislative vehicles used to pass the amendments face uncertain futures. Postal reform legislation is mired in a major partisan battle, while the Senate has not expressed a desire to pass the DATA Act. However, because the amendment has passed both chambers already without dissent, proponents will be encouraged to try and pass this language because of the unanimous record of support. Based on leadership meetings, the most likely vehicles to pass these amendments are appropriations bills. Some Senate offices could also attach the language to any must-pass legislation moving through that chamber.
How You Can Help: Continue to reach out to not only your members of Congress but those offices with which you work well to share the impact the amendment would have on your community. For a particular area of focus, reach out to the House and Senate subcommittee chairs to ensure they know the issue and to make sure they do not allow the amendment to be included in their legislation. If you work with a coalition around a certain profession or industry, letters from the coalition are particularly powerful to show the wide range of support on the issue.
ASAE will continue meeting with key Congressional offices on this issue and has scheduled meetings through the month of June. For any updates or questions, please contact the Public Policy Department at 202.626.2703 or email@example.com.