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Associations urge response to government legislation over GSA scandal

As a result of the gross overspending that occurred at the 2010 General Services Administration (GSA) biennial Western Regions Conference, the Senate and House each approved amendments that would limit government conference spending and increase reporting requirements for federal agencies holding or participating in conferences.

Among the provisions is a limitation placed on the number of non-governmental conferences that federal agencies can sponsor or attend.
Soon after these amendments were approved, the Obama administration also began directing federal agencies to spend 30 percent less on travel expenses than they did in 2010.

In response to these actions, the ASAE – The Center for Association Leadership, the Professional Convention Management Association and other industry organizations have joined together to try to protect the meetings industry.

Below is a letter issued by the PCMA urging industry professionals to take action against this legislation.

Dear Readers,
As promised, PCMA continues to monitor the situation in Washington and provide you with updates on legislation and administrative actions that impact the meetings industry. News continues to break quickly regarding a legislative proposal that would keep federal employees from attending association and other non-governmental meetings and conferences, and we need your help to ensure the industry’s views are taken into account on Capitol Hill.

ASAE, our lead organization, along with PCMA and other industry organizations, delivered a sign-on letter to Congress last week with 2,100 signatures. Subsequent to our collaborative letter delivery, the Obama administration has responded with a directive to federal agencies to cut their travel budgets for fiscal year 2013 by 30 percent and cap spending on government-sponsored conferences at $500,000. These new restrictions apply only to government travel and conference spending, and do not have the broader implications for association and other private sector meetings that were evident in the amendments cleared by the House and Senate just prior to the last Congressional recess.

However, it’s clear that many legislators on Capitol Hill feel the administration’s guidance to federal agencies does not go far enough to curb wasteful and inefficient spending. For this reason, we remain concerned that Congress will insert language into another legislative vehicle that includes broader restrictions on non-governmental meetings and conferences where government employees can learn about challenges facing the private sector and maintain a dialogue with the businesses and industries regulated by the government.

To protect this dialogue and prevent any unintended consequences for association and other non-governmental conferences, use ASAE’s web template to send a personalized message to your members of Congress asking them to support the following specific changes to the amendments that passed in the House and Senate.

  • Change the definition of a conference to apply only to government-sponsored meetings as intended, and not include meetings and conferences held by associations and other private sector organizations.
  • Strike the provision in the amendment that restricts agencies from attending more than one conference held by a private organization per fiscal year.

PCMA, ASAE and our industry collaborators continue to make progress in educating Congress about the unintentionally broad scope of these travel restrictions, but the issue remains very fluid and unpredictable on Capitol Hill. Thank you for adding your voice to our industry advocacy efforts.

If you have any questions, contact ASAE at publicpolicy@asaenet.org or PCMA at communications@pcma.org.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

Deborah Sexton
President and CEO
Professional Convention Management Association

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