IAEE Takes Action on Legislation Resulting from Recent GSA Actions
DALLAS, 3 May 2012 – The media frenzy arising from the improper and outrageous acts of several General Services Administration (GSA) employees has resulted in the introduction of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The legislation, written by Senator Coburn (R-OK), is potentially very destructive to the exhibitions and events industry. The legislation has been added to two pending bills: The DATA Act in the House (HR 2146) and the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012 in the Senate; both passed their respective houses with significant majorities by voice vote. The measures proposed are sweeping and would harm all organizations that engage with federal agencies in the conduct of their exhibitions and events. The key provisions of the legislation include:
- Reducing the amount a federal agency can spend on conferences to 80 percent of the amount spent in 2010;
- Capping the amount that a federal agency can spend on a single conference at $500,000;
- Requiring federal agencies to publish on the Internet details of their conference spending for each quarter, including costs for lodging, planning, food and beverages;
- Limiting the number of government employees who can attend international conferences; and
- Limiting the number of non-governmental conferences that federal agencies can sponsor or attend.
The language of the legislation as drafted is ambiguous and confusing in many important respects and if passed will only create a truly chaotic result.
IAEE is engaged with US Travel Association and the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) in an unprecedented effort to modify the most onerous provisions of the legislation. WE URGE YOU TO JOIN WITH US BY CONTACTING YOUR CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION IN BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS.
Here are the key talking points we need you to express IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Select those points that you feel are most crucial. Our objective is to launch a grassroots campaign that avoids appearing as a “cut and paste” mass message - IT IS VITAL FOR YOU TO COMMUNICATE IN YOR OWN WORDS. We believe the key points that must be made collectively are:
GSA Employees Broke the Rules, the Rules Are Not Broken
- The October 2011 GSA conference was an irresponsible – and possibly illegal – event that threatens all meetings, conventions and conferences.
- The findings of the GSA Inspector General’s report clearly details instances of inappropriate spending and poor decision making on the part of federal employees. We strongly oppose these actions.
- Unfortunately, a single instance of irresponsible decision making has the potential to cast a negative light on the millions of men and women who work every day to make America’s meetings, conventions and conference industry the best in the world.
- Meetings and events are vital to our industry and the U.S. economy. In 2011, meetings and events generated $99 billion in direct travel spending, which supported 859,000 American jobs.
- Congress must make clear that this particular event was the result of a failure to follow federal travel regulations that were already in place to protect the misuse of taxpayer funds. We hope you will also recognize that there is still a need for private sector and government travel for conferences, business meetings and events.
Punish Irresponsible Behavior, Not Valuable Travel
- We are troubled by recent Congressional action to severely restrict the federal government’s ability to participate in and hold conferences, including provisions that indiscriminately cut travel budgets, expand the definition of conference to include private sector meetings and limit agencies’ attendance to one meeting held by an organization per fiscal year.
- The conference-related amendments included in the “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act”” or DATA Act (H.R. 2146) and the “21st Century Postal Service Act” (S. 1789) are well intentioned. But several provisions are too broad and would unnecessarily restrict federal agencies from participating in and holding legitimate conferences that provide immense value to the taxpayer and take place within the existing travel regulations.
- For example, such broad-stroke regulations could prevent federal employees from attending training conferences on matters ranging from safety and security, to medical and educational conferences for government health workers and scientists.
- Furthermore, these onerous regulations would, in some cases, be redundant to steps taken by the Obama administration last year. In 2011, the President issued an Executive Order that cut federal travel budgets by 10 percent and required all federal agencies to use a “local first” policy when holding large meetings or conferences.
The Answer is Increased Oversight, Not Overreaching Regulations
- Congress and the Obama administration should carry out a measured and appropriate response to the 2010 GSAA conference that increases oversight but does not discourage productive travel from taking place.
- Just like the taxpayer, we depend on adequate oversight and ethical standards for all federal travel because this is the only way that legitimate and productive travel can continue to take place.
If you need to determine how to contact your U.S. Congressional delegation please visit http://www.congress.org.
The key talking points about can also be used in any discussions you may have with media. If you have any questions, please contact IAEE President Steven Hacker, CAE, FASAE at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 (972) 687-9204.
In closing we want to assure you that the collective efforts of US Travel, ASAE, IAEE and other industry organizations is massive, and we anticipate that, with your participation, it will be successful in preventing what could otherwise be a very serious blow to our industry and to the nation’s economy.
Thank you for your involvement and support!