From ASAE: Recent Activity Around Government Travel Amendment

Tim SchneiderIn the month since ASAE sent our open letter to Congress with over 2,100 signatures, our position is resonating in Congress. When we meet with Congressional offices on the travel amendments, they usually relay that they have heard about the issue already from constituents and other organizations in town. Every day more and more members of Congress are beginning to understand that they did not realize the unintended consequences of passing the travel amendments in the House DATA Act and Senate postal reform bill, and some have pledged to support changes simply because of the feedback they’ve received from constituents and organizations they work with, and for this we thank you. Our work is not done, however, and we need you to redouble your education efforts.

During our meetings, we have emphasized that while there may be a need for more transparency and oversight for government sponsored conferences and travel, there is a legitimate need for government employees to attend private educational conferences in order to work with the private sector on best practices and shaping public policy. Most members of Congress have understood and support this position but some, such as the amendment’s original sponsor Senator Tom Coburn, have hesitated in fully supporting the changes we sent you in our last message. Senator Coburn’s office has indicated they are open to modifications, but they have not yet shared any amended language. In addition, in some meetings a few members of Congress have questioned why federal employees cannot participate in meetings through Skype or teleconference. We share with these offices the value of face-to-face meetings and how important in-person collaboration can be on so many issues, from food safety to national defense to low-income housing and many others.

[Download our new one-pager on the value of face-to-face meetings here]

Because we have not yet seen compromise language and due to this misunderstanding of the use of telecommunications in meetings, we are concerned that Senator Coburn or another member may offer either the same amendment (SA 2060) or a modified amendment with similarly harmful wording to legislation moving through Congress. In particular, we’ve heard that the following legislation are prime targets for the amendment to potentially be reintroduced:

—The Farm Bill

—Annual appropriation bills that have not yet passed

—Postal reform legislation, either in a conference committee or in newly written compromise version

Our concern is that an office that does not understand the consequences of this language will attach it to one of these bills or another that is passing Congress, and our community will have very little time to mobilize and respond. How can you help?

—Keep talking to members of Congress with whom you work. If you are holding a fly-in, use our one-pager as one of your drop-offs and incorporate your concerns and stories into your member briefing.

—If you work with Senator Coburn’s office or his committee staff, contact them immediately expressing your concern with the language.

—Tell us your feedback from your meetings by calling 202.626.2703 or publicpolicy@asaenet.org.

We will keep you updated and will reach out in the near future with the next steps in the campaign.teps in the campaign.

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