Update from ASAE on Limits to Federal Employee Meeting Attendance

We have just received this update from the American Society of Association Executives regarding restrictions on government participation in meetings and conferences. Thank you to everyone who expressed support continued government employees involvement in IPC meetings and conferences.

After two months of work by the association community to educate Congress on the consequences of restricting government travel to meetings and conferences, a House committee has listened and incorporated those concerns into a response to the GSA scandal. Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed HR 4631, “the GSA Act of 2012.” The original bill was amended by the committee to include new language that seeks to address the original GSA scandal as well as concerns expressed to the committee by the association, travel, and private sector community. You can read the new language here but there are some definite differences between this language and the language passed in April as part of the House DATA Act:

  • The definition of conference is now changed to any “meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium, or event to which an employee travels 25 miles or more to attend.” This is a change from the DATA Act, which defined conferences as any meeting held by one or more agencies, one or more non-agencies, or a combination of an agency and non-agency.
  • The information needing to be reported by a government attendee at a conference includes their reimbursed expenses, any handouts they prepare if they are presenting, and any prepared remarks at the conference. It does not require the agency to report the cost of the meeting itself, which the DATA Act seemingly would have required.
  • Every agency would be required to post quarterly their expenses on meetings attended by employees. 
  • All agencies would be required to limit their travel budgets to 70% of 2010 levels.
  • There is no prohibition on attending more than one conference held by a private entity annually, and the language even suggests private entities can provide some financial support for federal employees to attend.

While ASAE is still holding meetings and reviewing the language in HR 4631, we do see it as a positive step forward in addressing the concerns expressed to Congress over the past two months. ASAE is working to see if HR 4631 will be passed as a stand-alone bill or as part of a conference report with the Senate; additionally, we are still working with Senate offices on educating them about the value of face-to-face meetings and public-private collaboration, as well as to make changes to the original amendment (SA 2060). We will continue to update you on relevant news and will work on this issue until it is satisfactorily resolved, but do not hesitate to contact us with questions or feedback at 202.626.2703 or publicpolicy@asaenet.org

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