July 3, 2012

Two months after congressional passage of severe restrictions on government/private-sector interaction, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recently agreed to legislation that amends proposed travel controls on federal government employees.

On May 7, the U.S. House and Senate proposed legislation that would have limited the ability of government employees to attend conventions and other functions hosted by trade associations and other private groups.

Among other things, the restrictions originally contained in two bills would have limited any federal agency from spending money on ‘more than a single conference sponsored or organized by an organization during any fiscal year, unless the agency is the primary sponsor and organizer of the conference.’

NBAA joined the American Society of Association Executives and 2,100 other entities in sending a letter to Congress on May 7 that called the measures overly broad and argued that they would restrict representatives of federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Association, from attending important events and conferences, including NBAA’s Annual Meeting & Convention and its many informative regional events.

‘Over the course of any year, ongoing and constructive dialogue between the industry and the government is critical,’ Lisa Piccione, NBAA senior vice president of government affairs, said when the restrictions were originally proposed. ‘We think it’s important not to place restrictions on the ability of representatives of federal agencies to attend our meetings and conferences to discuss important technical and policy information.’

Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform passed HR 4631, ‘The GSA Act of 2012,’ which contains language addressing both the concerns about government travel and those of the letter signers. Included in the bill is a change to the original proposal that would have prohibited federal employees from attending more than one conference held annually by a private organization. Also, included in the bill is a change in the definition of a conference to any meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium or event to which an employee travels 25 miles or more to attend.

Piccione said the changes are a positive step toward addressing the concerns of NBAA and other groups, which are continuing to work with the House and Senate. ‘We commend the committee for recognizing that important, substantive and appropriate dialogue occurs at seminars and conferences,’ she said.