House passes bill on feds’ conference attendance

Legislation limits spending, but not number of meetings federal employees can attend

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a voice vote the Government Spending Accountability Act (H.R. 4631), which caps federal agencies’ spending on conferences to no more than $500,000 per event without congressional approval. Agencies must also provide quarterly travel-expense reports to Congress, and travel budgets are limited to 70 percent of their 2010 totals.

The bill does give the agencies some leverage: The Hill reports that agency heads can overrule the limit if the spending is “justified as the most cost-effective option to achieve a compelling purpose.” Likewise, federal agencies would be limited to sending 50 people to conferences abroad, but the secretary of state can overrule that provision if sending more employees is considered in the national interest.

The win for associations came with the removal of language from an earlier version of the legislation that would have limited the number of meetings federal employees could attend annually, as well as requirements for the association holding the meeting to disclose financial information.

“We’re very happy with the modifications that were made to the initial amendment, which would have severely harmed many of the public-private partnerships that help create good policy,” said Jim Clarke, ASAE’s senior vice president of public policy. “Mostly we’re very grateful to all of the ASAE members who made their voices heard. The changes speak for themselves.”

No concurrent Senate action on the GSA Act, or any alternatives, has been introduced.

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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