GSA Fallout Remains on Senate Agenda

Government Relations By: Chris Vest

Last spring’s conference scandal still threatens public-private sector collaboration.

A wide range of unresolved issues were left percolating on Capitol Hill while lawmakers campaigned their way to the November elections, including one with implications for all associations that hold meetings or conferences attended by government employees.

When reports of lavish conference spending by the General Services Administration (GSA) entered the news cycle in early April, Congress reacted swiftly, passing legislation April 25 intended to rein in government spending on conferences. Its provisions would have effectively ended government employees' participation in many private-sector meetings and conferences.

Fortunately, associations and other organizations that hold meetings were quick to see the far-reaching implications of this legislation. ASAE had more than 2,100 organizations join a sign-on letter urging Congress to revise the proposed restrictions.

Congress is still keen on addressing the GSA scandal. In September, the House easily passed a bill to cap federal spending on travel. The bill (H.R. 4631) also requires government agencies to produce quarterly itemized reports of all federal conference spending.

That bill is pending in the Senate. ASAE continues to meet with Senate offices to stress the value of face-to-face meetings and collaboration between the government and the private sector.

Chris Vest is director of public policy at ASAE. Email: [email protected]