AVMA GRD Notes 2012 Successes, Looks Ahead to the 2013 Congress

By: Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director, Governmental Relations Division

The elections are over. Congress is grappling with the “fiscal cliff.” And AVMA’s governmental relations division (GRD) is gearing up for the new Congress. While it has been a struggle to accomplish our goals in the 112th Congress, I am pleased with the progress that AVMA and the profession have made over the past two years.

Given the contentious nature of the 112th Congress and the difficulty in getting things done here in Washington, D.C., AVMA members often ask me: how do you measure success in a town where it often takes multiple congresses to get a bill passed? Or: how do you deal with the D.C. atmosphere where it looks like nothing is getting done?  I have to admit—it can be frustrating to work in this town, but I am optimistic and can still see progress being made.

The AVMA finished this congressional session with more than 80 items on its legislative agenda. The GRD staff and AVMA members continue to build relationships with key Members of Congress and their staffs.  These relationships will help us to move our legislative agenda forward in the coming Congress.

We saw several bills introduced in the 112th Congress, including: the Veterinary Services Investment Act (VSIA), the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA), and the Veterinary Public Health Amendments Act (VPHAA). Congress inserted the VSIA language into the Farm Bill reauthorization. The GRD is working to get the VMLRPEA language inserted into the tax changes that are associated with the current fiscal cliff negotiations. The VPHAA passed in the House, but has unfortunately stalled in the Senate.

The governmental relations staff has also been very involved in the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization.  As mentioned, the VSIA language has been added to the Farm Bill along with language that prohibits spectators from attending animal fighting events and language that authorizes funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.  In the Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill, the GRD staff worked to get language added for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the reauthorization of the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD), and the Agriculture and Food Initiative. We will not know the fate of the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization for some time, since negotiations are currently stalled, but there are rumors that it will be included in the year-end fiscal cliff deal.  If the reauthorization does not pass by the end of this congressional session, then the GRD will have to start all over again with this legislation in the 113th Congress.

We are also pleased with the progress that has been made in the FY2013 appropriations bills.  While none of the bills have been passed and the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution until March, we are pleased with the funding levels proposed for our key initiatives in both the Senate and the House committees.  Most of AVMA’s key appropriations priorities are being funded at the same levels or have only slightly decreased, which is a success in this very difficult federal budget environment. Under the continuing resolution, these initiatives will remain funded at FY2012 levels.

Although we like to discuss the initiatives that passed in Congress, it is equally important to ensure that public policy that would be detrimental to our members is not moved forward in Congress.  This year, we successfully kept the Fairness to Pet Owners Act from being moved in the House and we actively participated in the Federal Trade Commission’s Pet Medication Workshop, held in October.  In addition, two bills, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act and the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, did not move in their respective committees.

The GRD staff has continued to grow its Congressional Advocacy Network (CAN), which now stands at more than 10,000 members, of which approximately 8,000 are AVMA members. We would like to thank all of you who have joined and participated in the CAN. However, with only 10 percent of all AVMA members participating in the network, we still need your help in encouraging your colleagues to join the AVMA CAN. AVMA CAN members should continue contacting their Members of Congress—whether in D.C. or in their home districts—to tell them the issues that are important to your businesses, animal health and welfare, and the veterinary profession.

Here in the nation’s capital, we feel privileged to represent AVMA and the profession. Thank you all for your continued support and confidence in our office. We look forward to working on your behalf in the 113th Congress.

On behalf of the governmental relations staff, have a wonderful holiday season and a safe, healthy and prosperous new year.

Dr. Mark Lutschaunig

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