Looking Back … Looking Ahead

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

I just returned from the Veterinary Leadership Conference and House of Delegates Winter Session in Chicago, and during the meeting, I had the opportunity to provide a legislative update to a number of groups and individuals.  After one of the updates, a colleague asked the following question, “How do you maintain your sanity and keep from getting frustrated when we have such a dysfunctional Congress and your legislative priorities are not addressed?”

Working in governmental relations is not a job for someone who needs concrete actions to measure success.  I cannot tell you that we produced X number of widgets or took in X amount of dollars in revenue.  Our founding fathers created the U.S. system of governance so that it is difficult to pass legislation, and only a few hundred bills (out of thousands) will get passed each Congress.

To say the least, I think we had a very successful 112th Congress, despite the craziness of the past two years. How do I measure success?  While everyone is focused on getting our legislative priorities passed, an equally (sometimes more) important task is keeping Congress from making bad public policy.  We have successfully fought a number of bills, including the Fairness to Pet Owners Act, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, and the Great Ape Protection Act.

Congress did not pass any fiscal year 2013 appropriations bills, and the federal government is currently operating on a continuing resolution until March. The AVMA’s high-priority programs maintained level funding, or saw only slight decreases, in the appropriations process.  This was achieved in a very difficult budgetary environment and shows the Congressional support for AVMA’s programs. The Governmental Relations Division (GRD) will advocate for continued funding for the rest of fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014.

The GRD spent a significant amount of time working on the 2012 Farm Bill Reauthorization.  There were a number of AVMA priorities that were included in the Senate-passed or House Agriculture Committee-passed bills. Congress did not pass a five-year extension, as we would have liked, so the bill will be brought up again in the 113th.  We are optimistic that we will achieve success when Congress finally passes the five-year extension.

Our GRD lobbying staff continues to build key relationships with Members of Congress and their staffs, which is critical if we want to be successful in the 113th Congress.  Over the past year, the AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network (AVMA-CAN) has grown to more than 10,000 members, and the AVMA Political Action Committee has deployed innovative fundraising activities that have increased the number of new donors.

But we still have work to do, and will need all AVMA members to engage if we are going to be successful in the 113th Congress.  Be sure to join the AVMA-CAN, visit with your Members of Congress when they come home to their districts and attend town hall meetings.  Let your voices be heard!

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