Board assigns legislative agenda items
Schaumburg, Ill. - The American Veterinary Medical Association added 13 initiatives to the agenda of its Governmental Relations Division (GRD), the group's Washington bureau. In June, Executive Board members approved the recommendations, which originated from the Legislative Advisory Committee (LAC) and other AVMA subsets. The GRD, charged with lobbying and monitoring Congress as well as federal regulations, must champion the following actions
SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — The American Veterinary Medical Association added 13 initiatives to the agenda of its Governmental Relations Division (GRD), the group's Washington bureau. In June, Executive Board members approved the recommendations, which originated from the Legislative Advisory Committee (LAC) and other AVMA subsets. The GRD, charged with lobbying and monitoring Congress as well as federal regulations, must champion the following actions:
- A policy titled Employment of Veterinarians-Employment as Public Policy Decision Makers was reaffirmed. Originally established in 1998, AVMA leaders believe it's necessary to renew the policy considering the national government's interest in issues that affect the profession. Promoting veterinarians to government positions provides a voice for the profession, leaders say. Without such input, "these decisions could be detrimental to the profession and to animal health and welfare," the LAC recommendation states. "At the state level, we have already seen bills being debated or passed based on information provided by animal rights groups and not veterinarians."
The GRD is charged with coordinating an AVMA effort to identify national legislative and regulatory positions suited for DVMs and monitoring job openings. AVMA leadership must directly lobby cabinet secretaries, department heads and agency directors to increase DVM involvement in the formulation and execution of public policy. Public and private efforts to "neutralize" opposition to veterinarians' inclusion in such arenas will run through GRD and be assisted by AVMA.
- The GRD is charged with garnering more information concerning the Inhumane Trapping Prevention Act, or H.R. 3442, which bans the use of leghold traps for animal control. While AVMA previously supported the bill based on the association's position that steel-jawed leghold traps are inhumane, the Animal Welfare Committee and the Committee on Environmental Issues (CEI) suggest the traps likely have been modernized to improve their safety and efficacy. "Leghold trapping may actually be the most humane method of capture for some animals under some circumstances," CEI members say.
- Five million dollars from fiscal year 2008 agriculture appropriations is needed to fuel an aquaculture program with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS), and GRD is charged with pushing the initiative. APHIS Veterinary Services is developing a National Aquatic Animal Health (NAAH) plan in collaboration with the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations, National Marine Fisheries Services and the Department of Interior's United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
- GRD officials must lobby support for S. 850, the Global Health Corps Act (GHCA). The bill seeks to establish the Office of the Global Health Corp within the Department of Health and Human Services to assist in approving the health, welfare and development of communities in foreign countries and regions through the provision of healthcare personnel, items and related services. The GHCA includes in its goals the provision and expansion of veterinary services in the developing world and would provide unique experiences for veterinary professionals, LAC officials contend.
- GRD officials must lobby support for S. 160, the Save Act, which provides for the expansion of tax credits for small business contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Such accounts are high-deductible, portable health insurance accounts that seek to infuse market consumer choice into healthcare expenditures, LAC officials say. They allow for a refundable tax credit to health insurance providers and provide a tax deduction from gross income for premiums paid for high-deductible health insurance plans, officials add.
- Porcine zona pellucida contraceptive vaccine's use to manage wild horses and burrows on public lands will be pushed by GRD. The experimental vaccine known as PZP is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Approximately 32,000 wild horses and burrows inhabit public lands and that number is expected to rise 20 percent per year, according to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management.
- The AVMA Committee on Disaster and Emergency Issues initiated support for the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, or S. 1926/H.R. 4239. GRD will pursue the bill's passage, which would strengthen laws against animal rights activists who use intimidation and violence against animal enterprises as well as businesses and individuals with even a tenuous connection with those enterprises. The Animal Welfare Committee reports the number of severely illegal activities by animal rights extremists have increased dramatically since 2000, and include arson, bombing, stalking, harassment, destruction of property, theft and vandalism.
- GRD champions another terrorism bill, S. 1532, or The Agroterrorism Prevention Act of 2005. Currently in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, the bill was drafted with GRD staff assistance, making it consistent with AVMA's policies on Animal Health Emergency Planning and Training in Foreign and Emerging Diseases. It amends federal criminal laws on acts of agroterrorism and directs the Secretaries of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security to expand and conduct vulnerability assessments of the nation's agriculture and food sectors.
- GRD must actively pursue veterinary interests in the fiscal year 2007 Farm Bill reauthorization. The legislation is so important to animal health and welfare, agriculture programs and the veterinary profession, AVMA leaders want GRD to assign additional human resources to maintain the association's legislative and regulatory priorities in the bill.
- GRD now lobbies support for Title III and Title IV of H.R. 739, which amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) of 1970. Title III places the burden of proof upon regulators with regard to OSHA violations by small businesses by forcing judges to more heavily weigh the conclusions of the OSHA review boards. Title IV makes it easier to recover attorney's fees by small businesses in the event of an unjustified enforcement action, LAC officials say.
- Nonsupport was approved for the Downed Animal Protection Act, or H.R. 3931/S. 1779, which amends the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. As written, the legislation does not appropriately address nonambulatory, heat-stressed swine that most often recover with sufficient rest and cooling and then can be entered into the food chain safely, LAC reports.