2010 Legislative Symposium

ABTA Member Blake Miller Blogs On Washington DC Trip

The purpose of the Annual Legislative Summit is to lobby Congress on matters affecting the travel and hospitality industry including any bills that might currently be under consideration.  This year, our task was to lobby for the passage of the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act and the FAA Reauthorization Bill (which will fund NextGen - Next Generation Air Transportation System and reduce delays caused by antiquated systems). We were also tasked with educating the members of Congress about the importance of managed travel programs while explaining the benefits (cost savings, budgeting, tracking, etc) and offering ourselves as professional resources to assist in getting all government agencies on board to create a travel program which would save millions of tax payer dollars annually!  

Our Summit began with an intensive one-day crash course on the topics to be discussed and methods used to accomplish our goals.  Our speakers included:

Craig Banikowski, NBTA President

Shane Downey, NBTA Director of Public Policy

James Rice, Office of Senator Charles Grassley

John Keast, Louie Perry, and Greg McDonald, Cornerstone Government Affairs

Paul Fontaine, FAA Office of the Chief Information Officer & NextGen Expert

Tim Burke, Director of General Services Administration Federal Acquisition Service

Adam Tsao, COO Airside Mobile

Senator Johhny Isakson, Georgia

Tucker Carlson, CNN News Correspondent

Patricia Cogswell, Acting Deputy Assistant, Department of Homeland Security

 

You can see by the above, we had an incredible line-up of speakers to help prepare us for lobbying Congress!  Our teams were split up into our respective states and we were given our list of appointments.  We were scheduled to meet with:

Jeremy Haile, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Lloyd Doggett

Patrick Mullane, Legislative Counsel to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

James Deckert, Legislative counsel to Congressman Michael Burgess

Shay Wester, Legislative Assistant to Senator John Cornyn

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee

Our day began with Lloyd Doggett’s office and we were fortunate enough to spot him in the hall outside his office.  He retrieved Jeremy (who our appt was actually with) and came back out with Jeremy to meet with us personally.  Congressman Doggett was familiar with (and for) the FAA Reauthorization bill and was not familiar with the Charge Card Abuse Act.  He gave us his complete attention and thanked us for bringing the issue to his attention.  This set a great tone for the rest of our day!

All other appts. went as scheduled with the only change being Sheila Jackson Lee having her Chief of Staff, Nathaniel Thomas, fill in for her.  Oddly enough, this is where I feel we made the most progress as Nat immediately recognized the value of managed travel and even went further to say he felt a good case could be made to encourage Congresswoman Lee to sponsor a bill outlining the benefits to Congress.  This is exactly what we were looking for and we (NBTA) are on board to ensure we remain in contact with her office to encourage this actually happening!

Thank you to ABTA for sponsoring my hotel and airfare allowing me to participate in the Summit.  I feel we contributed greatly to the eventual passage of the FAA reauthorization bill and to the possibility of creating managed travel within the Federal government – very exciting!  Being part of the political process by actually meeting with members of Congress on Capitol Hill was a surreal experience.  The experience gave me a real sense of pride realizing, and ultimately exercising, the freedom we have as US citizens to access our government officials at the top levels of policy-making.