The Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has passed HR 4631, the “Government Spending Accountability Act of 2012.” The bill contains revisions addressing concerns that the amendment’s original wording would have severely limited federal employees’ attendance at PPAI meetings and conferences—limiting members’ access to expert guidance on product safety, going green, securing credit and identifying international trade opportunities.
Notable differences in the new language include a revision of the definition of “conference.” It can now mean any “meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium or event to which an employee travels 25 miles or more to attend.” In the bill’s previous language, a conference was defined as a meeting “sponsored by 1 or more agencies, 1 or more organizations that are not agencies, or a combination of such agencies or organizations.” This definition would encompass every conference held by an association, corporation or virtually any other non-governmental organization.
The revision also removes any prohibition on attending more than one conference held by a private entity annually. This addresses a concern in the original draft, which limited many from expending funds on “more than a single conference sponsored or organized by an organization during any fiscal year, unless the agency is the primary sponsor and organizer of the conference.” This provision is highly problematic for agency employees seeking education from nongovernmental sources and for the associations and other private sector organizations that invite government employees to conferences. A reasonable reading of this provision would mean that if employees of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) attended a conference sponsored by PPAI to educate industry members on their role in product compliance, no other CPSC employees could attend any other conference held by PPAI for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The new language in its entirety is available here.