Members of the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan organization serving legislators and staff of U.S. states, commonwealths, and territories, held its annual meeting and exhibition in San Francisco, July 21-25. Since 2001, the AVMA has participated in this meeting as a component of its ongoing commitment to promoting the influence of veterinary medicine in public policy decisions. Representing the AVMA at the 2003 meeting and staffing the AVMA booth in its exhibit hall were Dr. H. Michael Chaddock, director, Governmental Relations Division, and Dr. Gail Golab, assistant director, Communications Division.
The NCSL provides research and technical assistance as well as opportunities for policy-makers to exchange ideas on pressing state legislative and regulatory issues. The organization advocates for state interests in the American federal system. Legislators, legislative committee chairs, committee members, and staff from virtually every state participate in the NCSL.
This year's NCSL meeting drew approximately 6,000 attendees. A third of these attendees were state legislators and legislative staff; the remaining participants included representatives of local, state, and federal governmental agencies; businesses and associations; unions; and the press; as well as international visitors, exhibitors, and guests.
Recent decisions by the AVMA House of Delegates and Executive Board (see related stories on pages 575 and 582) have directed the AVMA to explore providing increased assistance to state veterinary medical associations facing legislative and regulatory initiatives that have the potential to impact delivery of veterinary services or animal or public health and well-being.
Ongoing involvement in the NCSL annual meeting is one mechanism for maximizing the AVMA's effectiveness at the state level. According to Dr. Chaddock, "The NCSL annual meeting is the premier gathering of the nation's state governmental leaders. AVMA participation provides wonderful opportunities to broaden contacts with state officials, increase AVMA's awareness of critical state legislative and regulatory issues, and discuss the profession's concerns, positions, and policies face to face with state leaders in both formal and informal situations."
Dr. Golab was equally enthusiastic. "Veterinarians and veterinary medicine are highly respected by the public and by public policy-makers. To maintain and broaden that respect, the profession must continually educate legislators and their staff, at all governmental levels, about its breadth of expertise and the assistance it can provide on a variety of public policy issues. The NCSL meeting would seem to be an important part of the AVMA's related strategic educational mix."