The AVMA has prioritized five major legislative issues for this, the 108th Congress. Some of these bills directly affect the economic bottomline for veterinarians in private practice. Others deal with recent graduates and veterinarians working for the federal government.
- The Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Health Act addresses the critical shortage of approved animal drugs intended for minor uses in major animal species and for minor species.
- The Animal Drug User Fee Act improves the Food and Drug Administration's ability to process New Animal Drug Applications and reduces the five to 10 years it takes to approve and release new animal drugs.
- The Small Business Health Fairness Act overrides state regulations and restrictions preventing associations from offering health care coverage to their members' employees. This needed legislation provides associations the ability to negotiate lower premiums for group health coverage for members and their employees, passing the savings along to business owners.
- The National Veterinary Medical Service Act provides veterinary student loan repayment to recent veterinary graduates who agree to work in underserved areas and underserved disciplines, including certain federal agencies.
- The Special Pay for Federal Board Certified Health Scientists Act provides increased financial incentives for the executive branch of the government to recruit and retain the best and brightest scientists for federal government services and to enhance the nation's knowledge base for homeland security.
The AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C., is charged with advancing the AVMA congressional agenda as set by the Executive Board. The GRD staff makes personal contacts on Capitol Hill, pursuing legislative priorities and maintaining vigilance over all legislative issues that affect veterinarians and veterinary medicine.
The combined efforts of the GRD and the AVMA Political Action Committee make the AVMA's accomplishments in Washington even more successful.
Without the AVMAPAC, it is much more difficult to obtain sponsors for AVMA legislation. The AVMAPAC helps gain access to members of Congress. Those veterinarians working at the grassroots level make contacts with their individual congresspersons and senators to accomplish a great deal of the initial groundwork.
Once these initial constituent and AVMAPAC contacts are made, follow-up visits by the GRD staff in Washington are better able to advance the AVMA congressional agenda. This cooperative effort by the grassroots veterinarians, on behalf of the AVMAPAC and the GRD staff, allows individual veterinarians to have a voice at a level reaching far beyond his or her district.
Continued support and funding are needed for the AVMAPAC to help pass legislation needed for veterinarians, as well as to prevent legislation that would be detrimental to veterinarians.
In a recent AVMA survey, 84 percent of AVMA members indicated that legislation favorable to veterinarians is essential for professional success. Seventy-nine percent stated their membership renewal was to support legislative activities and initiatives relevant to veterinary medicine.
Last year, 4 percent of the AVMA membership contributed to AVMAPAC. Clearly, GRD staff members, as well as the AVMAPAC board members and contributors, are focused on increasing this percentage through the ultimate goal of becoming a Million-Dollar PAC by 2008.
Despite the low contribution percentages, AVMAPAC has increased its funds dramatically over the past few election cycles. In doing so, the AVMA has emphasized the voice of the veterinary profession by helping to elect a more proveterinary Congress.
In the 2002 election cycle alone, AVMAPAC contributed in excess of $325,000 to more than 150 candidates for the U.S. House and Senate.
This has helped the GRD's congressional agenda tremendously. The hope is to continue to expand and build upon AVMAPAC's successes in years to come.
For more information about the AVMAPAC or the AVMA congressional agenda, contact Tim Foltyn, AVMAPAC/Grassroots Coordinator, AVMA Governmental Relations Division, 1101 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Suite 100, Washington, D.C. 20005-3521; phone, (800) 321-1473 Ext. 3206.