Board balances budget, supports pro-small-business legislation
posted February 18, 2010
AVMA CEO W. Ron DeHaven discusses the job of the new Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates as Executive Board Chair John R. Scamahorn looks on.
On Jan. 8, just ahead of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and regular winter session of the House of Delegates in Chicago, the Executive Board took up an agenda addressing the future of the Association, animal welfare legislation, student needs, and federal support for small businesses.
The board approved the formation of the AVMA 20/20 Vision Commission. The commission is charged with creating a vision for the AVMA that incorporates what is needed to position the Association as a flexible and dynamic association, one that is increasingly relevant and responsive to the membership and the public 6 to 10 years in the future.
Executive Board member Douglas G. Aspros and the Office of the Executive Vice President made the proposal, which includes an examination of the current AVMA structure, programs, and strategies. The commission will comprise "big picture thinkers" who are tasked with identifying issues and trends that are currently impacting the AVMA or are likely to in the future.
It is anticipated that the 10-member commission will be appointed by May 1. For more information about nominations to the AVMA 20/20 Vision Commission, see "New task force, commission seek nominations" on page 495.
The Executive Board approved a series of spending guidelines for AVMA staff to control costs during the 2010 budget year. The guidelines were proposed by AVMA Treasurer Bret D. Marsh and Kim Michael-Lee, director of the AVMA Finance and Business Services Division, after new economic data late in 2009 prompted a round of additional cuts to the Association's budget to avoid deficit spending in 2010. As a result, the AVMA is projected to run a modest surplus in this current budgetary year.
Ballot initiative policy
The growing popularity of using state referendums to establish animal welfare standards has motivated the AVMA to adopt a policy outlining the Association's support for appropriately constituted expert bodies to create animal care policies.
Ballot initiatives on animal welfare standards have been successful in a number of states, most notably in California, where Proposition 2 requires producers to institute major alterations to livestock housing systems by 2015.
Although such referendums have been praised for allowing direct public input, the AVMA believes they are poorly designed for addressing complex issues in that they are narrow in their mechanism of effect, limit the amount and detail of content that can be provided to the deciding public, and offer minimal opportunities for expert input.
The AVMA philosophy has been one of constant improvement of all animal care systems through open dialogue and a shared desire to advance well-being and eliminate animal suffering. The AVMA believes that for regulatory actions related to animal care to achieve their desired objectives, they need to arise from a consensus built via a greater public understanding of industry practices and a greater industry understanding of public attitudes and ethical needs.
The AVMA has, therefore, adopted a policy supporting legislative and regulatory processes because they include opportunities for stakeholder engagement. The policy, "Establishing Public Policy to Ensure Animal Well Being," was proposed by the AVMA State Advocacy, Animal Welfare, and Animal Agriculture Liaison committees, and is posted at www.avma.org under "Policy" in the Reference section. See also "Rural legislators favor legislative approaches, expert panels for setting welfare standards" on page 491.
New task force
The board approved creation of the Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates as proposed by Executive Board member Joseph H. Kinnarney, District III.
The task force will aid the AVMA in reviewing current programs and developing a strategic plan for the Association's involvement with veterinary students and recent graduates, according to Dr. Kinnarney, who was the Association's liaison to the Student AVMA and student chapters of the AVMA during his two terms as AVMA vice president.
In addition, the task force provides another route for recent graduates to become involved in the AVMA, which has been identified as an important factor in continuing the Association's relevance.
For information about nominations to the Task Force on AVMA Programs for Students and Recent Graduates, see "New task force, commission seek nominations" on page 495.
Small business legislation
The AVMA is supporting its many entrepreneurial members by backing a slate of pro-small-business legislation in Congress. As recommended by the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee, the Executive Board approved supporting the following four bills:
- The Healthy Workforce Act of 2009 (S. 803/H.R. 1897) would amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide employers with a 50 percent tax credit for the costs of providing employees with a qualified wellness program. The legislation defines "qualified wellness program" as a program that is certified by the secretary of Health and Human Services and that consists of health awareness and education, behavioral change, and a supportive environment. The tax credit is an expiring provision and would therefore terminate after 2017.
- The Flexible Health Savings Account Act (H.R. 544) would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow up to $500 of unused benefits in a health flexible spending plan or other arrangement to be carried over to subsequent years or contributed to a health savings account or qualified retirement plan, without affecting the status of such a plan or arrangement as a tax-exempt employee benefit cafeteria plan.
- The SIMPLE Cafeteria Plan Act of 2009 (S. 988) would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow small businesses to set up simple cafeteria plans to provide nontaxable employee benefits and would make changes in the requirements for cafeteria plans, flexible spending accounts, and benefits. The legislation would exempt employers who make contributions for employees under a simple cafeteria plan from pension plan nondiscrimination requirements applicable to highly compensated and key employees. S. 988 would modify rules applicable to employee benefit flexible spending arrangements to permit participants to make or modify elections regarding covered benefits, and to carry over up to $500 (indexed for inflation) of unused benefits to the succeeding year or transfer them to another plan, including an individual retirement plan or a health savings account. The bill also allows an exclusion from the gross income of an employee of up to $7,500 ($10,000 for employees with dependents) for employer contributions to a flexible spending arrangement.
- The Small Business Jump Start Act (S. 1402/HR 1552) would lessen the tax burden on new small businesses by doubling the deduction they can take for start-up expenses from $5,000 to $10,000 and would increase the threshold for the deduction's phase-out from $50,000 to $60,000. The act also would widen the pool of businesses eligible to take the full amount of the deduction in their first year of business. While a typical business can deduct ordinary business expenses in the year the expenses are paid, a start-up business is currently limited as to how much of its start-up expenses it can deduct and when.
The board also approved recommendations of support for the Wildlife and Zoological Veterinary Medicine Enhancement Act (see "Congressman sees need for more zoo and wildlife veterinarians" on page 497) and the Roosevelt Scholars Act (S. 2789/H.R. 3510). That act would help government attract "mission-critical talent" by establishing a nonprofit foundation to manage a scholarship program for students who commit to working three to five years in public health, science, or other "mission-critical" fields after graduation.
Additionally, the board accepted a proposal of nonsupport for the Paid Vacation Act (H.R. 2564).
The Poultry Science Association will likely hold its 2011 annual meeting in conjunction with the AVMA Annual Convention in St. Louis. The PSA annual conference typically attracts approximately 650 attendees, most of whom are researchers and scientists, according to the AVMA Convention Management and Program Committee, which recommended the PSA hold its meeting with the AVMA. The Executive Board approved the proposal, which could result in additional profit for the AVMA.