Delegate assembly forward looking

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Susan C. Kahler

The third Informational Assembly of the AVMA House of Delegates, Jan 7-9 in Chicago, continued in the tradition of the first two and ventured into some new territory. House Advisory Committee chairman, Dr. James A. Jarrett presided. Delegates and/or alternates from every allied group and all but one state VMA represented in the HOD answered the roll call.

The HOD assembly was one element of the AVMA 2000 Veterinary Leadership Conference. Much of the leadership conference was concurrent with the HOD functions. The conference comprised separate break-out sessions for recent graduates and for state VMA presidents and presidents-elect, public relations staff, and executive directors; spokesperson/media training; a recent graduate dinner; a full-day facilitated leadership training session (see next story); an AVMF reception to introduce new executive director Paul Amundsen; an update from the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (see previous story); and closing speaker, Dean Peter Eyre, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. A total of 382 leaders from 70 state associations and allied groups were involved in the conference.

The HOD informational assembly is designed to promote a free exchange of ideas, and discussion of proposals on which the House will take official action in July at its annual session. Over the past three years the event has taken the form of presentations updating delegates on key issues and activities. Ample time is scheduled for oral exchange, informally and during the assembly of the House.

As the assembly continues to evolve into an ever-more-meaningful resource for delegates, new formats and discussion areas are worked into the program. This year delegates discussed not only issues but also important procedural points. Time was allotted for reference committee discussions, and straw votes were taken by the House on several questions.

The House cannot take official actions during its informational assembly. A recurrent theme at this year's assembly, however, was finding ways to expedite the HOD session in July so final action may be taken expeditiously on resolutions, and business can be transacted more efficiently.

One method of expediting that was discussed is the idea of initiating electronic voting at the HOD annual session in July. Another suggestion raised by delegates, and met with great interest, was devising a system that permits the reworking of resolutions unacceptable in their present form so that they could be voted on the following day rather than delayed a year. As New Hampshire delegate, Dr. Thomas Candee put it, the House needs to act in "real time." The Executive Board will be asked to consider requesting an opinion from the AVMA parliamentarian about the constitutional change(s) such a measure would require.

Dr. David L. McCrystle, House Advisory Committee vice chairman, and Dr. Peter F. Haynes, committee member, presented a report on long-range planning. One of their topics that elicited lengthy debate was a proposal of AVMA president, Dr. Leonard F. Seda to replace the immediate past president on the Executive Board with a member who would represent allied groups that are represented in the House of Delegates. (This was a substitute motion offered by Dr. Seda to the board in November; the original proposal in his presidential address had called for two new board members who would represent those allied groups.) Drs. McCrystle and Haynes also discussed the philosophy of including more at-large positions and/or practitioner representation on certain AVMA entities.

A summary of key Executive Board actions was presented by Dr. McCrystle, who attended the November board meeting. One of the issues that generated debate among delegates was the discontinuation of the Recent Graduate Committee (as well as the Honor Roll and Membership Enhancement committees) and its incorporation into a more comprehensive Member Services Committee. There was some sentiment the committee should have been retained as an entity, to give it more visibility and ensure greater input. Executive Board chairman, Dr. Leonard M. Tinney (who chaired the committee last year) pointed out to the delegates, however, that when asked about consolidating committees, members of the Recent Graduate Committee had said "we'd rather talk to all of you than among ourselves."

In his first report to the HOD as treasurer, Dr. James F. Peddie shared favorable year-end results: total income of $17.6 million and expenses of $16.4 million, leaving an excess of income over expenses of $1.2 million. "As you can see we have had an excellent year in 1999 with our positive year-end balance that will be added to our Association reserves," he said. The greatest sources of income (in priority order) were membership dues, publications income (notably classified ads), sponsorships, convention, investments, and rental space.

Dr. Peddie continued, "In the area of expenses the AVMA staff has done an excellent job of keeping most of what I refer to as the 'cost-of-doing-business expenses' either at or below budget." He commended the Executive Board for being fiscally responsible. Then he explained the immediate need that prompted the board to approve an unbudgeted, $700,000 expenditure for comprehensive new association computer software, an expense that does not affect the 1999 budget but "will be seen in the coming years" as it is depreciated out.

Executive vice president, Dr. Bruce W. Little told delegates that "e-commerce" is a phenomenon the AVMA leadership should be aware of, because they may find it necessary to decide whether AVMA members should become associated with ventures involving product sales.

The progress being made by the Alternative and Complementary Therapies Task Force was discussed by Executive Board member (Distict XI) and task force chairman, Dr. Harmon A. Rogers.

Straw votes taken before the House adjourned — votes that carry no weight — indicated that delegates favored extending the HOD Informational Assembly past 2001, leaving it in Chicago, and continuing to hold it during the Veterinary Leadership Conference. Most delegates prefer a one-day overlap (rather than a two-day overlap or complete separation) of the HOD annual session in July with the CE sessions of convention. Delegates indicated they would like more information and possibly a demonstration of electronic voting before embracing it or abandoning it for use during their annual sessions.

The House will hold its official session July 20-21 in Salt Lake City.