Delegates open way for states to request more AVMA assistance

Many state legislative challenges have interstate implications
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Should the AVMA ally with state veterinary medical associations when they face legislative challenges and assaults on their veterinary practice acts?

The House of Delegates grappled with this central question as it decided on Resolution 4, submitted by the Florida, California, Puerto Rico, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin VMAs.

The resolution involved a commitment that the AVMA provide review and guidance, scientific position papers, and public relations support to a state veterinary medical association responding to detrimental state legislative issues having a potential to adversely affect veterinary medicine on an interstate basis.

The Reference Committee on Legislation and Governmental Matters (Reference Committee 5) recommended approval, but the Executive Board had no recommendation and the House Advisory Committee recommended disapproval.

Ultimately, delegates approved the resolution, many of them expressing strong support for the initiative. During the debate, however, one state voiced intense opposition, another state was looking to a different approach to accomplish the same goal, and still another suggested referral to the Judicial Council. There was also some apprehension that AVMA entry into this domain might undermine state VMA authority.

Ohio alternate delegate Dr. Dick Johnson called it an idea whose time has come, and a true member service. California delegate Dr. Michael Andrews urged delegates to pass the resolution, saying the recommendation was not proscriptive, but rather, an attempt to raise consciousness about the changing legislative/regulatory landscape and the strategy of picking on the weakest links, or small states.

Dr. Edward Wakem, Rhode Island delegate, said that while he would certainly welcome assistance, given that his small state is looked on as a proving ground, this resolution was asking the HOD to interpret the AVMA Constitution. Instead, he suggested it be referred to the Judicial Council.

California alternate delegate Dr. George Bishop noted that, even with its strong legal department, the California VMA has received needed support from the AVMA. "I don't think they'll step on the states," he reassured his colleagues. On the flipside, Idaho delegate Dr. John Hoch also favored the resolution, but for the opposite reason—he said Idaho did not receive AVMA assistance in responding to a situation in which a layperson was practicing equine dentistry.

A few delegates, including Nevada alternate Dr. Joseph Coli, speculated that the Executive Board would be proposing a solution that would accomplish the same thing called for in the resolution, and preferred that route (see related board action, page 582).

Vocal opposition came from Texas delegate Dr. Tony Brown and alternate Dr. Cecilia Kornegay. Dr. Brown questioned the need for the resolution in the first place. He said that virtually every delegate who spoke to the issue claimed the AVMA had helped them, even without a written mandate. "Passing the resolution as it exists could lead us down the path of some unintended consequences," he warned. Dr. Kornegay said the Texas VMA believes in states' rights and in state VMAs building strong legislative efforts, just as the TVMA has. "Regrettably, the majority of states do not have this. Why is that?" She suggested that their low dues structures may account for the lack of funding to enable state VMAs to mount strong legislative initiatives. "AVMA's responsibility is at the national level," she asserted.

But the majority of delegates came to see this resolution as offering their state or allied association the choice of requesting the assistance, not mandating it. As Florida delegate Dr. Larry Dee said, "This is a philosophic resolution, not an action item. ... We're getting nibbled to death in our practice acts ..." Dr. Jerry Quilling, Wisconsin alternate delegate, added, "This does not preclude states from doing what they wish. AVMA would be there at their request. This does not (trample) states' rights."