AVMA continues support for MUMS, other legislative priorities

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The AVMA has directed the Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C., to continue pressing for passage of several bills pending in Congress that range from increasing the supply of animal drugs to providing affordable health care to nonveterinary staff.

Using the new scoring system (see page 14), the board approved the recommendation of its Legislative Advisory Committee to continue "active pursuit of passage" for five bills on the AVMA Legislative Agenda for the 108th Congress.

"Active pursuit of passage" means the bill is a high priority, and the AVMA will devote considerable time and energy to see that it becomes law.

On the agenda are the Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Health Act, Small Business Health Fairness Act, and a bill authorizing special pay for federal board certified health scientists.

This past November, Congress passed two AVMA priorities—the Animal Drug User Fee Act and National Veterinary Medical Service Act. President Bush signed ADUFA into law Nov. 18, 2003 (see JAVMA, Dec. 15, 2003, page 1711), whereas the veterinary service bill was awaiting the president's signature at press time in December (see page 10).

The MUMS bill would provide incentives for drug companies to develop and seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration for drugs to treat uncommon animal disease conditions in major animal species and to treat conditions in minor species for which therapies are currently unavailable.

The legislation would alleviate the shortage of approved animal drugs while maintaining and ensuring the protection of public health. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama introduced S. 741, which has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Representative Chip Pickering of Mississippi has introduced H.R. 2079, which has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Small Business Health Fairness Act would override state regulations and restrictions that prevent associations from offering health care coverage to their members' employees.

This legislation would provide associations like the AVMA the ability to negotiate lower premiums for group health care coverage for members and their employees, passing the savings along to business owners, and increasing the number of Americans who can afford quality health care.

The House passed H.R. 660, introduced by Rep. Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky, on June 19, 2003. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine introduced S.545, which has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu introduced S. 953, which grants specialty pay to federal employees who hold board certification in positions related to veterinary medicine, dentistry, human medicine, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, and optometry.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and is awaiting action by that committee.