While the nation’s attention has been focused on economic turmoil and the bailout bill, Congress has also been dealing with items affecting business travel and the hospitality/meetings industry.

Late last month the House of Representatives passed the Travel Promotion Act. This legislation provides for the creation of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, which will promote international travel to the U.S. through advertising, outreach to trade shows, and other promotions. Efforts would be paid for via the creation of a Travel Promotion Fund, initially financed by a $10 fee paid by overseas travelers from Visa Waiver countries. The bill now goes to the Senate where its fate is still uncertain.

Legislation has also been introduced in Congress that will curtail the ability of U.S. Border Patrol agents to search and seize laptops at U.S. borders.

Several court decisions, including one by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, give border patrol agents the right to search laptops without reasonable suspicion. This legislation, introduced by U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), as well as Rep. Adam Smith, (D-Wash.), requires the Department of Homeland Security to have a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity before searching electronic devices carried by U.S. residents. The DHS would also have to provide probable cause and a warrant or court order to hold such a device for more than 24 hours.

“We need to strike the right balance of keeping Americans safe while protecting their right to privacy,” said Cantwell in a statement supporting the proposed legislation. “When it comes to homeland security, this Administration time and time again has exceeded the boundaries of current law behind closed doors, without public input, and without oversight. The search and seizure of computers, cell phones, digital cameras, and other electronic devices of returning U.S. travelers at airports, even where there is no reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, is just the most recent example. This bill establishes reasonable rules of the road under which the government can protect our border, while not violating Americans’ precious constitutional rights.”