Some 250 members from ten meeting industry organizations brought their message to Capitol Hill on Legislative Action Day in March. Spearheaded by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the chief sponsor of the event, the group visited 65 Senate offices and spoke to more than 300 House members and legislative aides during the third annual event. Despite the good turnout, the industry is up against some hurdles in gaining support for its legislative agenda, which calls for bills to:
1) create a national tourism organization (NTO) with a public/private partnership,
2) raise the tax deduction for business meals and entertainment from 50 percent to 80 percent or higher, and
3) level the playing field between music users and music licensing organizations in setting fees.
Representative Toby Roth (R-WI), chairman of the House Tourism Caucus and chief sponsor of H.R. 2597, a bill that would establish a congressionally sanctioned NTO to increase travel into the USA and carry out the other work of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration (USTTA), has announced that he will retire this year. The USTTA permanently shut down on April 15.
The industry is anxious to get Congress going on the legislation while it considers setting up a privately funded interim organization. As Ed Griffin, MPI's executive vice president and CEO, told the staff of John E. Ensign (R-NV), "We've got to get our team back on the field."
Despite the handful of pending bills to boost the business meal write-off, none can be passed as a stand-alone measure, Tom Youngblood, director-government affairs at the American Hotel and Motel Association (AH&MA), candidly told Legislative Action Day delegates. Instead, he advised them to tell Congress not to cut the deduction any further. The reduced write-off is worth at least $3 billion a year in increased tax collections.
The industry's third goal, enactment of the Fairness in Music Licensing Bill, is apparently stymied by Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. MPI's Griffin doesn't think that Senator Hatch will support the industry's legislation.
Al Rickard, vice president-government affairs at the International Association of Conven-
tion and Visitor Bureaus (IACVB) and Neil W. Ostergren, chief operating officer of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI), were joined by Carl Little, vice president of the Salt Lake City Convention & Visitors Bureau; MPI's Griffin; and Bruce Dozier, east coast manager of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority in a meeting with Kristen Iverson, Hatch's legislative director. She urged the industry to keep negotiating with the music licensing groups for better treatment-a strategy that has proven futile, industry lobbyists contended. Iverson responded bluntly, "I don't see any movement on this bill."
At a morning briefing session, MPI political consultant Pamela Sederholm, Griffin, and the AH&MA's Youngblood-with Cody Plott, Hyatt Hotel Corporation's vice president of sales, acting as emcee-walked participants through each legislative issue.