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ASTA’s Third Legislative Summit Comes to Successful Close

(Forimmediaterelease.net) Alexandria, Va., June 19, 2007— On June 12, ASTA held its third Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., which brought together close to 60 of ASTA's politically minded members and key government officials from such government entities as the Departments of State, Transportation and Homeland Security for the purpose of sharing critical information and opening a dialogue with the travel agent community. Participants had a chance to learn about many up-to-the-moment travel issues, such as the latest passport regulation changes and had the chance to engage in Q-and-A sessions such as the one held with Ann Barrett, deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services with the Department of State.

“I feel it is a must to attend the Legislative Day Summit on Capitol Hill. We heard directly from Congress, major industry leaders, the Department of Transportation, Congress and Passport Services. What an opportunity to get the latest information on industry affairs, where people stand, what they are doing in Washington and at the state level regarding the travel industry,” said Bill Coyle, president, Encompass the World Travel (Parma, Ohio) and treasurer of the Mid-America chapter. “I saw first-hand how hard ASTA is working for us. It helps me realize we are not alone, and we have a voice on the Hill and in capitals across the country. ASTA is working for us and attending Legislative Day proves it.”

Among the speakers were Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who sits on the House Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. In his remarks, DeFazio provided insight on the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as general aviation consumer issues including a potential increase in passenger facility charges.

DeFazio stressed the importance of political activism, noting that the decisions made every day in Washington “are going to affect you, whether personally or professionally. People need to be educated about the issues and relate their concerns to their representatives.”

John Satagaj, president and general counsel, Small Business Legislative Council and co-chair, Coalition for Fairness in Tax Compliance, urged those in attendance to make sure they were in compliance with respect to independent contractors. “The IRS is coming back to its audit efforts on businesses utilizing independent contractors,” he said, adding that the industry can expect Congress to consider an increase in third-reporting of income information. With regard to the issue of affordable health care options for small businesses, he noted that there is little incentive for the current administration and Congress to deal with the subject and that “we will see action in the healthcare arena when we have unacceptable number of uninsured Americans.”

With respect to Secure Flight, the program has progressed with an emphasis on security and privacy, said Paul Leyh, deputy director for Secure Flight and transportation threat assessment and credentialing, Department of Homeland Security. Leyh updated the audience that the passenger information requirements for airline carriers will be coming soon.

Keynote speaker Andrew Steinberg, assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs, Department of Transportation, spoke on the topics of airline consolidation, customer service and open skies agreements. In his remarks, he noted that “we can predict the U.S. aviation system will be gridlocked in seven to eight years unless we reform our air traffic control system.”

In a panel discussion with Keith Strama, with the Austin, Texas, law firm of Beatty, Bangle&Strama, and Steve DiMasi, vice president of government relations, FedState Strategic Consulting, Inc. those in attendance were brought up to date on critical state tax issues that could negatively and severely impact the travel agency industry. Strama, who was retained by ASTA and its Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) to seek tax relief from HB 3, a new Texas gross receipts tax law, was there to recount the story of ASTA’s recent success in obtaining a provision in HB 3928, a technical corrections bill that amends HB 3, that will allow travel agents to exclude “flow-through” funds from reported gross revenue for state income tax purposes if the travel agent also excludes such funds when reporting federal taxes.

The event was held at the Jones Day Law Offices in Washington, D.C.

The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. ASTA seeks a retail travel marketplace that is profitable and growing and a rewarding field in which to work, invest and do business.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kristina Rundquist/Ayanna Canty 703-739-8710

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