New at BEA: ABA Legislative Day

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With the return of the American Booksellers Association's convention and the book industry trade show to Washington, D.C., for the first time in 17 years, ABA is making the most of the event by offering its first-ever Legislative Day. The program, to be held on Wednesday, May 17, at the Doubletree Crystal City and on Capitol Hill, was created as a way to brief booksellers about current public policy issues affecting the book industry and to provide them with the opportunity to meet with their senators and representatives. This year's BookExpo America trade show and ABA educational programming will be held from Thursday, May 18, to Sunday, May 21, at the Washington Convention Center.

The Legislative Day program kicks off at noon on Wednesday with "Washington & Books: Welcome Lunch," featuring brief comments by ABA President Mitchell Kaplan of Miami's Books & Books and remarks by Robert Barnett, senior partner at Williams & Connolly LLP, one of the most prestigious and well-known Washington law firms, whose diverse practice encompasses matters of particular interest to the book community. Barnett is one of the premier authors' representatives in the world. His clients have included Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bob Woodward, Lynne Cheney, Karen Hughes, James Patterson, Katharine Graham, Ari Fleischer, Tim Russert, Stephen White, Barack Obama, George Will, Art Buchwald, James Carville, Mary Matalin, William Bennett, Howard Dean, Cokie Roberts, several former U.S. secretaries of state, numerous U.S. senators, Queen Noor of Jordan, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Alan Greenspan, and many others.

From 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. will be "Legislative Briefings." Attendees will hear three half-hour updates on a number of issues. First will be "2006 Retail Issues in the Congress and the Administration," a review of current legislative issues of interest to booksellers, including he fight for sales tax equity; proposals to enhance small business access to health insurance; literacy initiatives; sales tax holidays; credit and debit card interchange fees; Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines; and more.

At 2:00 p.m. will be the session "First Amendment/Free Expression Issues," featuring John B. Morris, Jr. of the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) in Washington, D.C., and Christopher Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE). Morris is the director of CDT's "Internet Standards, Technology, and Policy Project." Prior to joining CDT in April 2001, Morris was a partner in the law firm of Jenner & Block, where he litigated groundbreaking cases in Internet and First Amendment law and represented the American Booksellers Association on antitrust matters. He was a lead counsel in the ACLU v. Reno / American Library Association v. U.S. Department of Justice case, in which the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and which extended to speech on the Internet the highest level of constitutional protection.

At 2:30 p.m. will be "The Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy," featuring Thomas M. Sullivan, the U.S. Small Business Administration's chief counsel for advocacy. Nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Sullivan is charged with independently advancing the views, concerns, and interests of small business before Congress, the White House, federal regulatory bodies, and state policy makers. The Office of Advocacy was created in 1976 to serve as the watchdog for small businesses within the federal government. Last year, the office helped save America's small businesses over $17 billion that they would have spent attempting to comply with federal regulations. Named by Fortune Small Business magazine as one of the "Power 30 most influential folks in Washington" in September 2000, he was described as "an affable lawyer ... respected by regulators for his well-researched positions on issues affecting small business."

Following the legislative updates will be the 15-minute "Tips on Visiting Congressional Offices," and at 3:30 p.m., buses will depart for Capitol Hill for congressional visits from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Booksellers who would like to participate must RSVP to ABA by May 1, in order for the association to be able to attempt to set up appointments with congressional members and appropriate legislative staff, as well as to properly prepare for lunch. To RSVP, contact Margaret Petrie at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6614 or via e-mail at margaret@bookweb.org. (Please put "Legislative Day" in the subject line of the e-mail.)

From 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. will be the "Congressional Reception" (location on Capitol Hill TBD), honoring Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for his efforts on behalf of Reader Privacy. All members of Congress from the states and districts of attending booksellers will be invited.

Additional information about BookExpo America and ABA's educational programming and special events is available at http://www.bookweb.org/aba/convention/.