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Senator: Feds welcome in Orlando, Las Vegas

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Sen. Bill Nelson isn’t happy that some federal agencies are shying away from booking conventions and training sessions in resort cities such as Orlando and Las Vegas.

After media reports that some federal agencies had formal or informal policies to avoid scheduling conferences in resort areas because of image concerns, Nelson, D-Fla., took to the Senate floor Monday to defend his state’s reputation.

When you compare the cost of a hotel room in Orlando during the season with the cost of a hotel room, let’s say, in Washington, D.C., during the season, you will find that the Orlando hotels on average are $100 less per night than the other city in that comparison. Likewise, if you look at the cost of airfare as a destination, you will find that the round-trip airfare to a place such as Orlando is considerably less.”

Nelson said he plans to introduce legislation soon to prevent agencies from banning travel to resort cities and expects other senators to co-sponsor the bill, including Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.

I wish it hadn’t come to this, but I have had to draft legislation to make it illegal for the federal government agencies to design travel policies that blacklist certain U.S. cities simply because they are looked at as destination cities for a lot of tourism … It is one thing to avoid nonessential trips for the government to save taxpayers money, but it is taking it a little far when it is another thing that if it is legitimate travel and you then avoid certain cities just because they are where they are.”

The bill is likely to enjoy support in the Senate, with Nevada being home to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid wrote a letter in June to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asking for clarifications on explicit or implicit federal policies prohibiting federal gatherings in his tourism-dependent state, including in the city of Las Vegas.

In his written response, Emanuel said there is no federal policy dictating where conferences can be held. Some agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and Agriculture Department, have travel policies stating that the use of resort areas is to be minimized and to be used only if it is the most economical option.

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