Legislation that feds should be watching

The new Congress and presidential administration has brought a wave of legislation that would affect federal government employees. Here is a list of some of the most relevant bills under consideration as well as their current status in becoming law.

H.R. 899 — To Terminate the Department of Education

Summary: Proposed by Rep. Kyle Massie (R-KY), this bill would eliminate the Department of Education on Dec. 31, 2018.

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

H.R. 861 — To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency

Summary: Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), this bill would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 31, 2018.

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

H.R. 559 — Modern Employment Reform Improvement and Transformation Act (or “MERIT” Act)

Summary: Proposed by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), the MERIT Act would empower agency heads to fire federal employees for misconduct or performance-related reasons. Employees must be given written notice one to three weeks in advance of being terminated, with specific reasons listed for the action and a final date of employment. Affected employees would have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which will either uphold or reverse the decision based on whether there is “substantial evidence” to support the firing.

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

H.R. 6278 — Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act (or “PAGE” Act)

Summary: Proposed by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), the PAGE Act would change the employment of all future hires by the federal government to “at-will” status, meaning they may be suspended or fired without notice or appeal “for good cause, bad cause [or] no cause at all.” It prohibits all but the most highly-rated federal employees from receiving a pay raise, limits the avenues of appeal and specifies that a grievance filed by a union which results in a higher rating will not result in a pay raise. The bill also prevents federal employees from using official time to conduct any business related to union activities.

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

H.R. 757 — Federal Adjustment of Income Rates Act (or “FAIR” Act)

Summary: Proposed by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the FAIR Act would establish two separate increases in basic pay for all federal employees totaling 3.2 percent for calendar and fiscal year 2018. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) has introduced a version of this bill in the Senate as well.

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

H.R. 295 — Rebalance for an Effective Defense Uniformed and Civilian Employees Act (or “REDUCE” Act)

Summary: Proposed by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), the REDUCE Act would limit employment at the Department of Defense to 85 percent of its 2018 workforce for the fiscal years 2024-2028. It empowers the Secretary of Defense to authorize severance and voluntary early retirement payments to achieve the necessary force reductions, as well as involuntary dismissals in the event that voluntary departures are not sufficient. The bill also requires the Government Accountability Office to submit a progress report to Congress within three years of the bill’s enactment.

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services

H.R. 27 — Ensuring VA Accountability Act

Summary: Proposed by Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), this bill would amend U.S. law to ensure that any employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs who receives a reprimand or admonishment be entered into that employees permanent record.

Status: Passed the House; referred to Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

S.272 — Strengthening American Transportation Security Act

Summary: Proposed by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), this bill would restore workplace protections to TSA employees under Title 5 of the U.S. Code governing federal employees. It would place TSA employees under the General Services wage system, including rules governing overtime, performance appraisals, employment discrimination and earned leave. It would also place employees under the Fair Labor Standards act.

Status: Referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

Derek Johnson is a freelance writer with a Master's degree in public policy. His other work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Reader comments

Tue, Mar 7, 2017

So who's to protect the federal workers from just not being liked well enough? If you get rid of our protections and make us "at will" then some jerk supervisor can come in and get rid of us and hire their buddy. That's not fair or right. I guarantee it will happen if our protections are removed. Poor supervisors just want "yes" people because they are threatened by those who know better. Yes, some employees need to be removed, but you can fire an employee if you really want to by documenting poor behavior/performance, etc. Most supervisors won't go through the hassle because they are lazy or non-confrontational, so instead of training supervisors to be more effective they want to relax the regulations. If someone gets a "slap on the wrist" it's because that's what the leadership wants. Making federal workers easier to fire won't change weak or inappropriate punishments, that's a leadership issue. I have 10 years left and can't retire fast enough.

Thu, Feb 23, 2017

Shut down the Dept of Ed? Yes!! We can't stand additional erosion in US educational standards, especially in the disastrous inner cities. We pay top dollar there for awful results. Recall that Obama killed the DC voucher program right off the bat; did anyone bother to ask the impacted parents about their experience in going back to public ed after a taste of the private schools Obama's daughters attend? Nope.

Tue, Feb 21, 2017

So basically , the government is going to be ran like a private company. Money saved on expenses will be seen as a type of overhead it seems.

Tue, Feb 21, 2017 Oklahoma

HR 899, Could the States handle overseeing Education Standards and paying for it? Doubtful. What would happen to educational grants to the folks that need it the most? HR 861, Eliminating the EPA is just a bad idea. This legislation sounds like it will aid in lining the pockets of interested legislators & their special interest groups while disregarding industry bad practices that harm the environment, communities, cultures & is against the will of the population. HR 6278, This sounds bad. Who wants to be an "At-Will" employee? They already require the SESers to sign their resignation letter when they take their positions. Now, it sounds like the Congress wants the ability to do away with any Fed empl for nothing. HR 559, This seems redundant and a waste of time to me. HR 757 sounds good, but I doubt our total annual raise will be any higher than it is now. HR 295 is bad. The DOD downsizing by attrition has already been implemented several times. Employees are experiencing high workloads with less assistance and low pay. HR 27 is a good thing. VA needs the accountability requirement. S 272 sounds good for hard-working TSA employees.

Tue, Feb 21, 2017 Hinterlands

Watch what is happening in Iowa as a take-away for what is next for anyone who works for the government. Takeover of the legislature and governorship by Republicans has resulted in loss of health insurance, collective bargaining rights, and a few more choice ways of screwing the lower level people. In addition, after doing this to peons, despite a budget shortfall of over $100 million, they then turn around and try for a tax cut for the wealthiest Iowans of over $150 million. Where do you suppose the money will come from? How long will people continue to vote for those that take from them and give to rich folks?

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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