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House panel approves telework, drug oversight bills

Mar. 24, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is one of the sponsors of the Telework Improvements Act, which would allow agencies to deny telework to certain employees, such as anyone who must have daily access to classified information, must meet face-to-face with the public or co-workers, uses special equipment at the workplace, is needed for emergencies or requires additional training.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is one of the sponsors of the Telework Improvements Act, which would allow agencies to deny telework to certain employees, such as anyone who must have daily access to classified information, must meet face-to-face with the public or co-workers, uses special equipment at the workplace, is needed for emergencies or requires additional training. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

A House subcommittee today approved a bill that would require agencies to allow eligible employees to telework at least 20 percent of the time.

HR 1722, which was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service and District of Columbia, would order agencies to create policies allowing employees to telework as much as possible without hurting their performance or agency operations.

The Telework Improvements Act, sponsored by Reps. John Sarbanes, D-Md., Frank Wolf, R-Va., Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and James Moran, D-Va., would allow agencies to deny telework to certain employees, such as anyone who must have daily access to classified information, must meet face-to-face with the public or co-workers, uses special equipment at the workplace, is needed for emergencies or requires additional training.

An amendment Connolly attached to the bill would require agencies to set up continuity-of-operations plans that rely on telework, flexible scheduling, technology, or private- and public-sector partnerships to keep functioning during an emergency.

The Office of Personnel Management said about 102,900 employees nationwide teleworked at least some of the time in fiscal 2009. OPM wants to increase that number to more than 154,000 by the end of fiscal 2011.

The subcommittee also approved HR 4489, which would give OPM more oversight of companies that negotiate prescription drug prices for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The FEHBP Prescription Drug Integrity, Transparency and Cost Savings Act would require pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, to return to the government 99 percent of all rebates, market share incentives and other savings they receive from manufacturers for federal employees' drugs.

The bill would also prevent PBMs from switching federal employees' prescription drugs to more expensive alternatives without their physicians' prior approval.

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