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Bills take aim at bonuses, SES members

Jul. 23, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

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A House committee is scheduled to take up legislation Wednesday that would limit federal employee bonuses, make it easier to suspend or fire career Senior Executive Service members, and require the Office of Management and Budget to set governmentwide standards for responding to citizen phone calls and emails. Also on the panel’s agenda is a bill that aims to loosen restrictions on taping conversations with most federal officials and legislation to pull the U.S. Postal Service out of a financial hole.

“These are all common-sense government reforms,” Ali Ahmad, a spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committees, said in an email.

Most of the measures are long shots for final passage, however, and some are drawing protests from federal workers groups.

In a news release, Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., said her taping bill would provide “a new tool” for citizens seeking to protect themselves from overbearing government officials. But Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the legislation would “create severe administrative and cost burdens” because of the requirement to decide in advance whether the conversation met the criteria for taping.

The Senior Executives Association is fighting the proposal by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., to allow agency chiefs to put career SES members suspected of misconduct on unpaid “investigative leave” and eventually to fire them.

If the measure becomes law, the Obama administration could stop employees under investigation “from receiving salaries paid for by the very public whose trust they abused,” Kelly said in a news release. Kelly, who sponsored similar legislation last year, drafted it after learning that the General Services Administration could not revoke the salary of the senior official who organized the heavily criticized $823,000 2010 Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas.

Senior Executives Association leaders argue that the measure would let politically appointed agency heads fire career SES members without proof of guilt in response to media pressure. Agencies already have the tools to deal with problem employees and “they use them,” SEA President Carol Bonosaro wrote in a Tuesday letter to oversight committee leaders.

The “Common Sense in Compensation Act” by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., would bar agencies from issuing any more employee bonuses for the rest of fiscal 2013 and then cap them at 5 percent of salary through 2015. “The federal government has no business handing out millions in bonuses to senior-level staff while beginning to furlough other employees,” Meadows said in a statement.

To the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the bill would hurt agencies’ ability to recruit and hold on to “the highest caliber law enforcement personnel,” Frank Terreri, the group’s national vice president for legislative affairs, said in a separate letter to the committee.

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