The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), recently considered and approved a measure that would require annual reporting of official time usage.
H.R. 4392, a bill introduced by Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL), would require a detailed annual report to Congress from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on agencies’ use of official time. OPM is not required by law to produce a report on official time, though the agency does issue such reports from time to time. The Ross bill would require each agency, and subcomponent, to annually report the total amount of official time granted, the total number of employees provided with official time, as well as the specific types of activities and purpose for which the official time was provided, and the resulting impact on agency operations. Additionally, the bill would require agencies to report the total compensation (employee salary and benefits) expended for any official time hours granted. The bill does not require the reporting of individual names of employees on official time.
During the committee’s consideration of H.R. 4392, Representative Jody Hice (R-GA) introduced a substitute measure that would require the report to include a thorough description of the room or space used for official time activities at agencies, including the exact square footage. The Hice amended bill was favorably reported out of committee on a party-line vote on March 1. While this official time legislation would not eliminate or place actual limits or restrictions on official time, NTEU opposes these types of legislative attempts which are the first step in an overall anti-labor agenda to eliminate official time.
Chairman Chaffetz recently sent letters to a significant number of agencies, including several NTEU-represented agencies, asking numerous questions about their use of official time in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The letters specifically instructed agencies to provide the names of all individuals on official time, their positions, grades, duty stations, salaries, and whether or not they were on official time 100% of the time. The letters also requested the square footage of the space provided at agencies for these activities. NTEU-represented agencies that received these letters include the:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Interior
- Department of Treasury
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission
- Securities and Exchange Commission
NTEU members on official time are engaged in lawfully-provided and recognized labor duties, and should not be treated in any unfair or special manner, and should not be subject to any type of harassment whatsoever. NTEU has been working to ensure that our names are kept private, and the committee has informed NTEU that it has no plans to make our names public.
I will keep you updated on this matter, and NTEU will continue its efforts to defeat any legislative attempt to eliminate or restrict official time.
Meanwhile, please contact your members of Congress on your own time and personal device or computer to let them know what you think of their proposals.