Yesterday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) considered and favorably reported out a House-passed bill, H.R. 1293, introduced by Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL-15) to require an annual report from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on agencies’ use of official time, and S. 873, the bipartisan TSP Modernization Act of 2017, introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE), to provide flexibility in making withdrawals from the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
H.R 1293 creates new burdens and work for federal agencies by mandating various reporting requirements on official time including that the OPM-issue annual report include a detailed description of the various activities, purposes, and outcomes granted for official time hours, the total compensation (salary plus benefits) for employees on official time, and a description and specific size of the union office space at agencies. This bill passed the House of Representatives in May of this year.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) filed several amendments to the bill that would have limited the ability of individuals to use official time, and to be on official time 100% of the time, as well as imposing additional burdensome reporting requirements to include employee training and associated travel costs. However, these amendments were not offered, and the bill passed out of committee by voice vote. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked to be recorded as voting no on the bill. Senator Hassan then spoke in defense of official time and highlighted positive benefits she has witnessed when labor and management work together. NTEU worked to ensure that all committee members were aware of our strong opposition to these amendments, resulting in them not being considered.
As you know, NTEU opposes any attempt to limit or restrict official time; however, our main priority this Congress has been blocking legislation that eliminates or places limits on official time, and that penalizes individual employees for having agreed to serve on allowable official time. NTEU has worked with our allies in the House and Senate, to keep such legislation from advancing further, and from being enacted into law.
The NTEU-supported TSP Modernization Act would loosen restrictions on how federal employees and retirees can withdraw money from the TSP. A companion bill, H.R. 3031, was introduced in the House by Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Mark Meadows (R-NC) and was favorably reported by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week. NTEU has heard from many members over the years about the stringent withdrawal rules of the TSP, and the desire for additional payment and withdrawal options. In its role on the TSP’s Employee Thrift Advisory Council, NTEU has consistently raised the issue, and pushed strongly for this legislation. NTEU will press Congress to have this legislation enacted swiftly.
I will keep you updated on the progress of both of these bills moving forward.