Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, offered two amendments on official time last week to the annual defense policy-setting bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). While much of this bill addresses Department of Defense-specific issues, this measure is used at times to carry government-wide federal personnel provisions.
One of the Johnson amendments would require an annual report from the Office of Personnel Management on agencies’ use of official time—it mirrors H.R. 1293, a bill introduced by Representative Dennis Ross (FL-15) that has passed the House and which has been reported out favorably by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The second amendment seeks to substantially limit official time—primarily by not providing retirement credit to individuals who spend more than 80% of their regular work hours on official time, and by prohibiting recruitment, retention, and relocation awards for these individuals. This amendment is based upon H.R.1364, Representative Jody Hice’s (GA-10) bill that has been favorably reported out of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, but has not advanced any further.
Although the vast majority of amendments filed to the NDAA are not in fact considered, given the Senate’s floor process, NTEU National President Tony Reardon sent a letter to all Senators in opposition of any effort to limit or restrict official time which I shared with you last week. I am pleased to report that yesterday, the Senate voted to pass the NDAA without the official time amendments sponsored by Senator Johnson included.
As you know, while NTEU opposes any congressional action on official time, our main priority is blocking language that penalizes individual employees—including their retirement benefits and other compensation—for having agreed to serve on allowable official time. NTEU has worked extensively with both House and Senate partners to educate them on the benefits of official time.
I will keep you posted on any further efforts to target official time and our continued ability to perform our member representation duties as a labor organization.