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Public Statements

Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his work in helping to bring this bill to the floor today.

I especially want to thank the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Elijah Cummings, who introduced the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 in the House, and to thank Senator Daniel Akaka, who introduced the bill in the Senate.

I want to especially thank Chairman Darrell Issa, who held very productive and revealing hearings on the Hatch Act during this session, without which this bill could not have come to the floor today.

And I thank our friends in the Senate, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins, who had their own hearings to modernize the Hatch Act, and who supported the provisions of this bill that pertain to the District of Columbia only.

The Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 contains two of our longtime priority bills for the district--the District of Columbia Hatch Act Reform Act and the Hatch Act National Capital Region Parity Act--giving D.C. full equality under the Federal Hatch Act.

Our first bill, the District of Columbia Hatch Act Reform Act, which is included in this bill, passed the House in the last Congress but stalled in the Senate. I have been fighting for the bill for most of my term of service in the Congress.

The D.C. Hatch Act Reform Act eliminates discriminatory treatment of the District of Columbia, which, alone among U.S. jurisdictions, still falls under the Federal Hatch Act, as it did before Congress made the District an independent jurisdiction in 1973 able to enact its own local laws.

My provision retains Federal Hatch Act authority concerning prohibited partisan and political activity that applies to every locality upon receipt of Federal funds or functions, and requires the District to enact its own local Hatch Act barring similar local violations. And I'm pleased to say that the District has already done that and is waiting only for passage of this bill and for signing by the President.

Hatch Act violations in the District are rare, but the District needs to be able to enforce its own Hatch Act to be fully accountable and responsible for local violations, with which only a local objective body would be familiar.

The present treatment of District employees under the Hatch Act, as if these employees of a local government were employees of a Federal agency, has led to confusion for the Office of Special Counsel, or OSC, which enforces the Hatch Act.

In a recent case, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, elected by the people of the District of Columbia, was cited for violations of the Hatch Act when he ran for higher office, even though these commissioners are elected officials under local D.C. law.

Or to cite another absurdity, the District of Columbia will have its first election for a partisan attorney general in 2014. Under current law, the winner of that election would be treated as if he were a Federal employee. That would mean that the person who won the office of attorney general for the District of Columbia would have to resign that office in order to seek reelection in 2018. And this is not what the Federal Hatch Act, let alone a local Hatch Act, would have intended.

As a result of the failure to clear up the confusion between local and Federal jurisdictions, the application of the Hatch Act to D.C. government employees has been inconsistent by the OSC. The present law leaves the OSC with local responsibility when Federal jurisdiction is not indicated. This fix, therefore, is long overdue.

Our second bill, the Hatch Act National Capital Region Parity Act, allows OPM to permit Federal employees who reside in the District to run as independent candidates in local partisan elections. Under the Hatch Act, Federal employees generally may not be candidates in partisan elections.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.

Mr. CLAY. I yield an additional minute to the gentlewoman.

Ms. NORTON. In the 1940s, Congress gave OPM the authority to exempt Federal employees living in towns in Maryland, Virginia, and the immediate vicinity of the District from the Hatch Act's prohibition on Federal employees running in partisan elections, so that towns with a high concentration of Federal employees would not be deprived by having a significant percentage of their residents unable to participate in local affairs.

However, OPM was not given the authority to exempt Federal employees living in D.C. because the city did not have local elections before the Home Rule Act of 1973. The Hatch Act Modernization Act includes these two bills and brings the District one step closer to equal treatment and self-government, and implements these and other commonsense revisions to the Hatch Act.

I applaud the chairman and the ranking member for the entire Act, and I thank them very much that our bills are included.

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