Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's (D-DC) District of Columbia Hatch Act Reform Act and her Hatch Act National Capital Region Parity Act passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday as part of the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (S. 2170), eliminating pre-home-rule barriers to full self-government and equality for D.C. residents. The D.C. Hatch Act Reform Act removes the District from the federal Hatch Act and allows the city's public employees to be governed by a local Hatch Act, which the D.C. Council has already enacted. D.C. is the only local jurisdiction under the federal Hatch Act. The application of the federal Hatch Act to local D.C. employees and officials has led to inconsistent results and has confused federal authorities, who are often unfamiliar with local circumstances.
The Hatch Act National Capital Region Parity Act allows the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to exempt federal employees who reside in the District from the Hatch Act's prohibition on federal employees running in local partisan elections. In the 1940s, Congress gave OPM the authority to exempt federal employee in towns in Maryland and Virginia and in the immediate vicinity of D.C. from the prohibition, so that towns with high concentrations of federal employees would not be deprived of having a large percentage of their residents from participating in local affairs. OPM was not given authority to exempt federal employees in D.C., despite having one of the highest concentrations of federal employees in the country, because D.C. did not have local elections before the Home Rule Act of 1973. Currently, OPM has designated 47 Maryland and 17 Virginia jurisdictions where federal employees may run as independent candidates in local partisan elections.
"The Senate bill takes another historic step in providing self-government and equal treatment for D.C.," Norton said. Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) have not only led their committee in providing self-government for D.C. under the Hatch Act, but they have put our federal employees on par with others in the region when it comes to participating in local affairs. Considering their work together on matters such as my two Hatch Act bills and D.C. budget autonomy, Chairman Lieberman and Ranking Member Collins have shown that respect for equal citizenship and home rule are inherently bipartisan notions for those who will reach for them."
Last Congress, the D.C. Hatch Act Reform Act passed the House and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee before being stopped in the Senate by an anonymous hold.