The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) today issued a proposed rule to implement Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's (D-DC) recently enacted Hatch Act National Capital Region Parity Act, which, for the first time, authorizes OPM to permit federal employees who live in the District of Columbia to run for partisan political office in local D.C. elections as independents. A 60-day notice and comment period is required for the proposed rule. While federal employees are generally prohibited from running in partisan elections, federal employees who live in 75 cities and towns of nearby Maryland and Virginia have long had the right to run for partisan local offices as independents. The reason for this exception to the federal Hatch Act is to avoid limiting citizen participation in local government in jurisdictions with large numbers of federal employees. In the 1940s, when Congress first gave OPM the authority to designate towns in Maryland and Virginia where federal employees could run for office, D.C. did not have local elections or self-government.
"OPM's proposed rule today marks another step toward expanded equality for D.C. residents," Norton said. "This city, which has the largest number of federal employees in the region, fully qualifies for this exemption for our federal employees. Our new legislation gives federal employees here the same rights as federal employees in the region, and it gives the District the maximum pool of residents to participate in local government, which regional governments have long enjoyed."
Norton discovered that federal employees who live in the District did not have the same rights as their counterparts in the region when she was working on her bill to ensure that District government employees would no longer be treated as if they were federal employees under the federal Hatch Act. That bill, the D.C. Hatch Act Reform Act, and Norton's Hatch Act National Capital Region Parity Act were both included in a larger Hatch Act reform bill signed into law last year. D.C. government employees are now subject to a local Hatch Act, adopted by the D.C. Council in anticipation of passage of Norton's bill.