House charts pay and benefits changes

A host of federal employees' pay and benefits proposals would be combined into a one-shot legislative package under a plan a House subcommittee is drafting.

More overtime pay for managers, higher Thrift Savings Plan investments and revisions to reduction-in-force rules are among the changes to federal pay and benefits the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's Civil Service Subcommittee is considering.

"There are a lot of goodies in this little bag," subcommittee staffer Ned Lynch said of the plan, which is in the drafting stage. "Now everyone gets a chance to look at what's on the table."

The subcommittee has drafted a discussion paper outlining more than three dozen changes, some affecting all federal employees, others that would apply to only a handful. The subcommittee plans to hold a hearing on the proposals next week. Eventually, they will be turned into a formal bill tentatively titled the Federal Employees Integrity, Performance and Compensation Improvement Act.

"This bill is going to be designed to pass," Lynch said. "If we don't get good support for certain elements, those elements will fall by the wayside."

Many of the proposals have already been introduced under separate bills. The subcommittee's plan would put them all together in a single legislative package.

Proposals include:

  • Allow federal employees to invest in the Thrift Savings Plan up to the annual IRS limit, which is $10,000 this year. Current rules limit TSP investments to five percent of pay for Civil Service Retirement System employees and 10 percent of pay for Federal Employees Retirement System employees.
  • Permit new employees to begin TSP participation immediately and allow them to roll over private-sector 401(k) accounts into the TSP.
  • Raise the overtime pay cap for supervisors and other professionals from GS-10, Step 1 to GS-15, Step 1.
  • Give employees with higher performance ratings greater protection from RIFs.
  • Prohibit people with drug convictions from working for the federal government.
  • Allow managers to deny automatic within-grade increases to employees. Remove the right of employees to protest denials of within-grade increases to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
  • Prohibit pass-fail performance evaluation systems.
  • Give managers the ability to fire poor performers after one failed performance improvement program.
  • Require formal procedures for disciplinary measures imposed on managers following appeals of agency decisions.
  • Allow agencies to conduct a total of 15 personnel demonstration projects, with no limit on the number of employees per demonstration. Current law permits 10 demonstration projects at a time with no more than 5,000 employees per project.
  • Prevent political appointees from seeking career positions until a change in administration.
  • Require federal courts to hear appeals of Merit Systems Protection Board cases. The Office of Personnel Management requested the change to current rules.
  • Create a special 401(k) plan for political appointees and congressional staff who move between the public and private sectors frequently.
"There are a number of provisions in here that will be good for federal managers," said Mark Gable, legislative director for the Federal Managers Association, singling out the overtime provision and the TSP changes for praise. Gable said he is reserving final judgment on the proposals until they are officially introduced.

"You wouldn't buy land in Florida after looking at a brochure. You would want to see the land," Gable said.

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