Two decades later, lawmakers move to revise Hatch Act

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., says the bill makes common-sense changes. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., says the bill makes common-sense changes. Alex Brandon/AP

For nearly 20 years the Hatch Act, a law forbidding federal employees from participating in partisan political activity, has gone unchanged. Now a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers is seeking to remedy that.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., introduced legislation Wednesday that would update the law, partly by limiting its jurisdiction over state and local government employees and allowing them to run for partisan elective office. The 2012 Hatch Act Modernization Act -- co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; Carl Levin, D-Mich.; and Mike Lee, R-Utah -- would mark the first change to the law since it was last amended in 1993.

The bill also would give the Merit Systems Protection Board greater flexibility to issue a range of penalties for Hatch Act violators. Currently, the only approved punishment is termination, which can be mitigated to a 30-day suspension by unanimous approval of all three Merit Systems Protection Board members.

“These are common-sense changes that will clarify the law and make it easier to enforce,” said Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “State and local employees, such as police officers, should not be banned from running for public office, and there should be punishments less severe than firing for minor violations.”

The Office of Special Counsel, which handles investigations of Hatch Act violations, recommended similar reforms to Congress in October 2011. OSC praised the legislation’s bipartisan, bicameral support in a release Wednesday.

“We are pleased, very pleased, with what this bill does,” OSC spokeswoman Ann O’Hanlon told Government Executive. “We asked Congress to please take a look at this antiquated law and propose amendments to it, and they have, so we’re delighted.”

OSC’s Hatch Act caseload has more than quintupled during the past decade, from 98 reported violations in 2000 to 526 in 2010, according to O’Hanlon, who said the dispute resolution staff is “completely underwater” with casework. The law in its current form has resulted in instances such as a Pennsylvania police officer in a K-9 unit who was told he couldn’t run for his local school board because he received some funds from the Homeland Security Department for his dog.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.