House debates telework legislation

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., introduced the measure. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., introduced the measure. Newscom
CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated that the House passed the telework bill Wednesday. It did not. Government Executive regrets the error.

The House on Wednesday debated a bill to give a governmentwide telework policy the Office of Personnel Management announced last year the strength of law.

The 2009 Telework Improvements Act (H.R. 1722), introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., would require agencies to allow telework-eligible employees to work from a remote location at least 20 percent of the time and mandate more training for managers and supervisors on handling employees working from outside the office.

A provision of the bill would require agencies to include telework and flexible scheduling in emergency plans.

In a floor statement on the bill, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who offered the continuity of operations language as an amendment during a markup, said the legislation is extraordinarily important because it addresses five critical policy goals: decreased dependence on foreign oil, reduced traffic congestion, better air quality, improvement in federal recruitment and retention, and stronger strategies for getting work done during emergencies.

"Although OPM's telework initiatives are already making a positive difference, it is clear that we need a statutory framework so that this OPM policy is not undone or ignored by future administrations," Connolly said.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., also spoke on the floor in support of the legislation.

"The federal government should be leading the way in developing an e-workforce and enhancing the use of the technologies of the 21st century to seamlessly link employees and employers," Wolf said.

He singled out the provision of the bill that would require each agency to name a telework managing officer.

"The designation of a senior employee at each agency as a telework managing officer responsible for implementing the bill's requirements is a key provision to allow eligible employees to telework to the maximum extent possible," Wolf said.

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