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Senate committee backs Hatch Act update

Measure would ease restrictions on state and local workers, offer more disciplinary options.

A Senate committee on Wednesday agreed in principle to the first update to the Hatch Act in nearly 20 years, proposing to allow state and local officials to run for political office.


The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will officially report the bill to the full Senate -- which will likely move to approve the update -- after the next roll call vote, expected to occur Wednesday evening.

The committee amended the 2012 Hatch Act Modernization Act to ensure state and municipal employees whose salaries come entirely from federal funds remain prohibited from seeking elected office. The bill also would expand the options for penalizing federal employees who violate the law. As it currently stands, these employees face immediate termination.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, originally introduced the bill in March. Two versions of the measure -- one with bipartisan support and another with only Republicans on board -- await action in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“This legislation marks a good step…toward addressing outdated and unclear Hatch Act provisions that have unduly restrained the political activities of federal employees and some state and local government workers,” said Beth Moten, legislative and political director for the American Federation of Government Employees.