Senator continues to push for personnel reform

Carrying out a promise he made in December, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, introduced legislation earlier this month calling for more personnel reforms in the federal workforce.

On Jan. 9, Voinovich introduced the "Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2003" (S. 129), a bill that includes many of the personnel flexibilities the senator was unable to shepherd through Congress last year. Voinovich is chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia.

The legislation will focus on expanding the use of pilot projects that experiment with paybanding, performance bonuses and other changes to the traditional General Schedule pay scale. This measure fits closely with a proposal by the Bush administration to create a $500 million Human Capital Performance Fund, and reiterates a pledge by House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., to pursue civil service reforms this year.

Other provisions of the Voinovich bill include linking training activities with performance plans and revising recruitment, retention and relocation bonus rules. The bill would reform the annual leave policy to allow agencies to count an equal number of years of prior professional service as federal service for the purposes of leave accrual and allow all senior-level employees to accrue eight hours per biweekly pay period. Currently, employees with fewer than three years of federal work experience accrue four vacation hours each pay period. Federal employees must work for the government for 15 or more years before they can accrue eight vacation hours per pay period.

The bill would also include streamlined critical pay authority for agencies, enabling them to use higher salaries to attract employees needed for hard-to-fill positions in the federal government.

Voinovich has pushed for more comprehensive reform of civil service rules, but federal unions and other groups have opposed major changes to the federal pay system, performance appraisal process and workplace dispute resolution process. The senator was able to get changes that affect how agencies hire employees, manage human resources, pay buyouts, cover employees' higher education costs and review the performance of senior executives into legislation creating the Homeland Security Department.

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