Bates goes Topside

Sandy Bates, former commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service, has found a new job — with another former FTS commissioner. Bates has joined Topside Consulting, led by Bob Woods.

Omnibus again?

Legislative clauses inserted into large, end-of-session spending bills have long been the bugaboo of lawmakers on authorizing committees who accrue policy expertise they say appropriators lack. And as a result of recent reforms to the House Appropriations Committee — which were not duplicated in the Senate — many observers predict another omnibus later this year, complete with all its attendant possibilities for legislative riders.

"If anything, it'll get worse," said one House source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Messages have already been sent at the staff level to Appropriations [members], pleading with them not to go down this road again."

A Senate Appropriations Committee staffer rejected the notion that appropriators should not tread into authorization territory, however.

"It's a dichotomy that is only unique to the House," he said. "Members of the appropriations committee in the Senate are also authorizers. It's not a real distinction; legislation is legislation."

Weather or not

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is a fan of the Weather Channel's Web site (, but not so hot on the National Weather Service's The senator has introduced a bill that would bar the service from competing with the commercial weather industry.

The bill would reinstate a 1991 policy that said NWS would not distribute products or services that could be provided by the private sector, including specialized forecasts targeting agribusiness, utility companies and boating interests. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the weather agency, rescinded the noncompetition provision last December, upsetting the commercial industry.

Supporters of the bill contend that NWS spends too much money mimicking the private sector and sometimes withholds critical information, such as real-time snowfall accumulation reports and hurricane reconnaissance reports.

But all the forecasts are wrong anyway, right?

Pitching in

Homeland Security Department officials are joining Minor League Baseball for the third consecutive season to promote emergency preparedness.

"Our clubs strive to be vital parts of their communities," said Mike Moore, president and chief executive officer of Minor League Baseball.

During the 2005 season, 48 teams nationwide will educate and encourage fans to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools by featuring information from DHS' Ready campaign in their ballparks. The Ready project asks people to get an emergency supply kit, make a family communications plan and learn about the types of emergencies and appropriate responses.

Return to sender

The decision by Transportation Security Administration officials this month to ban lighters on commercial flights has many passengers mad as fire.

Sensing a business opportunity, officials at ReturnKey Systems, based near Houston, have created kiosks that allow travelers to mail Zippo lighters, pocket knives and other blacklisted items instead of letting TSA officials confiscate the goods. The fully automated kiosks are in five airports, including Washington Dulles International and LaGuardia airports.

Steve Kranyec, ReturnKey's president, said he expects the company will set up kiosks in at least 20 more airports by the end of the year.

The kiosks not only are convenient but also improve airport security, Kranyec said. They use wireless transmitters to verify users' identities against criminal and homeland security databases, he said. The machines can notify law enforcement or TSA officials if someone on a terrorist watch list tries to mail a blacklisted item, he said.

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