Congress briefs

Putting teeth in FAIR Act

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) continues his push to turn more government

jobs to the private sector. Thomas wrote the 1998 Federal Activities Inventory

Reform Act that requires government agencies to identify employees whose

jobs could be contracted out. But he said the Clinton administration is

manipulating the act to protect nearly half a million government workers

whose jobs could be privatized. Thomas has introduced technical amendments

he said will toughen the FAIR Act and "make sure the job is done right."

IT worker shortage relief

A bill introduced March 15 would increase the number of visas that employers

could use to hire highly trained foreign workers. The Helping to Improve

Technology and Education and Achievement Act, introduced by Reps. David

Dreier (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), would temporarily increase

the cap on H-1B visas to 200,000. The current cap is 115,000 per year. The

bill also would raise the visa filing fee from $500 to $1,000. A similar

bill (S. 2045) that would raise the H-1B visa cap to 195,000 recently passed

the Senate. Another House bill (H.R. 3814) that would raise the quota to

160,000 this year was introduced March 1 and is awaiting action.

DOE lab security targeted

Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Va.) introduced a bill March 15 that would increase

inspections of information security systems at the Energy Department's nuclear

weapons laboratories. Bliley, chairman of the House Commerce Committee,

said problems were overlooked by inspectors or not adequately corrected

by plant officials. The bill would create an Office of Independent Security

Oversight within DOE to inspect the department's major nuclear weapons

sites once every 18 months.

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