Telework improvements bill falls short in House vote

Two-thirds majority was required for passage of Telework Improvements Act

The House today failed to pass the Telework Improvements Act that would direct federal agencies to name telework coordinators and to set policies to maximize the use of teleworking.

The House voted under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority for approval. The vote was 268-147.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), blamed the failed vote on Republicans. While 24 GOP members voted in favor of the legislation, all 147 votes against it came from Republicans. All Democrats voted in favor.

“I hope more of my Republican colleagues who claim to be concerned about federal deficits will take the time to understand this issue,” Sarbanes said in a statement today. “During this year’s snowstorm, telework saved $30 million every day the government was closed because federal employees could continue their work at home. We need to expand telework opportunities to make our federal workforce more productive and ensure that we can recruit and retain top talent to government.”


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Sarbanes, quoting Office of Personnel Management estimates, said the government loses $100 million in productivity per snow day without telework, or $71 million with telework.

The measure's goal was to improve teleworking in the federal government’s executive branch. Teleworking is defined in the bill as a work flexibility arrangements under which federal employees perform the duties and responsibilities of their positions, or other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the usual location.

Under the bill, each executive agency would name a telework managing officer to be in charge of making employees aware of the telework program. The bill also would authorize federal employees to telework for 20 percent of their schedule.

The bill would instruct the Office of Personnel Management to develop a uniform, government-wide telework policy for federal employees; integrate telework into disaster planning; provide telework training and education to employees and supervisors; collect data on telework and produce an annual report on telework compliance.

Sarbanes said a similar telework bill passed in the previous Congress, and this measure can be brought back for approval by a simple majority vote.

Details were not immediately available on whether, and when, another vote might take place.

 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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