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*** The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing today on H.R. 1, a bill that includes election security measures among broader campaign finance and voting rights changes. The bill would provide federal grant funding for states to purchase new machines that comply with the latest voluntary voting system guidelines put out by the Election Assistance Commission. The commission is expected to approve new standards later this year with significant security-related additions. It would also allow the funds to be used for other improvements, like risk mitigation training, vulnerability assessments and other cybersecurity enhancements. 

Another section would open up federal grant funding for the promotion of risk-limiting audits, considered the gold standard by voting advocates for determining the integrity of election results.

The bill also places significant new requirements on private election technology vendors, long considered a weak link and possible attack vector. Companies must be owned by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; demonstrate where their supply chain extends into other nations; follow cybersecurity best practices as determined by a federally run committee; allow independent testing of equipment; and report any significant breaches or cyberattacks that may compromise their services. 

It would also codify many of the programs and initiatives put in place by the Department of Homeland Security over the past two years, such as threat sharing, security clearances for state and local officials and risk and vulnerability assessments. 

Congress didn't pass any significant legislation last year beyond voting to release $380 million in leftover funds from the 2002 Help America Vote Act to states, who then had the option to use it for security or other improvements. The closest Congress got was the Secure Elections Act, which was pulled from the Rules Committee at the last minute due to concerns and the White House over similar requirements.

*** The House Rules Committee will take up a measure today to give federal civilian employees a pay raise commensurate with the one approved for the military. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) has for six consecutive years pushed to give federal employees a raise. This year's increase, co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), would be 2.6 percent, bringing civilian pay in line with the increase military personnel received in the fiscal year 2019 defense funding bill.

 Now that Democrats control the House, the fast-tracked hearing on giving feds a pay raise following the 35-day shutdown marks a substantial shift from the Trump administration, which proposed a civilian pay freeze in fiscal year 2019, and the Republican-controlled Congress. 

If the House does pass the 2.6 percent pay raise, the GOP-controlled Senate could prove to be an obstacle. Last Congress, senators approved a 1.9 percent pay bump for federal employees by a 96 to 2 margin.

Posted on Jan 29, 2019 at 12:36 AM


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