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Politically minded feds gain unexpected ally

A Utah congressman who’s supporting new legislation for federal employees to have more latitude for political activism and participation hasn’t always had feds’ backs.

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) recently became the lead Republican cosponsor of the Hatch Act Modernization Act, which aims to overhaul the 70-year old legislation that bans executive branch employees, D.C. government employees, and some state and local employees who work with federally funded program from engaging in political activity.

The updated Hatch Act was introduced by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Joseph Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va), James Moran (D-Va.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). Among other provisions, it would allow government employees to run for elective office, and would give the Merit Systems Protection Board more flexibility in setting the punishment for employees who violate the Hacth Act.

Chaffetz said the new legislation is “simple, fair, and essential to ensure that actions taken against public employees engaging in political activities are not unjust.”

Chaffetz hasn’t exactly been a friend of the government workforce in the past. He previously rallied for a smaller federal workforce and bringing federal compensation to be more in line with private industry, meaning lower pay.

“Bloated salary and benefit packages, in addition to draining scarce resources, may limit the growth and mobility of employees while reducing the inflow of young, energetic workers at the lower end of the salary scale,” he wrote in an April 2 op-ed. He also suggested firing feds who were late on their federal tax obligations.

“Most federal employees take their tax obligations seriously,” he wrote in the op-ed. “But those who are unwilling to play by the rules should not be entitled to the privileges of federal employment."

Posted by Camille Tuutti on May 18, 2012 at 12:19 PM


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