House panel approves bill to expedite fed firings

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advanced a bill that would make it easier to fire federal employees for poor performance or misconduct.

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The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advanced a bill that would make it easier to fire federal employees.

The Modern Employment Reform, Improvement and Transformation Act, introduced by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), would allow the head of an agency to remove a federal employee "if the head determines the performance or misconduct of the individual warrants such removal."

The bill would also reduce the amount of time employees have to appeal a decision on their removal to the Merit Systems Protection Board to seven days and would reduce the MSPB's time to adjudicate the decision to 30 days, after which time, the removal would become final.

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) introduced an amendment that would prohibit the protest of "adverse actions" and reductions in force through negotiated grievance procedures. The amendment also requires the benefit annuity of a federal worker convicted of a felony and fired to be reduced and allows the head of an agency to recoup bonuses determined to have been "wrongly paid" to employees. It also extends the probationary period for federal employees from one year to two years. 

The bill passed committee by a 19 to 11 margin, and the amendment was agreed to by voice vote.

The committee also advanced the Merit Systems Protection Board Reauthorization Act, introduced by Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.). The bill would reauthorize MSPB at consistent funding levels for the next five fiscal years and would allow the reappointment of board members.

It would also allow the board to issue summary judgments and reduce the evidentiary burden for cases brought before the board from the "preponderance of evidence" to "substantial evidence."

The committee also passed the Federal Information Safeguards Act, introduced by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.).

The bill, which passed by voice vote, would provide agency heads discretion in securing IT and information systems and to take "any action" to limit, restrict or prohibit access to a website, as well as to test, deploy or update a cybersecurity measure.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal union, opposed all three bills in a letter to Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

"These three pieces of legislation, if enacted into law, would ultimately decrease the efficiency of federal agencies and penalize federal workers by eliminating their due process rights and workplace protections," wrote Thomas Kahn, the union's legislative director.

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