Senate passes Hatch Act modernization
The Senate unanimously passed an update to the Hatch Act to let more state and local government officials vie for public office while softening penalties for federal employees who violate the Act.
The Nov. 30 passing of S. 2170, the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012, is a first step in updating a 1939 law that restricts the political activities of government employees. The law applies to campaigning on the job as well as activities at political rallies and fundraisers.
Presently, federal employees who violate the Hatch Act must be fired unless the Merit Systems Protection Board unanimously agrees to a reduced penalty. The Senate bill would give the board more flexibility in issuing penalties, such as a reduction in federal pay grade, debarment from federal employment for up to five years, suspension or a civil fine of up to $1,000.
The update would also allow federal employees resident in the District of Columbia to run in partisan local elections as independent candidates and state and local employees covered by the Hatch Act to run for partisan elective offices.
The bill will next head to the House for consideration.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) introduced the companion legislation in the House, H.R. 4152, on March 7. In a statement Cummings said the legislation will allow for greater fairness in the application of the Hatch Act as well as fairness in dealing with violations.
The House bill's last major action was a referral to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also on March 7.