The legislative branch of government may seem like it spends most of its time in tugs of war over major legislation. Well, it does. However, it also finds time to introduce – and sometimes pass – bills that could affect your future, that could either give or take away benefits. In this column I want to highlight a few bills that may be important to you.
Access to Insurance for All Americans Act
Introduced by Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Calif., H.R, 138 would repeal the Affordable Care Act. In its place a national health program would be established. Administered by OPM, it would allow anyone who isn’t a federal employee or retiree to be covered by the FEHB program. However, those who weren’t federal employees and retirees would be placed in a separate risk pool. So far it has no co-sponsors nor has a companion bill been introduced in the Senate.
Government Employees Pension Reform Act
Introduced by Rep. Brian Westerman, R-Ark., H.R. 1230 would change the way future annuities are calculated from the average of your highest three consecutive years of average pay (a high-3) to your highest five consecutive years of average pay. While this bill would cover all federal employees, it wouldn’t apply to active duty or retired military. To date this bill has no co-sponsors.
The Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) Act
Introduced by Rep. Gerald Connelly, D-Va.,, H.R. 304 would provide for a 3.8 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2016. It now has 73 cosponsors (all Democrats). S. 164, the Senate companion bill, was introduced by Sen Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and has 6 cosponsors (all Democrats).
The Federal Employees Pension Fairness Act
Introduced by Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., H.R. 785 would repeal laws passed in 2012 and 2013 that increased the retirement contributions new FERS employees have to pay. The bill now has 22 cosponsors (all Democrats). A companion bill hasn’t been introduced in the Senate.
Wage Grade Employee Parity Act
Introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Penn., H.R. 485 would give the president the same authority to provide a pay raise for wage grade or hourly rate employees that he now has for the General Schedule. To date there are 12 cosponsors (nine Democrats and three Republicans). So far, no companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.
Social Security Fairness Act of 2015
Introduced by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., H.R. 973 would repeal both the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). It has garnered 164 votes from Democrats and 46 from Republicans. The companion bill, S. 1651, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio,. To date it has 16 cosponsors (12 Democrats and four Republicans).
Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act
Introduced by Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, D-Mass., H.R. 313 would entitle newly hired federal employees with service-connected disabilities rated at 30 percent of more to 104 hours of paid leave – instead of sick leave – to undergo medical treatment during the 12-month period beginning on their first day of employment. This bill has already collected 33 cosponsors (27 Democrats and six Republicans). S. 164, the Senate companion bill, was introduced by Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., and has one Republican cosponsor.
No one can predict which bills will make it out of committee, pass, and be forwarded to the president. And it’s also difficult to predict which ones he would sign and which he would veto, especially if they are buried in bills of far greater significance.
If you are for or against any of the bills I’ve summarized above, I suggest you let your members of Congress know that. This is an area where silence is not a virtue.