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FMA Washington Report: November 10, 2023

This report provides an update on issues affecting federal managers. As always, I encourage you to visit www.fedmanagers.org on a regular basis for more information on these and other matters.

Also, be sure to look for the monthly FMA Grassroots Update, where we offer links to action letters and FMA-PAC matters we do not address in the Washington Report. The grassroots newsletter is sent exclusively to non-governmental email addresses to avoid any Hatch Act violations. If you are not receiving it, contact the national office to provide your non-governmental email address.

Please feel free to provide feedback any time by emailing Greg Stanford at gstanford@fedmanagers.org or by calling the National Office at (703) 683-8700. Thank you for your membership in FMA. It’s an honor to represent your interests before Congress and the administration.

Legislative Outreach
Continuing Resolution Expires on November 17, Path Forward on FY 2024 Funding Unclear

Congress and the Administration are swiftly nearing the November 17 expiration of the current Continuing Resolution that is keeping the federal government funded.

The House was unable to conduct regular business, including work on appropriations measures, during the three weeks in October it did not have a Speaker. However, the chamber, under the new leadership of Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), has worked in an ambitious effort on the remaining stand-alone bills that would fund Fiscal Year 2024 and prevent a government shutdown.

The House has passed seven of the twelve bills, while the Senate has passed three. Differences between the funding bills would need to be ironed out before any bill could be sent to President Biden to be signed into law. Congress will need to pass another short-term CR to prevent an impending shutdown.

Mike Johnson (R-LA) Elected as Speaker of the House

On October 25, 2023, Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) was elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. This followed three weeks of confusion and speculation after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was removed by a vote on October 3. The Speaker is the presiding officer and administrative leader of the House, represents his district, and is second in line, after the Vice President, in the United States presidential line of succession.

“It is the honor of a lifetime to have been elected the 56th Speaker of the House,” Johnson said in a statement following his election. “Thank you to my colleagues, friends, staff, and family for the unmatched support throughout this process. It has been an arduous few weeks, and a reminder that the House is as complicated and diverse as the people we represent. The urgency of this moment demands bold, decisive action to restore trust, advance our legislative priorities, and demonstrate good governance.”

Kilmer Reintroduces the Federal Retirement Fairness Act

On October 19, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) reintroduced the Federal Retirement Fairness Act (H.R. 5995), FMA-endorsed legislation that would allow Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) employees who worked in temporary or intermittent positions to make catch-up contributions toward their retirements. This is an FMA issue brief and Rep. Kilmer has been a champion on this issue for many years.

“Many federal employees begin their careers in temporary positions before transitioning to permanent status. We need to have their backs,” Kilmer said in a press release. “The Federal Retirement Fairness Act will ensure that all federal workers, from those at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to postal workers and beyond, have the opportunity to retire on time, regardless of how they started their careers.”

James Cappa, President of FMA Chapter 14 (Puget Sound Naval Shipyard), offered a statement of support for H.R. 5995, which Rep. Kilmer included in his press release. “The Federal Managers Association (FMA) appreciates the support, time, and efforts from Representative Kilmer on the introduction of the Bipartisan bill Federal Retirement Fairness Act,” Cappa said. “Federal workers would like to see this inequality corrected and allow Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employees to make deposits (buy-back the time) in the same manner as CSRS employees.”

Padilla Introduces Senate Version of the Equal COLA Act

On November 1, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) reintroduced the Equal COLA Act (S. 3194), FMA-endorsed legislation that would bring equity to the way the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) is determined for all federal retirees. S. 3194 is companion legislation to H.R. 866, introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA).

The bill would make the annual COLA for both the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) equivalent to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

FERS retirees’ COLAs are reduced under current law: When the CPI-W increase is 3 percent or greater, like the 8.7 percent in 2023, the FERS COLA is reduced by 1 percent. If the CPI-W is between 2 and 3 percent, FERS retirees see a 2 percent COLA, and when the CPI-W is less than 2 percent, the COLA is equal to the price index. The COLA for CSRS and Social Security recipients for 2024 will be 3.2 percent, so it will be 2.2 percent for FERS annuitants. S. 3194 would allow FERS employees to combat inflation and maintain the value of their annuities.

Lankford and Sinema Introduce the Telework Reform Act

Senator James Lankford (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate Government Operations Subcommittee, introduced the Telework Reform Act (S. 3015) in October, together with Subcommittee Chair Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ). FMA immediately endorsed the legislation, which aims to improve recruitment and retention to remote work positions and promotes the management, accountability, and transparency of federal telework.

“As the structure of the work environment and the culture of the workforce changes we are seeing more and more remote workers. This is a great recruiting tool for military and law enforcement spouses who wish to support their loved ones while also pursuing their own career,” Lankford said in a press release upon introduction. “By re-thinking how the government uses remote work, we are encouraging federal agencies to hire in diverse communities across the country; instead of requiring our workforce to be centralized in Washington, DC. We should allow both people to serve their nation and build a career.”

Bipartisan Bill Honoring Feds Killed in the Line of Duty Passes HSGAC

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty Act (S. 3029) on October 25, clearing it for consideration on the Senate floor. The bipartisan, FMA-endorsed legislation sponsored by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), would provide for a one-time benefit to survivors of civil servants killed in the line of duty.

“This legislation would improve and expand death gratuities for survivors of federal employees killed in the line of duty. The current rates have not kept up with the times, staying static since 1997, and the funeral allowance hasn’t changed since 1966. This important legislation recognizes the dangers federal employees subject themselves to when serving their fellow Americans and will help ensure their families and loved ones will be treated fairly if they make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty,” said Craig Carter, FMA National President.

What's Affecting Feds?
FEHBP Open Season Begins November 13

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently announced the 2024 Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program rates. The open season for health benefits, dental and vision insurance, and flexible spending accounts will be November 13 through December 11, 2023.

The average enrollee share increase for 2024 will be 7.7 percent. The overall average FEHB premium increase will be 5.8 percent. The new health premiums go into effect January 1, 2024.

The average premium increase for dental plans for 2024 is 1.4 percent, and the average premium increase for vision plans is 1.1 percent.

FMA Working For You!
FMA National President Craig Carter Visits Capitol Hill

FMA National President Craig Carter was in Washington, D.C., during the week of October 16 and we filled his schedule with a lot of FMA business. I wanted to briefly share a little about who we saw and what we talked about on behalf of FMA.

Craig attended the annual Samuel J. Heyman Award Ceremony (Sammies), representing FMA at the gala to recognize significant achievements by feds. He also attended a meeting of the Employee Thrift Advisory Council, which advises the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to improve your Thrift Savings Plan.

The centerpiece of the visit was a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill, advocating for managers with Senators, Representatives, and their staff. Craig takes pride in “walking the halls of Congress” and we sure did – I personally logged more than 25,000 steps that day. In keeping with FMA’s non-partisan approach, we naturally visited Republicans and Democrats and had productive meetings all day.

FMA Signs Fed-Postal Coalition Letter Opposing a New Fiscal Commission

On October 26, FMA joined eighteen fellow organizations from the Federal-Postal Coalition on a letter opposing the creation of another fiscal commission to address the federal deficit. The letter was sent to all Members of Congress.

“The fiscal commission would consist of 16 members, including 12 members of Congress and four “outside experts” who could by majority vote furnish Congress with a privileged set of recommendations for reducing spending as well as Social Security and Medicare,” the letter read. “Congress would be obliged, during the lame duck session in November 2024, to approve or disapprove the recommendations with minimal discussion and without amendment.”

The letter spelled out the coalition’s argument against a commission: “The proposed commission could effectively bypass the role of a democratically elected Congress in formulating and debating legislation and tax policy. The judgment of 12 handpicked members and four unelected outsiders would essentially supersede the role of 523 other Members of Congress. The commission should not be enacted.”

Agency Outreach
OPM Proposed Rules on Civil Service Protections and Merit System Principles

In late September, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) proposed a new rule aimed at protecting merit system principles across the federal government. All comments are due on or before November 17, 2023. OPM briefed FMA National President Craig Carter and the national office staff on the proposed rules, and FMA plans to provide comments in support. Additionally, you are invited to comment directly to OPM if you are inclined to do so.

OPM – Retirement Quick Guide

In March, OPM launched a Retirement Quick Guide that shares what feds can expect through the retirement application process, how benefits are determined, and guidelines related to their interim and annuity payments. You can also view a three-page printable PDF version of the quick guide here: https://www.opm.gov/retirement-center/retirement-quick-guide/opm-retirement-quick-guide.pdf.

Lori Amos, Deputy Associate Director for OPM’s Retirement Services, recently commented on the progress made in 2023 on reducing the total number of outstanding retirement claims and new tools OPM has for prospective retirees. “This guide is our attempt to improve customer experience. We have put a lot of work, time, and effort based on feedback that we have received from our retiree community. Our goal is to be able to give [federal employees and retirees] information about the voluntary retirement process.”


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