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NEWS:

NARFE Headquarters, December 14, 2018

Message from NARFE President Ken Thomas:

“NARFE is an advocacy-driven organization that relies on the talents and unyielding determination of its members to accomplish legislative victories. To combat threats that will arise during the 116th Congress, members must continue to strengthen their advocacy skills to make sure NARFE is effective when communicating with legislators. Please take this opportunity to register for LEGcon19 before the early-bird registration rate expires Saturday, December 15. Regardless of experience level, we must all continuously improve our grassroots skills as we are the only line of defense for the earned pay and benefits of federal retirees, employees and their families nationwide. I hope to see you in March.”

LEGcon19 Early-Bird Registration Expires Tomorrow!

The LEGcon19 early-bird registration rate of $199 expires tomorrow, December 15, so register now! This is your last opportunity to secure your spot at LEGcon19, NARFE’s legislative training conference, before the price increases to $225. On March 10–13, 2019, at the Mark Center Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, VA, hundreds of NARFE members from across the nation will converge to enhance their advocacy knowledge and take NARFE’s message straight to legislators on Capitol Hill. But, it doesn’t end there; attendees will also take this new knowledge back home to help lead advocacy efforts for their federations and chapters.

Position yourself as a go-to resource for your members of Congress through engaging training sessions that will help you master the art of congressional meetings. Take a deep dive into important policy issues, learn best practices for interacting with legislators and staff and hear from experts and your peers all in one place. This is your chance to raise your voice against cuts to the pay and benefits you earned through years of hard work in dedicated service to your country.

After registering for LEGcon19, don’t forget to book your hotel room at the NARFE rate of $175 per night plus tax. For online hotel registration and information click here. Additional information about the conference is available on the LEGcon19 website. If you have any questions about conference registration, please contact events@narfe.org. If you have any other questions, please contact the Advocacy Department at advocacy@narfe.org. We look forward to seeing you at the conference.

Political Divisions Could Lead to a Partial Government Shutdown

With political controversies interfering with passage of seven remaining appropriations bills, the threat of a partial government shutdown is all too real. Lawmakers have until midnight December 21 to overcome any impasses and reach a funding agreement. Make a difference by calling your representatives in Congress and stress that federal employees must not be collateral damage in political fights. Under no circumstances is a government shutdown necessary, but instead only harmful to the American public and federal workforce.

Among other vital departments and agencies, the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State, Agriculture, Interior, and Transportation still await fiscal year 2019 appropriations. It’s estimated that more than 380,000 federal workers would be furloughed during the partial shutdown. Even the estimated 420,000 affected employees who would work through the shutdown would not be paid until agency funding is restored. Middle-class federal employees do not have the luxury of going without a paycheck or guarantee of back pay while bills continue to pile up during the holidays. If no funding agreement is reached, dedicated federal employees would be forced to sit idly by waiting for Congress and the president to do their jobs before they can get back to work for the American people. Call your legislators today.

OIG Report Puts Reorganization Proposal under Further Scrutiny

In a recent report, “Assessment of GSA’s Management and Performance Challenges for Fiscal Year 2019,” the General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified internal controls as an ongoing issue for the agency. By synthesizing the results of numerous past OIG and GSA independent public accountant reports and audits, the OIG pieced together a large-scale trend of internal control weaknesses and mishaps that cross all areas of the agency’s operations. These weaknesses led to violations of laws and regulations, misreporting of estimates and figures and poor stewardship of public resources.

Considering this damaging new information regarding GSA senior leadership’s negligence in establishing firm internal controls, NARFE calls on the administration to reconsider its reorganization proposal to transfer the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) programmatic functions to GSA, including: retirement services, health care benefits and insurance programs, and human resources solutions. These programs deserve proper and careful management and any steps to move their services should be met with serious scrutiny by Congress. NARFE’s previous concerns that folding OPM’s functions into a larger organization could risk these vital programs receiving insufficient attention and resources are only heightened. GSA is in no condition to take on new responsibilities, especially those as complicated and significant as federal employee and retiree programs. Please contact your representatives in Congress and implore them to provide proper oversight of the administration’s reorganization plans.

OPM Establishes New Locality Pay Areas Advocated by NARFE

NARFE is devoted to providing hard-working civil servants with much-deserved pay equity. Competitive compensation is necessary for the fair treatment of federal employees and to ensure we are able to continue recruiting and retaining the best and brightest into federal service. NARFE efforts to reduce the pay disparity between federal and nonfederal workers across the country paid off. On December 7, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published a final rule in the Federal Register to establish six new General Schedule (GS) locality pay areas: Birmingham, AL; Burlington, VT; Corpus Christi, TX; Omaha, NE; San Antonio, TX; and Virginia Beach/Norfolk, VA. OPM reported that roughly 70,000 GS employees will benefit from these additions.

Furthermore, the final rule enlarged the Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA locality pay area to include San Luis Obispo County, CA thanks to the exemplary grassroots organizing efforts of NARFE members in the area; and expanded the Albuquerque-Santa Fe-Las Vegas, NM locality pay area to include McKinley County, NM, impacting approximately 1,700 GS employees in total. All locality area changes will be effective as of the first day of the first pay period on or after January 1, 2019.

The localities were added and expanded in accordance with NARFE-endorsed recommendations issued by the Federal Salary Council to the President’s Pay Agent for January 2019 to ensure federal pay better reflects local labor market conditions. NARFE supported the Federal Salary Council’s recommendations in an August 24 letter to OPM. In the letter, former NARFE President Richard G. Thissen advocated for the council’s recommendations for the establishment and modification of pay localities as well as the council’s estimated locality pay rates and level of comparability payments for January 2019.

Despite these improvements, no locality pay will be granted if President Trump freezes federal pay for calendar year 2019. Please urge Congress to override the president’s pay freeze by granting a federal pay raise through the appropriations process.

 Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

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Return to December 14, 2018

NARFE Headquarters, December 7, 2018

Message from NARFE President Ken Thomas:

“Some proposals issued by the Task Force on the U.S. Postal System are prudent steps toward improving the agency’s finances, but gutting compensation and allowing service and delivery standards to lapse would only be counterproductive to maintaining the universal postal services the American public depends on to stay connected. NARFE believes that maintaining affordability and strong service standards in the form of six-day and to-the-door delivery is essential for sustaining USPS viability into the future. As Congress debates these recommendations, let me remind lawmakers: poorer service standards, unreasonable prices and a demoralized workforce equal fewer customers.”

Postal System Task Force Recommendations Released

On Tuesday, the Trump administration’s Task Force on the U.S. Postal System finally released its long-awaited report to the public. NARFE appreciated the opportunity to participate and share our concerns with the Task Force over the summer as a representative of postal employees and retirees. Citing mail revenue declines, increasing liabilities and a failing business model, Task Force members issued a series of recommendations to reach U.S. Postal Service (USPS) financial sustainability. To its credit, despite full knowledge of current postal reform bills that would unfairly balance postal service debt on the backs of its retirees by forcing them into Medicare Part B, the Task Force opted not to endorse this as a solution. Though the Task Force did not recommend the elimination of USPS’ onerous health care prefunding requirement, it did call for such liabilities to be restructured and payments re-amortized with a new actuarial calculation based only on the population of employees at or near retirement age. This is a common-sense proposal and a good first step toward alleviating USPS financial distress.

Among its many proposals, the Task Force recommended reducing pay by eliminating postal employees’ right to collective bargaining over compensation, and pursuing “reforms” to USPS compensation in keeping with those proposed for the overall federal workforce in the President’s Management Agenda, including compensation paid to workers injured and disabled on the job. Similarly, the Task Force called for altering the entire Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) to increase employee contributions and move toward a defined contribution system. NARFE stands stalwartly opposed to these typical federal compensation-cutting proposals and will work with our allies in Congress to ensure they are dead on arrival.

The Task Force endorsed a number of changes to USPS service standards and operations. For example, it advocated for the USPS Board of Governors to clearly define minimum universal service obligation standards and essential postal services that require continued government protection through price caps and mandated delivery standards, and increase prices for services that fall outside of that definition. In addition to increasing delivery prices, the Task Force believes USPS should be able to adjust its delivery frequency, mode and processing speed to cut expenses. Weakening service standards, however, would only serve to alienate customers and tarnish the quality universal services currently provided to all Americans.

Oral Arguments Heard in Dawson v. Steager

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday for the case of Dawson v. Steager, in which former U.S. Marshal James Dawson is challenging West Virginia’s discriminatory tax treatment of his federal annuity. In addition to attending oral arguments, NARFE weighed in by submitting an amicus curiae brief to the court in support of the retired federal marshal and to defend all federal retirees from financial hardships induced through discrimination by state governments in the taxation of their retirement benefits. Please click here to read a statement from NARFE President Ken Thomas.

West Virginia fully exempts from state income tax all benefits earned by state law enforcement officers from four West Virginia retirement plans, but only exempts a portion of Dawson’s Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuity earned through similar work. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld this unfair tax rule, determining that federal statutory and constitutional law only prohibit state government use of “blanket” exemptions for all state government retirees while denying such exemptions for similarly situated federal retirees. If the U.S. Supreme Court sides with the lower court’s erroneous decision, it would provide loopholes for West Virginia and other states to provide tax exemptions to subclasses of state government retirees without extending the same treatment to federal retirees whose annuities are based on comparable job types. If the court rules against Dawson, protections for the equal tax treatment of 2.6 million federal annuitants’ retirement income would be stripped away, and federal retirees in every state could be subject to harsher state tax burdens than their state government retiree counterparts.

States must not be permitted to undermine the doctrine of intergovernmental tax immunity as codified in federal statute 4 U.S.C. §111. The U.S. Supreme Court previously held, in Davis v. Michigan Department of Treasury, that under this statute, state tax schemes cannot impose a “heavier tax burden” on retired federal government employees than on retired state and local government employees unless there are “significant differences between the two classes.” NARFE expects the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a decision in Dawson v. Steager sometime next year, by the end of the session before the court’s 2019 summer recess beginning late June.

Temporary Funding Measure Delays Partial Shutdown

Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a partial government shutdown that would have commenced this Saturday, December 8. Lawmakers and the president agreed that funding debates should be delayed to provide time to mourn the passing of President George H.W. Bush. The CR will extend government funding by two weeks, through December 21, for the seven remaining appropriations bills yet to be enacted. With that, the 2019 federal employee pay raise remains unresolved. If Congress fails to pass a federal pay raise before January, the president’s proposed pay freeze will unfairly target Feds while the economy prospers and private-sector wages continue to flourish. A pay raise will not be achievable without your continued advocacy, so please contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to support a modest federal pay increase through the appropriations process.

Don’t Delay! Only One Week Left of Reduced Pricing

There is only one week left to secure early-bird registration for LEGcon19. The $199 early-bird registration fee is available through December 15. Register today to secure your spot at NARFE’s Legislative Training Conference, where you’ll learn how best to engage with legislators and staff, develop best practices for communicating your concerns and participate in a NARFE day on Capitol Hill. Join hundreds of fellow NARFE members for this three-day training conference, March 10–13, 2019, at the Mark Center Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, VA.

LEGcon19 is open to all NARFE members interested in learning how to advance NARFE’s legislative priorities and protect members of the federal community from having their earned pay and benefits cut. After registering for LEGcon19, don’t forget to book your hotel room at the NARFE rate of $175 per night. For more information on the hotel, click here.

Additional information about the conference is available on the LEGcon19 website. If you have any questions, please contact the Advocacy Department at advocacy@narfe.org. We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

 Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

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Return to December 7, 2018

NARFE Headquarters, November 18, 2018

Message from NARFE President Ken Thomas:

“The contentious midterm elections are over, and lawmakers were back in the nation’s capital this week to conduct legislative business. With the January deadline for establishing a 2019 federal employee pay raise fast approaching, NARFE members must continue to push for a modest 1.9 percent pay increase. NARFE activists led the way in getting us this far in the fight for equitable federal employee pay, and we cannot slow down now that the finish line is in sight. If Congress fails to affirm a pay raise, President Trump’s proposed pay freeze will take effect, and federal pay will unfairly languish while private-sector wages continue to increase in a strong economy, widening the pay gap between Feds and their private-sector counterparts.”

Congress Enters the Lame-Duck Session

Lawmakers have a lot to accomplish in the lame-duck session before the end of the 115th Congress—namely, the passage of remaining fiscal year 2019 (FY19) appropriations bills. Thus far, Congress passed five out of 12 appropriations bills, and needs to pass the remaining seven or another continuing resolution (CR) by December 7 to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Tied-in with appropriations, a federal employee pay raise for calendar year 2019 still hangs in the balance as House and Senate conferees for the appropriations minibus H.R. 6147 negotiate the reconciliation of the two chambers’ differing versions of the legislation. The Senate version of the bill provides a modest 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees while the House remained silent on federal pay. Despite media outlets reporting a tentative agreement between House and Senate Republicans in favor of the pay raise, a decision on 2019 federal pay is yet to be finalized. If Congress doesn’t take action before January, the president’s proposed pay freeze will be enacted and federal pay will unfairly stagnate. NARFE members should contact their legislators and urge their support of the 1.9 percent pay raise through the appropriations process.

Open Season is Underway

The 2018 Federal Benefits Open Season began November 12 and will remain open through December 10. You have 25 days left to select your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program and Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) plans from an array of coverage options. Your current FEHB and FEDVIP plans will carry into the next year if you choose not to make modifications and the plans are still operating in your service area, just look out for premium and coverage changes. For employees, time is running out to enroll or re-enroll in the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS). Open Season allows you to enroll in the right health, dental and vision insurance options and also find plans that minimize expenses in the coming year. Now is your window of opportunity, as you cannot make changes outside of Open Season unless you experience a “Qualifying Life Event.”

To assist you in making this important decision, NARFE provided details about Open Season and tips for selecting a health plan in the October, November and December issues of NARFE Magazine. For further resources from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) click here. OPM also offers an FEHB health plan comparison tool to help you make an informed decision, though the agency strongly recommends that you refer to the individual FEHB brochures before making your final enrollment decision, as the brochure is the official statement of benefits.

Did You Miss the NARFE-PAC 2018 Election Recap Webinar?

In the November Advocacy webinar, “NARFE-PAC 2018 Election Recap,” Advocacy Deputy Director John Hatton and Political Associate Ross Apter broke down the results of the midterm elections and discussed some of the key races where NARFE-PAC played a critical role. Watch the recording now by clicking here to find out more about the important work of NARFE-PAC during this election cycle and what could be in store for the federal community in the 116th Congress.

Grassroots Corner

LEGcon19 registration is open! Register today to secure your spot at LEGcon19, NARFE’s Legislative Training Conference. You’ll learn how best to engage with legislators and staff, develop best practices for communicating your concerns and participate in a NARFE day on Capitol Hill. Join hundreds of fellow NARFE members for this three-day training conference, March 10 – 13, 2019, at the Mark Center Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, VA.

LEGcon19 is open to all NARFE members interested in learning how to advance NARFE’s legislative priorities and protect members of the federal community from having their earned pay and benefits cut. The $199 early-bird registration fee will be available through December 15. After registering for LEGcon19, don’t forget to book your hotel room at the NARFE rate of $175 per night. For more information on the hotel, click here.

Additional information about the conference is available on the LEGcon19 website. If you have any questions, please contact the Advocacy Department at advocacy@narfe.org. We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

 Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

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Return to November 18, 2018