“As Congress leaves Washington for a five-week summer recess, I encourage you to use this time to interact with your members of Congress in your community. Whether it is a formal meeting or a brief conversation at a local event, talking with your elected officials helps protect your earned benefits and strengthen NARFE’s message. Our Legislative Department staff has developed resources to make grassroots advocacy easier, and I encourage you to use them this August.”
Take Advantage of NARFE Grass-Roots Advocacy Month
Most members of Congress will return to their home districts and states during the congressional summer recess, August 1 to September 8. NARFE members should take advantage of this opportunity by participating in NARFE Grass-Roots Advocacy Month. Find out how to be an advocate using the Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure guide, which is featured in the August issue of narfe magazine (page 8-9), and the Protect America's Heartbeat Toolkit. Following your advocacy activity, let the NARFE Legislative Department know about your efforts by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling 703-838-7760, ext. 201.
House Bill Introduced to Repeal Recent Increases in Retirement Contributions for Federal Employees
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-MD, introduced the NARFE-supported Federal Employee Pension Fairness Act of 2014, which would repeal the increases in retirement contributions new federal employees were forced to pay in 2013 and 2014.
Beginning in 2013, new federal employees are paying more toward their retirement than their previously hired colleagues without any increase in benefits. Those hired in 2013 pay 2.3 percent more; and those hired beginning in 2014 pay 3.6 percent more than those hired before 2013. Over 10 years, these increases in retirement contributions amount to a $21 billion loss in take-home pay for these new federal employees. This bill would repeal the increases and bring those contributions down to the same level as all federal employees hired prior to 2013.
Following the bill’s introduction, NARFE issued a press release in support of the bill.
Social Security Trustees Report Released
The annual Social Security Trustees Report was released earlier this week, finding little change overall in the finances of the Social Security Trust Fund. The trustees predicted the Social Security Trust Fund will remain solvent until 2034, while the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund requires rebalancing before 2016. The full report can be found on the Social Security website. The House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing following the release of the report and debated the financial status of Social Security programs.
Hotline to Take Hiatus During the Summer Recess
As Congress breaks for the five-week summer recess, the Hotline also will take a hiatus. Between now and September 5, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis.
“Uncertainty creates opportunity. While it is clear the final week of July will be the last week before the five-week congressional summer recess, most everything else on Capitol Hill is uncertain. I urge each NARFE member to harness this opportunity by seeking out incumbent lawmakers and their challengers during the recess, August 1 through Labor Day. Use your August narfe magazine, page 33, to show incumbents that the federal family votes in every state and district. Share NARFE issue priorities with all candidates.”
Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure
This summer, senators and representatives will spend more time in their home states and districts, meeting with constituents and campaigning for office. NARFE members must not let this opportunity to interact with their legislators and candidates pass them by. August is “NARFE Grass-Roots Advocacy Month.” If you’re unsure where or how to start, use the new “Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure” flowchart on NARFE’s homepage. Complete a new chart for each representative, senator and candidate for those offices. The NARFE Legislative Department staff is willing and eager to assist, so don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Lies Ahead
After the recess, Congress will have about three weeks in September to fund the government for at least part of fiscal year 2015, which begins October 1. While the House has passed several appropriations bills, all 12 bills are far from enactment. If that were not enough, Congress is also grappling with these issues: the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, expired tax provisions, an influx of unaccompanied minors along the border, and a seemingly endless debate over the future of the VA. The lame-duck period between the November elections and the start of the new Congress in January could prove to be a busy one.
Congressional Election Handicapping and Resources
Organizations in Washington with deep pockets spend lavishly for information that is very similar to what others make available for free. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics offers an electronic newsletter, “Crystal Ball,” that provides excellent election forecasting. To become a subscriber, click here. Roll Call, the longest running of the three Capitol Hill tabloids, has just posted updated campaign finance summaries for competitive and open House seats and the 36 Senate seats on 2014 ballots. OpenSecrets gathers Federal Election Commission campaign finance data and makes it available for free. For instance, OpenSecrets allows you to find how much outside spending, and by whom, is occurring in House and Senate races.
Consumer Prices Rise in June
On July 22, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/cpi or 202-691-6994) reported that the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) rose to 234.702 in June, an increase of 0.21 percent from May. With three months remaining in the measurement year, the June index is 1.9 percent higher than the 2013 third-quarter average index (230.327). For Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) beneficiaries, the first six months of the calendar year have seen a 2.4 percent increase from the December 2013 index (229.174). COLAs for FECA beneficiaries are determined by each calendar year’s percentage change in the CPI-W. July consumer price indices will be released on Tuesday, August 19. The final puzzle piece, September data, is to be released on October 22. More information is available to NARFE members on our website.
“While House appropriators were silent on a federal pay raise, NARFE cannot be. Silence on the part of Congress puts a pay raise in the hands of the President, who supports a 1 percent pay raise in 2015. Federal employees deserve better.
“There is good news and bad news in our response to the ‘asks’ in last week’s Hotline. NARFE members are stepping forward to make their hotel reservations for the upcoming NARFE National Convention in Orlando. However, with the deadline only days away, it bears repeating. Please see the details below and make your reservations today. Our advocacy in support of tax parity for federal employees in combat zones must be ramped up. I urge each NARFE member to use the information and link provided below to contact Congress in support of the Federal Employee Combat Zone Tax Parity Act. I wrote to thank Rep. Frank Wolf, my hometown representative, for his co-sponsorship. Please join me by writing your representative.”
One Percent Is Hardly a Solution
On July 16, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5016, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2015, which provides the historical legislative vehicle for adjustments to federal employee pay scales. The bill does not include a federal pay raise for 2015, but does not preclude one, deferring the decision to President Obama, who proposed a 1 percent pay raise in his FY15 budget. You can read NARFE’ press release on the House’s inaction here.</p>
NARFE Biennial Convention Hotel Deadline Reminder
The cutoff date for making reservations for the Rosen Centre Hotel -- the NARFE National Convention site -- at the low NARFE group rate is fast approaching! Reservations must be made by 5 p.m. on Monday, July 21, 2014, to receive the NARFE rate of $95/night. Once this cutoff date has passed, any remaining rooms in the NARFE guest-room block will be released. Late and cancelled/replaced reservations may be made only on a space-available basis. To make reservations, call 1-800-204-7234 or go to the hotel website, www.RosenCentre.com. To get the NARFE group rate, use Group Code 50485.
NARFE-Supported Legislation Seeks Equal Treatment for Feds
The Federal Employee Combat Zone Tax Parity Act of 2014 (H.R.4621) is NARFE-supported legislation to extend the tax credit available to military personnel who serve in combat zones to the civilian federal employees working alongside them. This bipartisan measure is sponsored by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-VA. Use the NARFE Legislative Action Center to send an email to your representative asking for his/her support.
Summer Recess No Vacation for Legislators
A recent survey of congressional district directors offers advice on conducting successful meetings. Many event or meeting requests coming to Congress are incomplete or don’t connect the opportunity to a pending legislative issue. Invitations that are clear about the group’s intentions, detailed on the logistics and flexible on the timing will not only impress the office, they’ll actually translate into a visit by a member of Congress. Need help getting meetings set up for the August recess? Visit the Protect America’s Heartbeat toolkits page or email the Legislative Department at email@example.com.
Norm Ornstein: Civil Service History Lesson
Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, provides a concise history of the origin of the federal civil service in his National Journal column, “Slippery Slope.” Ornstein writes, “Proposed reforms at Veterans Affairs hearken back to the dark days of the corrupt spoils system in government.” NARFE members enjoyed Ornstein when he addressed the 2011 NARFE Legislative Training Conference.