“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.
“The NARFE National Convention, August 24-28 in Orlando, FL, is every member’s opportunity to participate in shaping the future of our organization, including our legislative program. I urge you to join us for this not-to-be-missed event. Use the information below to make hotel reservations. I look forward to seeing you in Orlando!”
NARFE Biennial Convention Hotel Deadline Reminder
The cutoff date for making reservations for the Rosen Centre Hotel -- the NARFE National Convention hotel -- at the low NARFE group rate is fast approaching! The cutoff for reservations is 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.
Defending Legislative and Political Interests at Convention
NARFE-PAC, NARFE’s Political Action Committee, is a crucial part of our advocacy efforts. After a successful rollout at the 2012 National Convention, the 2014 NARFE-PAC Breakfast will feature a special speaker, Dr. Aubrey Jewett, University of Central Florida associate professor of political science. The breakfast is a gesture of thanks to NARFE-PAC’s generous and sustaining donors, and will encourage members to learn more about NARFE-PAC. To see if you qualify to attend the breakfast, see page 46 of the July narfe magazine, or contact the Legislative Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited, so sign up today by emailing email@example.com.
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 Reps. Rob Wittman, R-VA; Frank R. Wolf, R-VA; and Gerry E. Connolly, D-VA. Use the NARFE Legislative Action Center to easily send a convincing email to your representative asking for his/her support.
Appropriations Makes Progress, CR Looms
While the annual appropriations process is making some progress, many Congress-watchers are predicting that there just isn’t enough time remaining in this election year to complete all 12 appropriations bills. The fiscal year begins October 1, a month prior to mid-term elections for the entire House and a third of the Senate. If appropriations are incomplete, a near certainty now, a continuing resolution (CR) would be required. Any CR is an opening for mischief. NARFE members and chapters, coming out of summer hiatus, will need to be ready in September for prompt action should the need arise.
OPM’s Mixed Week
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) had a good news/bad news week. The good news: OPM, in June, again made progress on its retirement claims backlog, cutting the number of outstanding applications to the lowest point in years (12,391). The bad news for OPM came in the form of NARFE-pleasing letters from Congress on phased retirement. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent one of the two chastising letters to OPM. The other letter came from a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Both letters expressed disappointment in the more than two years it has taken for the final regulations on phased retirement to be implemented. Congressional pressure may speed the finalizing process, as many NARFE members are eagerly awaiting this option.