Norton Urges Hatch Act Change; Bill Divorces City from Federal Curbs on Political Activity

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 26, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Norton Urges Hatch Act Change; Bill Divorces City from Federal Curbs on Political Activity


Byline: Tom Howell Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The District's nonvoting member of Congress is hoping to divorce the city from aspects of a law that limits federal employees' political activities as the city gains traction in efforts to increase the distance between local affairs and controlling hands on Capitol Hill.

The Hatch Act prohibits both federal and D.C. government employees from running for partisan political office, collecting political contributions or hosting campaign fundraisers, and from using any government resources for political activities, according to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs debated the Hatch Act Modernization Act from Sen.Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, on Wednesday. The bill would allow employees in state or local governments to run in partisan elections, even if their positions are federally funded. It would also stop treating D.C. employees like full-fledged federal workers.

I don't think that it is fair that they are treated differently from other state and local employees, said Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican and committee member.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who can introduce bills in the House but not vote on them, is pushing Mr. Akaka's bill so the District can rely on its own version of the Hatch Act - the Prohibition on Government Employee Engagement in Political Activity Act of 2010. Following the District's version of the law would clear up confusion in enforcing the federal version.

While enforcing the Hatch Act, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has injected itself into the District's electoral process when advisory neighborhood commissioners ran for D.C. Council seats, Mrs. Norton said.

They treated them as if they are federal employees, she said.

The D.C. Council passed its law in anticipation of similar federal legislation during the previous Congress, but an anonymous hold in the Senate prevented its enactment, Mrs. Norton said. The local law prohibits city employees from engaging in political activities while on duty, soliciting campaign contributions or filing for election to a partisan political office.

All I was after was making sure the District had its own Hatch Act, Mrs. Norton said. There's confusion as to how the law applies to D.C.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and committee chairman, postponed voting on Mr.

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