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Congress at Work for July 2017

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Making it Easier to Fire Government Employees, Reporting on Public Safety Benefits, and Extending Whistleblower Protections

Whistleblower ProtectionsDepartment of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 (S. 1094) – This was one of Trump’s first piece of original legislation signed into law. The VA bill makes it easier for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to fire and discipline employees by revoking bonuses, as well as protecting whistleblowers who report wrongdoing. This bipartisan legislation is in response to the VA scandal in 2014 in which government employees covered up the excess wait times it was taking for veterans to receive medical care. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on May 11 and signed into law by the President on June 23.

Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 419) – Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), this bill requires timely reporting on the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program, including information on all death, disability and educational assistance claims.

The bill was introduced on February 16, passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President on June 2.

American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017 (S. 583) – Sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), this bill amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. It authorizes grantees of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to use grant funds to hire veterans as law enforcement officers. The bill was introduced on March 8, passed by Congress in May and signed into law by President Trump on June 2.

DHS Stop Asset and Vehicle Excess Act or the DHS SAVE Act (H.R. 366) – Currently, agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, such as Customs and Border Protection, primarily manage their own fleets of vehicles. The act authorizes the Under Secretary to monitor the use of government vehicles, develop a methodology to optimize fleet size, and approve vehicle leases and acquisitions. This bill also requires DHS agencies to submit quarterly reports on vehicle use and annual fleet management plans with a cost-benefit analysis. Sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), the bill was introduced on Jan. 6 and signed into law by the President on June 6.

Follow the Rules Act (H.R. 657) – The purpose of this Act is to extend whistleblower protections for Federal employees who refuse to violate rules and regulations. While the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 protects Federal employees who refuse to follow an order that would violate a Federal law, the Follow the Rules Act protects those who refuse to follow an order by a supervisor that would violate a regulation issued by the Federal government. The bill was introduced on Jan. 24 by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI). It was passed by Congress in May and signed into law on June 14.

COVFEFE Act of 2017 (H.R. 2884) – While the National Archives and Records Administration has issued an advisory opinion that President Trump’s social media postings should be preserved for the historical record, currently that advisory opinion is not backed by the force of the law. To rectify this, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) has sponsored a bill that would add the phrase “any personal and official social media account” to the Presidential Records Act of 1978. This would in effect permanently archive all of a president’s social media posts, including tweets from any personal non-governmental accounts used during their term(s) of office. The bill was introduced on June 12 and is under consideration by committee before possibly being sent to the House or Senate as a whole.

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