Congress Passes Bipartisan Hatch Act Modernization Act

Bill Headed to President's Desk

Washington, DC - The United States House of Representatives unanimously approved the bipartisan Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (S. 2170) by voice vote today.  The bill passed the Senate on November 30, 2012 and will now head to the president's desk for signature.    The bill was introduced by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and cosponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-Connecticut), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), and Mike Lee (R-Utah).  Congressmen Cummings (D-Maryland) and Issa (R-California) were instrumental in the bill's passage in the House of Representatives today.

Senator Akaka said: "For the first time since 1993, Congress has passed legislation that will provide much-needed reforms to the Hatch Act.  I am pleased that more Americans will be allowed to run for public office and that federal employees will be treated in a more equitable manner under the law.  I look forward to President Obama signing this important legislation into law."

Senator Lieberman said: "I'm pleased Congress has passed this common-sense legislation, which updates the Hatch Act for the first time since 1993. The modernizations contained in this bill will allow eligible state, local, and D.C. government employees to run for elective office. The bill also provides greater flexibility in disciplining federal employees charged with minor violations of the Act. These reasonable reforms will help protect the personal freedoms of state, local, and D.C. employees whose salaries are tied to federal funds but still shield them from pressures to use work time and resources for partisan gain."

Senator Lee said: "I applaud the House for its support of S. 2170, the Hatch Act Modernization Act. This is important bipartisan legislation that returns power to the states to make their own laws regarding the political activity of state and local officials. I appreciate the efforts of several Members to help get our legislation approved."

Senator Levin said: "This legislation will allow hard-working employees of state and local government who are covered by the Hatch Act to run and serve as elected officials in their communities. It is past time that we clarified the Hatch Act so that these highly qualified individuals can have an opportunity to run for public office."
The Hatch Act, enacted in 1939, restricts the political activity of Federal employees, District of Columbia government employees, and state and local employees whose positions are connected to federal funds.  Congress has not amended the law since 1993.

The Hatch Act Modernization Act would:

  • Allow most state and local employees to run for partisan elective office;
  • Place employees of the executive branch of the District of Columbia under provisions of the Hatch Act that apply to employees in other states or localities;
  • Amend the Hatch Act's penalty provisions for federal employees to allow a broader range of penalties; and 
  • Allow federal employees residing in the District of Columbia to run as independent candidates in partisan local elections, which already is permitted for federal employees who live in suburbs of the District of Columbia and other areas of the country with high concentrations of federal employees.

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