Senate passes bipartisan Hatch Act modernization bill

Washington, DC - The United States Senate unanimously approved the bipartisan Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (S. 2170) by voice vote today.  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). 

Senator Akaka said: "I am pleased the Senate approved this important legislation, which will allow more Americans the right to run for public office and serve their communities, and treat federal employees and employees of the District of Columbia more fairly.  I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to pass the bill." 

Senator Lieberman said: "This common sense legislation adds flexibility to the Hatch Act by allowing talented state and local public servants to run for office. The bill also treats D.C. government employees like state and local employees and increases disciplinary options for federal employees charged with minor violations of the Act. These reasonable changes will help protect the personal freedoms of federal and District of Columbia employees while shielding them from pressure to use their work time and resources for partisan gain."

Senator Lee said: "The law was meant to prevent federal employees from engaging in partisan politics.  Unfortunately, it has been used to prevent state and local employees whose organizations may receive some federal funding from running for elected office.  States should be allowed to make their own laws with regard to the political activity of state and local employees and not have the policy dictated to them by Washington. I am pleased that we were able to come to a bipartisan solution on this issue and encourage my colleagues in the House to do the same."

Senator Levin said: "I am pleased that the Senate has passed this legislation to 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
  • 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.

Media Contact

Jesse Broder Van Dyke (Akaka)

202-224-6361