WASHINGTON – The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday reported out the nomination of Elaine Duke to be Undersecretary of Management for the Department of Homeland Security, as well as seven bills to improve government operations.
Among the other bills reported out of Committee by voice vote was S. 3175, the PreDisaster Mitigation Act, introduced by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me. The measure reauthorizes the FEMA program that gives small grants to states and locals for projects that mitigate the risk of natural disasters. The bill would codify the program as a competitive grant program, with the intention of discouraging its use for ineffective earmarks.
The Committee also reported out by voice vote S.1924, the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act, introduced by Senators Tom Carper, D-Del., John Warner, R-Va., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and co-sponsored by Senators Lieberman and Collins. The bill would amend federal workers’ compensation law to include as compensable the death or disabling of federal firefighters from a series of diseases – including heart or lung disease, a number of types of cancer, and certain infectious diseases. In other words, these diseases would be presumed to have been caused by the job.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to our nation’s fire fighters for the extraordinary heroism that they show every day by facing danger to keep us safe,” Lieberman said. “But in addition to the obvious hazards of fighting fires, other less visible dangers threaten the health of fire fighters. This bill would assume that certain cancers and diseases are a result of the hazards of the job, and that fire fighters who suffer from them are due compensation. Not only is this the right thing to do on its own, but 40 states have similar laws for their fire fighters.”
“Our nation has recently seen the devastation caused by floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters,” Sen. Collins said. “The Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program not only helps prevent future disasters such as these from destroying homes and communities, but saves the government money. A Congressional Budget Office review of three years of data estimated the program saves $3 in disaster response for every mitigation dollar spent — an impressive score that confirms the program’s status as a sound investment.”
H.R. 5683, the Government Accountability Office Act of 2008, introduced by Lieberman and Collins, was also reported out by voice vote. The measure addresses a number of important issues related to pay and personnel matters, access to information, and internal operations at GAO, which is critical to Congress’ oversight of the executive branch.
S.2148, the Senior Executive Service Diversity Assurance Act, introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, was reported out by voice vote, as well. This bill would recreate the Senior Executive Resources Office at the Office of Management and Budget in an effort to improve diversity in the Senior Executive Service.
Other measures reported out of Committee en banc by voice vote were:
• S. 3013, the Non-Foreign Area Retirement Equity Assurance Act, introduced by Senator Akaka to provide a more equitable system of retirement benefits for federal employees in Hawaii and Alaska and other non-foreign areas outside the 48 contiguous states.
• S. 2382, the FEMA Accountability Act, introduced by Senator Mark Pryor, D-Ark., to complete an assessment of the number of manufactured housing units necessary to stock in order to respond to disasters and to establish and implement a plan for permanently storing manufactured housing units, selling or transferring usable surplus units, and disposing of unused units.
• S. 2816, to provide for the appointment f the chief Human Capital Officer of the Department of Homeland Security by the Secretary of DHS.
• Nine postal naming bills.