After Katrina, Senate Approves Leave Time Donations in Judicial Branch

By Stephen Barr
Friday, October 21, 2005

The Senate has approved a bill that would permit employees of the judicial branch to participate in the federal leave transfer program for disasters and emergencies, such as the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Katrina.

About 400 federal judges and court employees in the 5th Judicial Circuit, most of them in Louisiana, have been forced out of their courthouses because of Katrina. About 150 court employees in New Orleans have moved to Houston, and about 250 others have relocated their offices to other cities in Louisiana.

Most court personnel received excused absences to cope with the aftermath of the hurricane, but that practice will be curtailed as courts pick up operations and, over time, move back to New Orleans. The emergency leave transfer program should help employees who evacuated and might not be able to return to work in a timely manner.

Under the program, when the president declares disasters, employees may donate vacation time to be transferred to affected employees in their agency or other agencies. Any unused annual leave is returned to the donor.

Employees who qualify for emergency leave are not required to use up their vacation or sick time before receiving the donated leave. As a general rule, employees may not receive more than 240 hours of donated leave at one time.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, emergency leave transfer authority has been invoked only three times since 1997, when it was created. It was used after the African embassy bombings in 1998, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and in the wake of Katrina this year.

The legislation, approved on a voice vote Wednesday, was sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and David Vitter (R-La.). The House does not have a companion bill.

Contracting Out at EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to put about 800 jobs up for bid over the next three years, one of the largest competitive sourcing efforts undertaken by the agency.

The job competitions include 450 jobs in administrative support, 325 in information technology and 25 in the office of the chief financial officer, EPA said.

An EPA spokesman said the tally of agency jobs to be put up for competition could change. He said the agency cannot estimate any cost savings at this time.

AU to Honor Two

Sheila M. Earle of the Defense Department and Marvin E. Gunn Jr. of the Energy Department have been selected to receive the Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership, sponsored by American University's School of Public Affairs.

The awards will be presented Oct. 25 at AU. Frances Fragos Townsend , assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, will be the keynote speaker.

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