The skids are greased in the House for quick passage of legislation to allow 2.7 million federal and postal workers to become active in partisan politics for the first time in nearly half a century. Such a change would make metropolitan Washington's 357,000 federal workers -- who are already the major financial force here -- even more influential from the courthouse to the White House.
Yesterday the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee filed its report on a bill it approved unanimously that would amend the 1939 Hatch Act. That law restricts civil servants to passive roles in political campaigns. It carries penalties for employes who violate it, and for bosses who put the political squeeze on them. Federal and postal unions are strongly pushing for relaxed Hatch Act rules.
The measure sponsored by Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) has 285 cosponsors (233 Democrats and 52 Republicans). A simple majority in the House requires 218 votes, so the bill already has enough pledges of support to win quick approval.
Under Clay's bill, which the White House opposes, government employes who are now "Hatched" could manage political campaigns while off duty, raise money for candidates or run for partisan offices from county board to the presidency.
Backers of Hatch Act overhaul contend that the law denies full citizenship rights to some of the nation's best and brightest simply because they work for Uncle Sam. They say the bill would still make it illegal for political appointees to lean on government employes for political funds or favors.
Democrats in the Senate have indicated that they will begin pushing a similar Hatch Act overhaul plan shortly.
Plans to revise the Hatch Act have passed before, only to be blocked by the White House. President Ford vetoed one such bill, and two years later, lukewarm support from the Carter administration caused a House-passed bill to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate.Catastrophic Health Plan
Federal retirees could be forced to pay as much as $500 a year in premiums for catastrophic health coverage under Medicare under a House-passed bill now before the Senate. Attempts are being made in the Senate to provide financial relief for retirees who already have coverage through their government health plans.
At 1 p.m. tomorrow on WNTR radio (1050 AM), Judy Park, legislative director of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, will talk about the impact of the catastrophic coverage proposal on federal workers and retirees.
Steve Morrissey, president of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, will speak at 1 p.m. Oct. 27 at a meeting of the association's Silver Spring chapter at the Schweinhaut Senior Center.
George Washington University is sponsoring a free seminar on privacy in the computer age at 3 p.m. Monday at the Marvin Center. Speakers are Richard P. Kusserow, inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services, and Robert Ellis Smith, editor of Privacy Journal. Call 994-8238.
Ernie Alexander of the U.S. Customs Service is the new president of the Federal Criminal Investigators Association. Other officers are Matthew Pernick, State Department; Michael Assad, U.S. Marshal's Service, and Jim Guyot and Gerrie Klatt of the Internal Revenue Service.