With the current Congress less than a month old, bills already have been introduced to:
Allow off-duty U.S. workers to get involved in partisan political campaigns, introduced by Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) and others.
Give Washington and Baltimore workers an 8 percent cost-of-living pay raise, introduced by Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.) and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.).
Relax age-service rules to allow thousands of employees to retire early, introduced by Sen. William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.).
Offer a 10 percent pension bonus to Defense Department civilian employees who retired early, introduced by Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and others.
All of the above excite many workers who, because it seems like such a good idea, assume their pet legislative project is a sure thing. Unfortunately, introducing a bill is only Step One, and often there is no Step Two.
The political freedom (Hatch Act revision) and early- retirement bills have been around for years. President Bush vetoed the Hatch Act changes last year. Federal unions and congressional Democrats sat on Roth's early-out plan. The proposed 8 percent raise for local federal workers is a long shot because of its price tag (an extra $738 million a year) and lack of interest beyond the Beltway.
Most bills don't become law. This year, the federal employee agenda will be topped by Hatch Act revision (pushed by federal and postal unions) and plans to revamp the federal employee/retiree health package. The government wants to offer several indemnity-type plans (there are now 20) and put retirees and workers under separate plans. Democrats led by Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.) lean toward a one-plan system, with the government paying even more of the premium. It now pays about 75 percent. The administration's plan has a first-year price tag of $3 billion. Ackerman's plan would run about $25 billion during five years. In an era of tight budgets, where would you place your bet? Hatch Act and health legislation could take up most of the congressional calendar devoted to federal workers.
The special raises for federal workers in Washington and Baltimore and early retirement could happen. But longtime legislation watchers recommend that you wait at least six months before investing that special raise in an early-retirement cottage.Scholarships/Student Loans
The Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund is accepting applications for loans and scholarships. The fund is financed by corporate grants and employee designations through the Combined Federal Campaign. It says it has awarded $235,000 in scholarships in the last few years. FEEA also arranges school loans up to $20,000. The presidents of the National Federation of Federal Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union serve on FEEA's board.
Scholarships are based on merit and require that children of federal employees be full-time students with good grades. Workers can apply for scholarships if they are working part time and going to school part time. For applications and brochures, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to FEEA, Suite 200, 8441 West Bowles, Littleton, Colo. 80123.