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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Jim Risch joined U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Richard Burr (R-NC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mike Lee (R-UT),  Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Thune (R-SD) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Federal Employee Accountability Act, a bill that would reduce “official time” for government employees. Under the practice of “official time”, as authorized under 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, federal employees can be paid by taxpayers to complete duties that are not related to the mission of their agency, allowing in some cases for employees to perform union-related activities – some even full time – while on federal payroll.  According to the Office of Personnel Management, in 2011, the government spent $155 million on 3.4 million hours used for “official time.”   

“It is an embarrassment that millions of federal dollars have been wasted on federal employees spending their time on union-related work,” said Senator Risch. “This legislation puts an end to these abusive practices and will put taxpayer-paid employees back to work for the America people.”

“Using taxpayer dollars to finance what is often highly partisan and political full-time union work is a grievous violation of the public’s trust,” said Dr. Coburn.  “Sadly, this is a widespread problem.  Agencies like the IRS and VA have hundreds of employees on their payrolls that do nothing but full-time union work paid for by taxpayer dollars.  This bill will restore the public’s trust by ensuring federal employees – and the taxpayer funds that support them – are instead used to appropriately execute the mission of every federal agency.”

The Federal Employee Accountability Act would repeal the provisions that entitle federal employees to official time while providing an exception for circumstances where both unions and agencies agree the use of official time is “reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest.”  The bill would not affect federal employees’ ability to organize or have union representation in hearings. The bill is a companion bill to H.R. 107 sponsored by Representative Phil Gingrey, M.D., (R-GA).