The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation to update a 1936 law that governs the political activity of public employees, sending the bill to the president for final approval.
The Hatch Act Modernization Act would end the federal ban that prohibits most most state- and local-government workers from running for partisan political office, but only for employees who do not receive their full salary from the federal coffer.
The legislation would also eliminate the requirement for employment termination when workers participate in banned political activities, replacing that penalty with a broad menu of options including suspension, civil fines, grade reduction and debarment from federal employment for five years.
"This is a victory for good government," said Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act and recommended changing the law. "The bipartisan sponsors of this reform deserve credit for recognizing a problem and acting swiftly to address it. Local communities around the country will benefit from this reform."
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) sponsored the bill.
"I am pleased that more Americans will be allowed to run for public office and that federal employees will be treated in a more equitable manner under the law," the senator said in a statement Wednesday. "I look forward to President Obama signing this important legislation into law."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who introduced the House bill and serves as ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, also applauded the bill's passage.
In a statement, the congressman said the measure would allow state and local government employees, such as police officers, to run for office, and it will ensure that the punishment fits the crime by providing a range of penalties for Hatch Act violations instead of requiring employees to be fired."