Congress already has signaled several issues most likely to gain attention in the available working time ahead. One involves administrative leave, also called excused absence, which is paid time off from work without charge to leave. Committees on both sides of Capitol Hill have passed plans to cut back on the practice, especially when it is used to get employees out of the workplace pending disciplinary action. The two versions differ in several ways, however. Another long-running issue involves official time, on-the-clock time that employees can use for certain union-related work; the House panel has backed a bill on a bipartisan vote to require greater reporting on that practice–widely seen as a possible prelude to a move to restrict it. Also due for attention are special hiring authorities, following a series of reports questioning whether agencies are short-cutting merit hiring. For example, the House Veterans Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on veterans preference for later this month, but that panel is a strong proponent of that authority and would more likely move to strengthen it than to weaken it. Separately, OPM recently launched a review of agency hiring practices, although that likely would not be finished in time to figure in any changes considered this year. Numerous proposals also are circulating regarding agency disciplinary and awards practices, and an information request on those policies from the House oversight committee also is seen as a possible prelude to changes in those practices. The early version of a spending bill in the covering the VA would bar the payment of performance awards to any senior executive there, for example.
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