The budget plan near final congressional approval for the remainder of the current fiscal year continues many long-standing federal personnel policies, but changes in those policies could lie ahead starting with the budget for the new year beginning in October.
The budget measure, which generally continues current spending and policy decisions through September 30, incorporates what have become standard provisions of the financial services-general government appropriations bill. That has been the standard practice of recent years as Congress generally has enacted few of those regular 12 appropriations bills and instead merged them into a catchall measure.
The measure continues provisions including: a general requirement that FEHB plans cover contraceptives but that they generally not cover abortion; a ban on “lifestyle” oriented training and other training not directly related to an employee’s job duties; and a requirement that agencies must allow breastfeeding in a federal building or on a federal property if the woman and child are authorized to be there. It also continues various requirements on agency management, including a ban against providing unions with employee names and home addresses for use in recruiting unless the employee authorizes it or a court orders it, and continued scrutiny of spending on conferences and similar events.
Also included are several provisions added in more recent years in response to the IRS scandal. These include a ban on that agency paying awards to current employees or rehiring former employees unless the individual’s conduct and personal tax compliance are considered. Some Republicans in Congress tried in past years to use the bill to impose even tighter restrictions–disqualifying job applicants or even current employees who are seriously delinquent on their personal taxes, for example–or to extend those government-wide. They were unsuccessful during the Obama administration but could try again in the changed political lineup.
Also included is a provision Congress first imposed late in the Bush administration barring agencies from beginning new “Circular A-76” studies for considering whether certain federal jobs could be contracted out. Federal unions have said they have seen several signs of the Trump administration’s intent to restart process, and the fiscal 2018 budget could clear the way simply by removing the restrictive language.