While the White House’s recent budget proposal has shifted attention to the fiscal 2019 cycle, work still remains to finalize agency budgets and certain federal personnel policies for the fiscal year that ends September 30.
The recent budget agreement ending a short-lived shutdown generally provided current-year funding at prior levels through March 23, meaning that some form of appropriations still must be enacted. Most likely that will come in the form of one bill tying together the 12 regular appropriations bills.
Given that the agreement lifted prior spending limits, there is little expectation of another funding lapse. However, there is much work remaining; Congress had made only limited progress on appropriations bills before resorting to a series of stopgap measures. The House had passed all of its measures in two packages, but none of the bills reached a floor vote in the Senate and several did not even reach a committee vote.
One of the appropriations bills, the general government measure, can serve as the vehicle for government-wide personnel policy changes. Both versions of that measure produced last summer would continue a long-standing ban against agencies starting “Circular A-76” studies to consider contracting out federal jobs to the private sector. The administration had sought to allow agencies to conduct such studies as part of their reorganization efforts, although on a more targeted basis than had been used in the past.
Also likely to continue are several provisions that have been written into similar bills for years, including a prohibition on “lifestyle”-oriented training that is not related to performance of official duties; a general requirement that FEHB carriers cover prescription contraceptives but that they not cover abortion; and a ban on the IRS paying employee awards unless conduct and personal compliance with tax laws are considered.