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House Passes Telework Bill

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WASHINGTON, July 14, 2010- With a vote of 290-131 the House of Representatives has passed the Telework Improvements Act of 2010 which expands telework options for federal employees. During the snow storms which occurred this past winter the federal government lost $71 million in productivity for each day of the four days it was closed. Originally the cost was estimated at $100 million but it was decreased after the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) determined that 30 percent of federal employees teleworked during the storm.

The bill would have the OPM to develop a uniform telework policy for all federal employees. It would also create a Telework Managing Officer within every agency.

The General Accounting Office would also conduct a report on the state of telework which it would present to Congress annually.

“Telework can be a great way to increase worker productivity, reduce traffic congestion, and protect the environment. This legislation will help the federal government make telework a priority when it is appropriate.  It just makes sense,” said Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D- MD)

“I believe this legislation is necessary so that a formal telework policy can be enacted across the Federal Government and sustained into future Administrations,” said Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD). “A robust telework program will not only improve government operations during a disaster, it could be used as a tool to reduce traffic congestion in the DC area. Telework has a positive impact on productivity, quality of life and the environment. If fully integrated, it can save taxpayers money by increasing efficiency, reducing federal office space and improving employee retention.”

The bill was first introduced in May but failed due to Republican opposition which claimed that it would cost the federal government $30 million.  However after Congressmen Sarbanes explained that any additional costs would have to be met within existing agency budgets and no new appropriations would be made, the opposition decreased.

The Senate passed a similar bill in May; the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 which also establishes a Telework Managing Officer. In a statement regarding the bill Senator George Voinovich (R- Ohio) said: "The federal government must acknowledge that the next generation of employees will have different expectations of what it means to go to work. Advancements in technology mean employees will expect to be able to work at any time from any place, as evidenced by the thousands of federal employees who worked from home during last winter's snowstorms in Washington, D.C. This bill will expand telework programs for federal employees and ensure the government keeps running during weather events or emergencies."

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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