While Americans suffer economic woes due in part to legislative regulation, such as ethanol mandates and subsidies, Congress has been busy solving America's problems. At least that is what many of our elected officials would have us believe. But a closer look at some of the legislation passed this month reveals that Congressional business is as frivolous as it ever has been.
Among the many bills the House of Representatives passed on June 3, 2008, three stand out as both unnecessary and extending the purview of Congressional power. The first of these bills was H.R. 4106, the Telework Improvements Act of 2008. And what important business does this law address? It requires "the head of each executive agency to establish a policy under which employees may be authorized to telework [e.g., work from home]." Employees who are authorized to telework must "be allowed to telework at least 20% of the hours worked in every two administrative workweeks." The legislation then goes on to state that "the opportunity to telework [should be] made available to employees to the maximum extent possible without diminishing employee performance or agency operations." Finally, H.R. 4106 requires each executive agency in the Federal Government to have "a Telework Managing Officer" and requires the Comptroller General to report annually to Congressional committees about "agency telework policies, participation, and practices."
The second piece of legislation is H.R. 3774, the Senior Executive Service Diversity Assurance Act. This bill requires "the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to establish within OPM the Senior Executive Service Resource Office to make recommendations to the Director with respect to regulations, and to provide guidance to agencies, concerning the diverse composition of the Senior Executive Service (SES)." The purpose of the new office, as stated in one of the titles on the bill, is to provide greater diversity within the SES. It should be noted that "Members of the SES serve in the key positions just below the top Presidential appointees," according to OPM's website. "SES members are the major link between these appointees and the rest of the Federal work force. They operate and oversee nearly every government activity in approximately 75 Federal agencies."
Thus, instead of tackling difficult but pertinent legislation, such as building new oil refineries, allowing oil companies to drill in ANWR and the ocean, and reducing the cost of healthcare by making it nationally competitive (rather than only allowing people to purchase it in their home state), Congress is busy passing legislation requiring diversity in executive agencies, allowing Federal Government personnel to work 20% of the time from home, and requiring that leftover food at government functions be donated to those who do not have enough to eat. While the last is surely a laudable goal, requiring that all government contracts include a clause to "encourage" such behavior is redundant and unnecessary.