What’s in the House’s Modernization Legislation?
On December 12th, the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress turned its bipartisan recommendations into a legislative reality when Chairman Derek Kilmer (D-WA) introduced H. Res 756, the “Moving Our Democracy and Congressional Operations Towards Modernization Resolution.” The committee continued its commitment to unanimity with all 11 other members, including six minority Republicans, all signing on as cosponsors of the resolution.
So, what House modernization and reform ideas made their way into the bill? A lot, especially by way of required reports and surveys to be collected and analyzed by the House Committee on Administration. Let’s break down the resolution’s contents:
Streamlining and Reorganizing Human Resources
- Directs Chief Administrative
Officer (CAO) to “establish and operate a centralized human resources program
to assist Member, committee, and leadership office staff.” The program has a
number of directives, including:
- Developing a repository of of HR practices from public and private sources;
- Improving diversity among staff and bolstering the House resume portal;
- Reevaluating current House office employee benefits including child care and student loan repayment programs, and submitting recommendations to the House Admin. Committee recommendations on staff retention perks such as telework, flex schedules, and sabbaticals;
- Improving the House resume bank and the House Vacancy Announcement mailer
- Providing members-elect with easy-to-understand information on the ranges of services available to their staff.
The CAO is directed to designate a Deputy Chief Human Resources Officer to develop and oversee the program.
- Requires the House Office of Diversity of Inclusion within 90 days to submit a report to House Admin. on policies to guide House offices to “recruit, hire, train, develop, advance, promote, and retain a diverse workforce.” The Diversity and Inclusion office is also required to submit a diversity report to the House leaders and the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee.
- Requires the CAO and the House Inspector General to submit a report within 60 days of passage on the feasibility of switching the House payroll system from monthly to biweekly. The contents of the report are to include any previous survey findings on the subject.
- Directs the CAO to contract a report within 180 days examining the feasibility and impact of adjusting the number of employees who may be employed by House personal offices. The number has been capped since 1975 at 18 full-time employees plus a maximum of 4 additional part-time staffers.
Improving Orientation For Members-elect And Providing Improved Continuing Education Opportunities For Members
- Requires the Clerk of the House to submit a report within 90 days on a plan to pay a transition staffer for new Members-elect between the period of being elected and taking the oath.
- Directs the House Administration Committee to improve the orientation experience for new members, including making the orientation activities are bipartisan “to the greatest extent possible.”
- Requires the CAO to conduct a survey to ascertain the level of interest in establishing a Congressional Leadership Academy to provide professional development and continuing education opportunities to House staff. The CAO must submit its survey results to House Admin. within 120 days.
- Requires the CAO to train each House staffer on cybersecurity procedures each year and within 30 days of being hired for new House aides.
Modernizing and Revitalizing Technology
- Requires the CAO to submit a report within 180 days to House Admin. on the operations of the Office of House Information Resources (HIR), including recommendations for changes to HIR’s services and support.
- Grants House Admin. Authority to take steps to improve technologies related to constituent service, such as allowing House-issued cell phones to take and make video calls, allowing member offices to electronically sign constituent correspondence, and allowing member offices to upload constituent casework directly to their official House website.
- Requires HIR to submit a report within 90 days to House Admin. with recommendations to streamline the approval process for outside technology vendors.
- Requires HIR to submit a report within 120 days to House Admin. on creating a program that will allow House offices to beta test new HIR-approved technology developed by outside vendors.
- Requires CAO to submit a report within 60 days to House Admin. outlining the steps required in creating a single point-of-contact within HIR for each House office to streamline requests and delivery of products.
- Requires HIR to submit a report within 90 days to House Admin. on the steps necessary to survey staff and Member satisfaction with House technology, including rating outside vendors on their supplied technology.
- Requires CAO to submit a report with 90 days to House Admin. on the the steps necessary to provide a “standard suite” of information technology to “leverage bulk purchasing power” of the chamber. The standard suite of IT shall include: desktop and laptop computers and software; cell and office phones; printers; internet products; telecommunications software and support; and subscriptions.
- Directs CAO to work with the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to ensure that CRS has the capacity to rapidly produce nonpartisan factsheets.
- Grants House Admin. authority to make improvements to nonpartisan constituent services resources made available on HouseNet.
Making the House Accessible to All
- Requires CAO to submit a report within 90 to House Admin. which details a plan to make all House websites and applications are publicly accessible.
- Requires CAO and the House Clerk to submit a report within 180 days to House Admin. which details a plan to ensure that all broadcasted House proceedings provide closed captioning services.
- Requires three House entities to submit a report within 180 days to House Admin. which identifies areas of the Capitol complex that are not currently accessible and provides cost estimates to making such areas fully accessible.
Improving Access to Public Documents
- Requires the Clerk to submit a report within 120 days to House Admin. detailing the status of the House’s transition to a standardized format for viewing, drafting, and publishing legislation, including a timeline as to when the transition will be complete. Subsequent quarterly reports are required.
- Requires the Clerk to submit a report within 90 days to House Admin. detailing the status of the House’s transition to legislative comparison (also known as comparative print) project required by clause 12 of House Rule XXI.
- Requires the Clerk to submit a report within 120 days to House Admin. detailing the establishment and maintenance of a publicly available, searchable, and downloadable database of all authorized federal programs. Subsequent annual reports are required.
- Requires the Clerk to submit a report within 120 days to House Admin. detailing the status of a database of all recorded committee votes taken during the 116th Congress and every subsequent Congress. Subsequent quarterly reports are required.
- Requires the Clerk to submit a report within 60 days to House Admin. detailing the status of assigning a unique identifier to each individual registered lobbyist. Subsequent quarterly reports are required.