The Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act (LMWFA) continues its march toward enactment into law. Yesterday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) unanimously approved H.R. 1531, the House version of the bill, without amendment. This action constitutes a recommendation by the committee of jurisdiction that the bill be passed. If the full Senate agrees and passes it, it will be ready for the President’s signature.
The LMWFA would give long-serving temporary seasonal employees in land management agencies, including thousands of wildland firefighters, the same opportunity to advance their careers that other federal employees have. It would do so by giving them the ability, currently denied, to compete for promotions under internal agency merit promotion procedures. Age requirements that currently prevent temporary seasonal firefighters from competing for permanent positions for which they may be well qualified would also be waived for experienced applicants. The LMWFA would benefit roughly 10,000 employees on temporary appointments at the Forest Service, Land Management Bureau, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Indian Affairs Bureau and Reclamation Bureau.
Winning approval by the Senate HSGAC of the same bill that has already passed the House
is a significant accomplishment. If the Senate were to amend the bill, it would need to go back to the House for approval of those changes. This process is called reconciliation. At best, reconciliation is problematic and time-consuming; at worst, it can derail a good bill. The HSGAC’s approval of the House’s language is thus a very big step forward.
NFFE, with its Forest Service Council (FSC) leading the way, has put five long years of work into getting the LMWFA to this point. On June 30, 2010, at NFFE’s request, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the issue at which NFFE National President William R. Dougan testified. This began a long process of building support and refining the bill. The LMWFA was introduced, in various forms, in the 112th, the 113th, and now the 114th Congresses. Each time, it garnered greater support. Now, with the bill in a great position for passage, all those years of hard work might finally be about to pay off!
“Thousands of wildland firefighters and other dedicated seasonal workers have been stuck for too long in dead-end jobs, not because of a lack of merit on their parts, but because of flawed regulations that do not recognize their years of service,” said Mark Davis, Vice President of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and past President of the NFFE Forest Service Council. “Many others leave and take their years of experience with them because of blocked career paths. After years of work, I’m optimistic that we are about to fix that.”
“Amid all the attacks from Congress federal employees are forced to endure, the bipartisan collaboration on the Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act is a welcome reprieve,” said NFFE President Dougan. “We would not be where we are today with the LMWFA without the help of many members of Congress who believe in good and efficient government. Our special thanks go out to Senator Jon Tester, who has been with us on this from the beginning, and to Senator Ron Johnson, who is Chairman of HSGAC and was the first Senate Republican to reach across the aisle and support this important reform. With their continuing help, we look forward to getting the LMWFA passed by the Senate and onto the President’s desk.”
After five years of working on the LMWFA, the bill is one step closer to the President’s desk