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· House Nutrition Bill May Complicate Farm Bill Process
· September Action Planned on Energy-Efficiency Bill
Federal Employee News
House Nutrition Bill May Complicate Farm Bill Process
House Democrats have expressed concern that a separate nutrition bill will further complicate the process of enacting a final farm policy overhaul before Sept. 30.
Republican leadership has indicated they may bring to the floor in September a nutrition bill that would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $40 billion over 10 years and might include provisions such as work requirements for SNAP recipients. However, no such legislation has yet been introduced (149 DER A-37, 8/2/13).
The House July 11 passed a farm bill (H.R. 2642) that does not include a nutrition title. An earlier version (H.R. 1947), which was defeated in the House, would have cut $20.5 billion from SNAP over 10 years.
There is concern that the $40 billion SNAP cut is likely to further polarize the already contentious Farm bill debate. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said July 19 he wants a nutrition bill included with the House farm bill before going to conference with the Senate.
The Senate sent a request to go to conference to negotiate final farm legislation with the House July 18. The Senate Agriculture Farm, Foods, and Jobs Act of 2013 (S. 954), approved June 10, cuts $4 billion from SNAP and does not include the work requirement.
Senate Names Farm Bill Conferees
The Senate leadership Aug. 1 named seven Democrats and five Republicans to serve on a conference committee to negotiate farm and nutrition policy (S. 954, H.R. 2642) with the House.
Senate Democrats on the committee include: Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Max Baucus (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Michael Bennet (Colo.).
Republican committee members include Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), ranking member of the agriculture committee; Pat Roberts (Kan.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), John Boozman (Ark.), and John Hoeven (N.D.).
Energy-Efficiency Bill Action Planned for September
When senators return from their summer recess, they will turn to a bill that would target the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings. Before leaving town, the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to proceed to the measure, S. 1392, on Sept. 10, one day after the chamber’s scheduled return from a five-week break. The bill, sponsored by New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Ohio Republican Rob Portman, would rewrite national model building codes -- voluntary standards often adopted by states and municipalities -- to hit specific energy-saving targets.
It also would establish education programs to train workers in energy-efficient building design and the installation of energy-efficient technologies. Rebate programs would provide incentives for the use of highly efficient motors and transformers.
The federal government, the single largest consumer of energy, would have its own goals under the bill. The Energy Department would be required to issue recommendations to reduce the energy used by computers. The bill also would permit appropriated money to be used to update federal building plans to integrate the latest in energy-efficient design.
The additional spending under the bill would be entirely offset by $350 million over four years in reductions to an existing energy-efficiency program, the senators said. That program funds efforts to develop market-ready commercial buildings that would produce as much energy as they consume by 2025. The bill was introduced on July 30 under procedures that bypassed committee referral.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved an earlier version, S. 761, by voice vote on May 8. The new bill omits language that would have created an initiative to finance the retrofitting of some privately owned buildings. More than 250 businesses, trade associations and environmental groups have expressed support for the legislation.
Federal Employee News
Senate Postal Bill Adds Proposal to Reduce Fed Workers’ Comp Benefits
A provision in bipartisan Senate postal reform legislation would overhaul workers’ compensation policies for all federal employees.
Titled the 2013 Workers’ Compensation Reform Act, the provision -- introduced by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. -- would cut benefits for federal workers injured on the job once they reach retirement age. Currently, federal employees receive 66 2/3 percent of their basic salary tax-free, designed to approximately replicate their entire post-tax salary. That figure is bumped to 75 percent if the employee has dependents. Related medical expenses are also covered.