Donor bill gets new life


When a proposal to grant federal workers "humanitarian" leave to donate organs or blood marrow was stricken from House appropriations legislation earlier this month, the congressman behind the deletion did the gentlemanly thing: He swiftly reintroduced the legislation on behalf of the original sponsors.

Originally supported by Maryland Rep. Beverly B. Byron, D-6thand Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., the measure was designed to grant special leave to federal employees wishing to serve as bone-marrow or organ donors and to allow federal workers to use sick leave for activities relating to the adoption of a child.

A point of order arose when the measure was taken up withiappropriations legislation -- which is generally confined to money matters rather than policy, according to Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Compensation and Employee Benefits subcommittee.

"There was a jurisdictional question, so the parliamentary issuwas raised," says a subcommittee staffer. "But that didn't mean it wasn't a good bill."

So, within hours after the special federal-leave measure wadeleted from the appropriations bill, Ackerman introduced the Federal Employees Humanitarian Leave Act of 1991. Original co-sponsors include Byron and Wolf, as well as Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-5th.

The bill would entitle an employee of a federal agency to leavwithout loss of or reduction in pay, credit for time or service, or performance or efficiency rating, for the time it takes to serve as a bone-marrow or organ donor.

In addition, federal workers would be allowed to make use otheir sick leave in order to attend to those matters involved in the adoption of a child.

Hearings on the new legislation, which has been referred to thHouse Post Office and Civil Service Committee, have not yet been scheduled.

Unions smiling:

Measures that would add hundreds of IRS jobs are being praised by federal employee unions after passing a Senate panel and the House of Representatives.

Robert M. Tobias, president of the National Treasury EmployeeUnion, praises the legislators for their action, particularly in light of previous cuts in the IRS budget.

"It takes fortitude and forethought to withstand the pressure tcut budgets indiscriminately," says Tobias. "These lawmakers recognized the logic of adequately funding two of the nation's largest revenue-producing agencies."

The House bill would provide for about 950 new IRS employeeswhile the Senate bill would add only 650.

The Customs Service would gain about 210 staff positions undethe House version and about 453 under the Senate version. Assuming passage of the Senate bill, the differences between the two versions would be worked out in conference committee.

Washington is no Guam:

Months ago, when the Office of Personnel Management issued its report comparing the cost of living in remote parts of the United States with the cost in Washington, D.C., there was an implied conclusion that COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments) for some of these federal workers should be discontinued.

Now that the American Federation of Government Employeehas pored over the study, the union has decided that the practical problems associated with the report are "legion" -- and that no useful or accurate conclusions can be made from the report based on its methodology.

The union urged that no changes in COLAs be made until study is performed that would better compare the expenses of a federal worker in the greater Washington area with those of a federal worker living in Guam, for example.

"The foundation of our position is that deletion of the COLAwould constitute an effective lowering of salaries for the affected federal employees," said AFGE President John N. Sturdivant in a letter last week to director Constance B. Newman of the Office of Personnel Management.

"New surveys should be conducted which include both direcinput from the federal employees who will be affected, and a methodology developed which captures real differences in the costs of achieving a given standard of living in the various areas," added Sturdivant.

Designed to compare the cost of comparable economic lifestylein "non-foreign areas" such as Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, the OPM study neglected to take into account costs associated with life far from major metropolitan areas or from the continental United States, according to AFGE.

AFGE found that the study also ignored typical costs associatewith extreme weather conditions in areas such as Alaska, or the expenses involved in air travel within Alaska or Hawaii to get medical and other services available only in Anchorage or


"The fact is that Alaskans must not only purchase more of mosthings that Washingtonians purchase, but they must also purchase many things for daily survival which a Washington resident would only need for an extended vacation to the Arctic," said the AFGE statement, which pointed to weather-imposed costs in car and home maintenance, heating costs and lighting costs.

Questions also arose regarding the higher cost of groceries isuch faraway spots compared with the Washington area, the cost of transportation, and the cost of a decent education in such areas as compared with this region.

"The public education facilities on all levels in the metropolitaWashington area are among the finest in the nation, which is not the case in any of the COLA areas," said AFGE.

The OPM has not yet responded to the comments on the proposed cost-of-living policy change.

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