July 10, 2020

Committee Approves Key Modernization Initiatives and Priorities

$2 million in new funding provided specifically for House modernization

Language echoing five Select Committee recommendations included in FY21 funding bill

Washington, D.C. – The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress today applauded the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ passage of the FY 21 Legislative Branch funding bill, which included a number of key provisions investing in the long term modernization of the legislative branch. There are five items that directly correlate to recommendations and requests made by the Select Committee. These recommendations were all included in H.Res. 756, the Select Committee’s legislation which passed in March. Earlier this year, Chair Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Vice Chair Tom Graves (R-GA) testified before the Legislative Branch subcommittee to discuss their work and funding priorities.

In addition to these items, the bill text includes $2 million in a new account for modernization initiatives. The language in the bill specifically states funds in this account are only available to implement recommendations made by the Select Committee, or at the approval of the Committee on House Administration. There is no expiration of the funds.

“Today the Appropriations Committee took a bold step towards investing in the future of the People’s House. Our guiding principle for the last year and a half has been to make Congress work better for the American people, and the priorities included in this legislation help accomplish that goal. We’ve got more work to do, but are grateful to our colleagues for recognizing the importance of a forward-thinking, modernized legislative branch,” said Chair Kilmer and Vice Chair Graves.

Also included in the legislation:

 

  • Bulk purchasing and baseline technology suite for offices
    • Committee recommendation: The CAO should leverage the bulk purchasing power of the House and provide a standard suite of quality, up-to-date devices and software, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, printers, mobile phones and desk phones at no cost to the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA).
    • Report language: The Select Committee recommended that the CAO leverage the bulk purchasing power of the House of Representatives. The CAO should provide a standard suite of quality, up-to-date devices and software, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, printers, mobile phones and desk phones at no cost to the MRA. The Committee believes that fragmented and duplicative contracts cause inefficiencies and unnecessary costs for Member, Committee, and leadership offices. The Committee recommends that the CAO negotiate House-wide contracts or purchasing services for Member, Committee, and Leadership offices with the goal of saving taxpayer dollars by purchasing centrally rather than independently.
  • $13 million for transition support to the CAO  
    • Committee recommendation: Through the Office of the Clerk, newly elected Members should have the option to hire and pay one transition staff member for the duration of the time between when they are elected and are sworn in.
  • Support of the HR Hub
    • Committee recommendation: Create a one-stop shop Human Resources HUB dedicated to Member, committee, and leadership (MCL) staff. Led by an HR Deputy Director and comprised of existing offices and staff of the House, the office will be responsible for assisting MCL offices to improve the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce, develop best practices that can be utilized by offices, and provide recommendations for competitive compensation and benefits to House staff.
    • Report language: The Committee commends the recommendations produced by the Select Committee, particularly those regarding centralized Human Resources. A centralized human resources program would provide standardized hiring, promoting, and managing guidelines and improve in the retention and recruitment of a diverse workforce. The Committee requests a report within 120 days of enactment from the CAO on the feasibility of a centralized Human Resources system.
  • Document standardization
    • Committee recommendation: Adopting one standardized format for drafting, viewing, and publishing legislation to improve transparency and efficiency throughout the lawmaking process.
    • Report language: The Committee is supportive of the Select Committee’s recommendations to adopt standardized formats for legislative documents and expedite the legislation comparison project.
  • Website accessibility
    • Committee recommendation: Scan and analyze all House websites and apps to determine the accessibility level of each congressional website, and provide resources and assistance to ensure all systems are compatible with common programs used by major disability groups.
    • Report language: According to the Bureau of the Census, there are 40.7 million citizens who are non-institutionalized individuals with a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Individuals with disabilities should have full digital access to government digital properties, especially those made available by Member offices, including websites, applications, and electronic document retrieval programs. The Select Committee has highlighted improving access to Congressional websites for individuals with disabilities as a top priority. The Committee directs the CAO to provide a report, no later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, on the current state of web accessibility of Member websites and provide a plan that defines the scope, timeline, and cost estimates for all Member of Congress websites to be accessible for the disabled. This report shall be submitted to the Committee and the Committee on House Administration.

 

About the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress

Created by an overwhelming bipartisan vote at the beginning of the 116th Congress, the Select Committee was tasked to produce recommendations on rules to promote a more modern and efficient Congress; procedures, including the schedule and calendar; policies to develop the next generation of leaders; staff recruitment, diversity, retention, and compensation and benefits; administrative efficiencies, including purchasing, travel, outside services, and shared administrative staff; technology and innovation; and the work of the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards.

Since March 2019 the Select Committee has held 16 hearings, five virtual discussions, and numerous Member and staff-level briefings and listening sessions to solicit ideas and recommendations for reforming the legislative branch. On a rolling basis throughout the year, the Select Committee issued recommendations and shared ideas for reform on a bipartisan basis. Last fall, after widespread bipartisan support throughout Capitol Hill, the Select Committee and its work was extended through the end of the 116th Congress. The rule that created the Select Committee originally had it set to expire on February 1, 2020. The extension allows the Select Committee to continue its work proposing bipartisan reforms to make Congress work better for the American people.