Proposal would add term to OoC service

Two key members of the House Administration Committee introduced a bill Monday that would extend the term limits of executive-staff members of the Office of Compliance (OoC), amending the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) for the second time in two years.

The bill, introduced by committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and ranking member Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), will extend term limits for the executive director, the two deputy directors and the general counsel by five years, or one full term. The act currently limits those positions to one five-year term.

The Government Accountability Office “studied the Office of Compliance and suggested greater continuity to increase the effectiveness of the office,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the House Administration Committee, where the bill has been referred. “This was addressed through the authorization of additional terms for the board members and now for the executive staff.”

The bill is expected to be under consideration in the House the week after the July recess.

While there is currently no companion legislation in the Senate, a spokesman for the Rules and Administration Committee said staff had been in contact with the House about the subject during the past few weeks.

“We fully support the extension of term limits for senior staff and will be awaiting action on the bill in the House,” the spokesman said.

A source familiar with the OoC said that the term limits have hampered the office and that stretching the term limits would help preserve the institutional memory of the office.

In September 2004, a bill introduced by Ney and then-ranking member John Larson (D-Conn.) similarly extended the amount of time members of the board of directors could serve, to two terms. It was agreed to by unanimous consent in the House and Senate.

Senate leaders and minority members appoint the five-member board to five-year terms. The board appoints the four members of the statutory senior staff.

In a February 2004 GAO report, the agency advised Congress to change the term-limit provision in the CAA to “prevent the loss of critical organizational knowledge” and preserve “institution continuity.”

Sources familiar with the OoC said the change in term limits could help senior staff complete the overall mission of the Office of Compliance, including the mandatory safety inspections of the Capitol campus.

In April, the OoC was reported to have found 2,666 hazards during the 108th Congress as a result of a new, more thorough safety inspection system. That inspection, however, only covered a quarter of the 15 million square feet of facilities and grounds under the OoC’s jurisdiction.

In January 2005, workplace-safety advocates criticized the OoC for its failure to release the 2004 safety report more than a month after it was due.

The CAA was enacted in 1995 to bring Congress and many of its agencies under the same 12 labor, civil-rights and workplace-safety laws that are followed by businesses and the federal government. The OoC was created by the CAA as an independent agency that focuses on safety, health and workplace rights for employees that work in the legislative branch.