Telework bill passes the House

The House passed a bill Wednesday that would encourage teleworking among federal employees. 

The Telework Improvements Act of 2010, authored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), would direct the Office of Personnel Management to provide training and policy to support telework, the practice of working remotely, at all federal agencies. Every agency would also have a designated telework manager. The Senate has already passed a similar bill.

“A robust telework program will not only improve government operations during a disaster, it could be used as a tool to reduce traffic congestion in the DC area,” Sarbanes said in a statement. “Telework has a positive impact on productivity, quality of life and the environment. If fully integrated, it can save taxpayers money by increasing efficiency, reducing federal office space and improving employee retention.”

Advocates have long supported expanding telework opportunities for federal employees, but the issue has gained new political momentum since a snowstorm blanketed the Washington metro area in February, forcing the government to shut down for four days.

House Republicans blocked a May effort to pass the legislation when it came under suspension rules requiring a two-thirds vote to pass. The opposition cited a Congressional Budget Office report that the changes would ultimately cost taxpayers $30 million. Sarbanes disputed that projection, arguing the bill doesn’t include any appropriations and claiming the costs would be absorbed by agencies.

“The savings they’re going to see are going to far outweigh the costs,” Sarbanes told The Hill.

The bill passed 290-131, a 22-vote increase over the 268 it received in May.