A BRIGHT idea would save government millions of dollars on lightbulbs, electricity

In today's Federal Newscast: A BRIGHT idea by lawmakers could save millions of taxpayer dollars. The Biden administration takes steps to loosen COVID-19 restric...

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  • The House votes are in on a bill to prevent the possible return of Schedule F. In a vote of 225 to 204, the full House passed the Preventing a Patronage System Act. The bill would prohibit future administrations from creating new federal job classifications without congressional approval. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced the bill in response to a now-rescinded executive order that would have made tens of thousands of federal workers at-will employees. Senate Democrats introduced a companion bill and now say they’re looking to follow the House’s lead. (Federal News Network)
  • The Biden administration has taken a few more steps to loosen COVID-19 restrictions for federal facilities and federal employees. Among the latest changes: The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said agencies should not cap the number of people allowed in a building to enforce social distancing. They will still be allowed to put occupancy limits on meeting spaces and other gathering areas in regions where COVID spread is high.
  • The Defense Department is aiming to accelerate biotechnology toward prototyping, operational demonstration and production at a faster rate. The department will pursue this acceleration by investing a billion dollars in bioindustrial domestic manufacturing infrastructure over the next five years. The funding stems from a recent executive order, and seeks to encourage public/private partnerships to expand manufacturing capacity for products important to both commercial and defense supply chains.
  • The Defense Department is warning about the impact if a small business program expires. The Small Business Innovation Research program will shut down across the Defense Department on October 1 if Congress doesn’t reauthorize it. Heidi Shyu, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, detailed in a new memo nine potential changes if the SBIR program expires. DoD would stop funding any new SBIR awards, options or increments for Phase 1 and Phase 2. It would place on hold any Phase 3 funding that hasn’t been obligated. And it would stop issuing any solicitations or making sole source contracts. Congress is trying to reauthorize the 40-year-old program, but has not come to terms with concerns from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
  • The IRS is making progress toward establishing the Federal Contractor Tax Check System. This will make it possible for contractors to request a certificate from the tax agency certifying that they don’t owe any seriously delinquent taxes. This comes as the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration found that agencies across the government awarded contracts and grants to groups that owed millions in delinquent taxes.
  • Vendors have an extra 30 days to file any written objections to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs over potential information disclosures. OFCCP gave companies until September 19 to tell them why the agency should not release demographic data on their employees to a journalist. Companies now have until October 19 to submit their requests.
  • A bill requiring more energy-efficient lighting in federal buildings is heading to President Joe Biden’s desk. The House passed the BRIGHT Act, which requires the General Services Administration to install the most cost-effective and energy-efficient lights at federal buildings as part of routine maintenance. GSA estimates switching to LED lightbulbs would save millions of dollars.
  • A key veteran organization joins the call for Congress to create a fourth administration under the Veterans Affairs Department. Disabled American Veterans said education and employment benefits often take a backseat to other priorities under the Veterans Benefits Administration. A fourth administration would ease the burden on VBA, while allowing for greater focus and oversight.
  • The IRS is setting a high bar for taxpayer service the next time you file. The IRS is staffing up call centers to provide at least an 85% level of service next filing season and will cut the average hold time for taxpayers on the phone in half, to less than 15 minutes. The IRS during the most recent filing season had a 10-15% level of phone service, meaning employees answered less than two out of every 10 incoming calls. The IRS will also fully staff all its Taxpayer Assistance Centers for in-person tax help. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said all of this is possible because of the $80 billion the IRS is getting from the Inflation Reduction Act over the next decade. (Federal News Network)
  • A bill requiring federal agencies to come up with a plan to recycle their electric vehicle batteries has passed the Senate. The Strategic EV Management Act requires the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget to come up with a plan for how to recycle old EV batteries, as well as maximize their longevity. The bill’s authors, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Sen. Mitt Romney R-Utah), Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), said 95% of the critical materials in EV batteries can be recycled.
  • The Office of Management and Budget has released its final version of the first-ever governmentwide learning agenda. The goal is to help implement the three pillars of the Biden administration’s President’s Management Agenda. OMB’s final learning agenda includes research questions to help advance priorities, like strengthening the federal workforce and improving customer service. (Federal News Network)

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