2020 Legislative Branch Wish List

The passage of the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill for FY 2020 back in December started the clock on a number of projects and reports inside the legislative branch. We took a look at the requests, broke them down by office, and summarized the deadlines, which are drawn from the House committee report, the Senate committee report, and the Joint Explanatory Statement.

2020 Leg Branch Item Check List (1)

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Architect of the Capitol (AOC)

Collaborative Management of Legislative Branch Data Centers

Joint Report, p. 2

Deadline: January 31, 2020

Legislative Branch agencies autonomously decide how to manage their data center needs, which can make coordination across the entire branch difficult. The AOC manages facilities that provide space for data centers, and coordinating how those data centers are used across agencies could result in cost savings (from economies of scale). Appropriators directed Leg. Branch chief information officers (CIOs) to form a governance board to coordinate facility use. The board is required to provide annual reports on its activities to the committee.

Report on Implementation of AOC Inspector General’s Recommendations Related to Sexual Harassment

Senate Report, p. 36

Deadline: February 18, 2020

The Committee is concerned about the work environment at the AOC. Appropriators asked the agency to provide a status report on its implementation of the 16 recommendations listed in the March 2019 AOC OIG report on sexual harassment at the agency, as well as the recommendations identified in prior OIG sexual harassment management advisories. Appropriators want the report to include an implementation timeline as well as any changes to the AOC’s internal policies relating to harassment and discrimination, including employee trainings. 

Report on Expanding Senate Child Care Physical Capacity

Joint Report, p. 13

Deadline: March 31, 2020

The AOC will report on options for expanding the physical capacity of the Senate Employees’ Child Care Center (SECCC) before April 2020. In anticipation of those results, Senate appropriators provided $1,000,000 for pre-design activities if a preferred option from the study is selected.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)

Cloud Technologies

House Report, p. 10

Deadline: None specified

Appropriators encouraged the CAO to investigate and pilot cloud service options, which would allow for easier and more effective collaboration, increased storage, as well as economies of scale in purchasing that will lead to cost savings. 

Congressional Staff Family and Medical Leave Policies

House Report, p. 12

Deadline: January 15, 2020

The Committee directed the CAO to investigate the feasibility and costs of implementing a standard House-wide paid family leave policy. The options evaluated should include up to 12 weeks of paid leave for staff with one year of tenure for the birth and care of a newborn; adoption or foster care placement; to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition; or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Congressional Staff Tuition Assistance Program

House Report, p. 12

Deadline: June 17, 2020

The Committee directed the CAO to  report on which possible staff tuition assistance programs could be implemented and the associated costs.

House Student Loan Repayment Program 

House Report, p. 11

Deadline: None specified

The Committee requested the CAO report on the feasibility and logistics of raising the ceiling on the maximum lifetime benefit for the House Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) from $60,000 to $80,000. 

Study on Accessibility Services

House Report, p. 12

Deadline: June 20, 2020

The Committee directed the CAO to create a report that reviews disability services in the House and offers recommendations. The report should look at (1) how easy it is to access disability information and services, and (2) whether disability services and accommodations are being coordinated effectively. Relatedly, the AOC was also ordered to conduct an assessment of the accessibility of Capitol Tours.

Update Formula for Calculating the Member Representational Allowance (MRA)

House Report, p. 7

Deadline: None specified

The formula used to calculate the MRA is potentially out of date and needs to be examined. The Committee noted that CAO is currently analyzing the MRA formula, and raised specific concerns about whether the MRA adequately supports the costs of district offices rent.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO)

Report on CBO Transparency 

Senate Report, p. 34

Deadline: March 19, 2020

The Committee directed CBO to provide an updated report on the agency’s ongoing and future efforts to implement the multi-year plan to increase CBO capacity, transparency, and responsiveness. The report is also expected to cover the agency’s transparency efforts from 2019.

Clerk of the House of Representatives (Clerk)

Automating Co-Sponsorship of Bill

House Report, p. 9

Deadline: None specified

The Committee encouraged the Clerk to develop an electronic system that would provide lists of bills available for co-sponsorship, and provide secure means for Members to sign on as co-sponsors of a bill. 

Facilitating Public Access to Legislative Information 

House Report, p. 9

Deadline: None specified

The Committee encouraged the Clerk to explore ways of making legislative branch information more readily available to the public as data. This includes providing assistance to the public with finding and obtaining legislative data; supporting the annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference; supporting the Bulk Data Task Force; and other duties. 

Immediate Roll Call Vote Availability

House Report, p. 9

Deadline: February 19, 2020

The Committee requested a report from the Clerk on the feasibility of making roll call votes immediately available to the public on the Clerk’s website.

Lobbyist Disclosure Unique Identifier

House Report, p. 9

Deadline: February 18, 2020

The Committee requested a status update from the Clerk on the generating of Congress-wide unique IDs for lobbyists and disclosing those IDs to the public as structured data.

Congressional Research Service (CRS)

Congressional Staff Education Program

Joint Report, p. 20

Deadline: None Specified

CRS holds educational seminars for congressional staff on the legislative process. Appropriators encouraged CRS to continue to incorporate analyses of Federal law and related judicial developments, legislation and the regulatory process, and international law into its curriculum.

Study of CRS Unfilled Analyst Positions

House Report, p. 9

Deadline: March 19, 2020

The Committee directed CRS to help identify where additional resources are required by turning in a report detailing how many FTE positions for legislative topic area analysts available to assist Members and staff have not been filled subsequent to retirements or other vacancies

during each of the last five years.

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Good Accounting Obligation in Government Act

Senate Report, p. 5

Deadline: Before FY 2021

The GAO-IG Act requires each federal agency (including the Leg. Branch agencies) create an account of any public recommendations from the agency’s IG or the GAO that have not yet been implemented, as well as a time frame for implementation. These accounts are expected to be included in the agencies’ FY 2021 Congressional Budget Justifications.

Increasing Science and Technology Assessment Resources

Joint Report, p. 22

Deadline: None Specified

In January 2019, GAO launched its Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team. In November 2019 a report from NAPA determined GAO should focus on technical assessments and short-to-medium term studies, as well as work to fill the gap in in science and technology policy expertise available to congressional staffers. Appropriators therefore encouraged GAO to dedicate “a specific number of experts” to work exclusively on GAO’s STAA team.

Legislative Branch Financial Managers Council (LBFMC)

Exploration of Standardizing Congressional Budget Justifications

Joint Report, p. 1

Deadline: June 17, 2020

Congressional Budget Justifications are plain text explanations of how a federal agency plans to spend money for an upcoming year, submitted to Congress as a part of the appropriations process. These reports are historically difficult to locate, plus content, formatting, and terminology vary across agencies. For these reasons, appropriators have directed the LBFMC to explore refining and standardizing Congressional Budget Justifications and to present findings to the relevant Committees.

Library of Congress (LOC)

Public Access to Legislative Information

House Report, p. 28

Deadline: See description below

The Committee urged the Library to convene a public meeting, at least once a year over the next two years, to discuss issues surrounding public access to legislative information. The Library has been instructed to invite a broad range of interested parties, such as public interest organizations, journalists, academics, research institutions, etc., as well as representatives from the Leg. Branch agencies. The Library has also been directed to prepare a report for the Appropriations Committees and authorizing Committees following the meetings. The report will summarize the comments and suggestions made during the public meetings and indicate what actions the Library plans to take, the cost, and effort needed.

Study of LOC’s Outreach to MInority Serving Institutions

House Report, p. 29

Deadline: March 19, 2020

The Committee has urged the Library to increase cooperative partnerships, fellowship opportunities, and curriculum program associations with community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Asian American and native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, American Indian Tribally controlled colleges and universities, Alaska native and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions, and other minority serving-institutions. The Committee also requested the Library submit a report detailing these efforts.

Sergeant at Arms, House (House SAA)

Security Clearance Report

House Report, p. 9

Deadline: March 1st of each of the next 2 years

It appears security clearances for Leg. Branch staff are not being finalized and adjudicated at a rate that is consistent with the Executive Branch timelines. The Committee therefore requested an unclassified report from the House SAA detailing the average and median length of time from open to close of all security clearance requests, and suggested the report includes an annex breaking down request length by level of security clearance.

Sergeant at Arms, Senate (Senate SAA)

E-Signature Platform

Senate Report, p. 13

Deadline: March 19, 2020

The Committee asked the Senate SAA to report on the estimated cost and feasibility of an e-Signature platform that would allow offices to sign multi-signature letters electronically. This would create a level of quality assurance and save staff work hours. 

Unified Communications

Senate Report, p. 19

Deadline: Semi Annual Updates

The Committee wants the Senate SAA to begin the process of updating the Senate’s communications platform. The SAA was directed to consider full range of technologies available for supporting constituent communications (e.g. visual voicemail) and was directed to provide semi-annual updates to the Committee on the design and development of the Unified Communications and Collaboration solution. 

U.S. Capitol Police (USCP)

USCP Wellness Program

Senate Report, p. 30

Deadline: February 2, 2020

The Committee encouraged USCP to implement a holistic wellness program emphasizing physical fitness, nutritional health, mental and emotional health, and financial wellness. The Committee directed USCP to submit a report that provides the scope, timeline and the cost estimates for implementation and maintenance of such a program. They requested specific details like how the Department plans to utilize its current resources and how it would expand these capabilities to provide the greatest opportunity for its workforce to improve and maintain their physical fitness and nutritional health.

— Written by Amelia Strauss & Taylor J. Swift

Related Reading:

• The Leg Branch Approps To-Do List for FY 2019 (2019-10-12)