making local government more ethical

Hatch Act Bill Amended to Let Local Government Employees Run for Office

The last Congress is known for doing very little, but a couple of weeks ago it actually passed a bill that will have a serious effect on local government ethics: the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 According to a press release on the bill, it "removes the federal prohibition on most state and local government employees who want to run for partisan political office. Under current law, state and local government employees may not run for partisan office if their job is connected to federal funding, a prohibition that prevents well-qualified candidates from serving their local communities. S. 2170 will strike this prohibition unless the employee’s salary is fully funded by federal dollars. The Hatch Act will continue to restrict state and local government employees from engaging in coercive conduct, or otherwise using their government positions to advance partisan political ends."

The bill also "updates the Hatch Act’s provisions regarding District of Columbia government employees," so that, according to Kathleen Clark in a Legal Ethics Forum post, the District will be treated like other municipalities, "enabling District officials to run for Mayor and Council. This has the potential to increase the competition for these elected posts and increase the quality of officeholders."

For more on this topic, see my blog posts "The Hatch Act's Restrictions on Running for Local Government Office" and "Hatch Act Problems and a Solution."

Robert Wechsler
Director of Research, City Ethics