Federal employees living in the District of Columbia and its surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs now are able to run for local electoral office without worrying about violating the Hatch Act as long as they are an independent.
The Office of Personnel Management issued a final rule Thursday in the Federal Register implementing changes from the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012.
Congress passed the bill Dec. 21 and the President signed the bill into law Dec. 31.
OPM said federal employees can be exempted from the Hatch Act if they meet two requirements:
The community must be the District of Columbia; or the community or political subdivision must be located in Maryland or Virginia, and in the immediate vicinity of the District of Columbia; or the majority of the community’s registered voters must be employed by the United States government.
OPM determines that it is in the domestic interest of the employees to permit that political participation because of special or unusual circumstances existing in the community or political subdivision. “OPM has established limitations on political participation by most federal employees residing in these designated municipalities and subdivisions.”
OPM issued the proposed rule in April 2013 and received one comment from an employee union in favor of the change.
The rule outlines specific ways feds can run for office, and they must be cognizant of the rules so as not to unknowingly violate them.
Federal employees can now run for office as an independent candidate, solicit, accept and receive political contributions as or on behalf of an independent candidate and solicit, accept and receive uncompensated volunteer services.
The final rule, however, stated federal employees cannot run as a candidate of a political party, solicit contributions, accept or receive contributions from a subordinate or receive volunteer services from a subordinate.
“Employees also may not participate in political activities when on duty, or while they are wearing items that identify their employing agency or their position,” the rule stated. “They cannot participate in political activities while they are in any room or building in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the government of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof; nor while using a government-owned or lease vehicle, or while using a privately-owned vehicle in the discharge of official duties.”