Tuesday morning federal headlines – April 16, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it has tried other ways to save money but now must furlough staff. The agency has begun talks with its unions. They’re discussing four days off without pay. That’s revealed in an internal memo from Acting Undersecretary Kathryn Sullivan, posted by Weather Underground. NOAA says furloughs will not hurt weather forecasts and warnings, satellite operations or other critical products and services. Its employees union says the National Weather Service already has a vacancy rate of more than 8 percent because of hiring freezes. (Weather Underground/Federal News Radio)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to end its two-strikes-and-you’re-out policy of health care. Right now, if a veteran misses two medical appointments without giving at least 24 hours notice and a good excuse, that’s it. The VA puts them down as refusing medical care. They don’t receive more health care services from the department except in an emergency. Or if they promise not to miss appointments again. VA said that rule is out of line with its patient-centered philosophy. It wants it stripped from the books. It is accepting public comments on a proposed rule in the Federal Register. (Federal Register)
  • The House passed a bill to bar tax-delinquent companies from getting large federal contracts. But it defeated a bill requiring federal employees who fall behind on their taxes to be fired. The contractor bill passed on a voice vote under fast track procedures. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sponsored the bill. The Salt Lake City Tribune reports, he wasn’t as successful on the federal employee bill. It ran into opposition from Democrats such as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). She said firing delinquent feds would make it harder to collect their back taxes. Right now the government can garnish their wages. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) tweeted, the bill’s defeat was a victory for hard-pressed federal employees. (The Salt Lake City Tribune)
  • The IRS is facing something of a delayed tax season. Just before the filing deadline, returns were running 3.4 percent less than a year earlier. Refunds were off 4.5 percent. The Wall Street Journal reports, that’s because of the January budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. It occurred so late, the IRS had to postpone the opening of the filing season. It needed time to reprogram its computers to account for tax law changes. Experts predict that eventually, the numbers will return to normal. Tax receipts are up this year thanks to rate hikes and more people working. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration swung into action immediately following the Boston Marathon bombings. It established a no-fly zone over the site of two explosions in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. The initial radius was 3.5 miles, later reduced to 2.5 miles. FAA officials briefly halted inbound flights to Boston’s Logan International Airport. That gave them time to reconfigure landing patterns to bring planes in from the northeast and send them out to the southeast over Boston harbor. (Federal News Radio)
  • The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings has become a distinctly federal affair. The FBI has taken charge of the criminal investigation. It set up telephone hotlines for people who might have information about the perpetrator. It’s looking for tips, pictures or videos of anything suspicious along the 26.2-mile route. Attorney General Eric Holder directed the entire Justice Department to make itself available. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz is coordinating the department’s response with Massachusetts and Boston authorities. Yesterday’s bombing near the finish line killed three spectators and wounded more than 100 people. (Federal News Radio)
  • Fewer than three in 10 Americans like the federal government. A Pew Research Center survey shows that percentage has dropped steadily over the past dozen years, from a high of 81 percent just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Democrats, predictably, have more favorable views of the federal government than Republicans do, at 41 percent to 13. But this is the first time since President Barack Obama took office that more Democrats are more likely to say they have an unfavorable view of Washington. There’s better news for state and local governments. Regardless of party, people were more likely to have favorable views of them. (Pew Research Center)