The op-ed page of the New York Times contained an editorial today about the passage of S.274, the Senate whistleblower protection legislation (we blogged it here) , and the need for a strong bill to come out of conference. Check it out:
Another big legislative announcement! We received word today that the False Claims Act Amendments Act of 2007 has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Howard Berman. The bill number is HR. 4854.
This bill is designed to be companion legislation for the False Claims Act Correction Act of 2007, which was introduced in the Senate in September of this year by Senators Grassley, Leahy, Durbin and Specter. The legislation is intended to correct loopholes in the False Claims Act, a law which permits private citizens to file suit against contractors who defraud the federal government.
The NWLDEF and the National Whistleblower Center fully support this legislation, and urge Congressional Leaders to make it a priority when they return from recess.
**UPDATE: THE FULL TEXT OF THE LEGISLATION IS LINKED HERE
This week, Congressman Albert Wynn introduced the Congressional Disclosures Act (HR. 4650), legislation to protect federal employees from retaliation when they make disclosures to members of Congress. This is important legislation and it has been strongly supported by the National Whistleblower Center and many other public interest groups.
in a December 18 press release, the No FEAR Coalition, an organization whose mission is to push for the enactment of laws protecting federal employees, put forth the following statement:
This bill is the second of the No FEAR (Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation) laws, the first of which was enacted in 2002, and has been described as "the first civil rights law of the 21st century."
"This law will provides courageous federal government workers with concrete tools to defend themselves against a government of lawlessness, for the first time, government employees will be entitled to legal defense, groups, such as medical doctors...will be protected against harassment and retaliation when they expose corruption in hospitals. Agencies will have to disclose the total dollar amount spent to pursue victims of discrimination and retaliation. We commend Congressman Wynn for introducing this historic legislation."
Late last night, the U.S. Senate finally got the job done, unanimously passing S.274, the Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act. This law, along with its companion house legislation (H.R.985), if preserved in conference, would go a long way towards protecting every single federal whistleblower and federal government contractor from retaliation when they report illegal activity to their supervisor. This legislation will effectively overturn the terrible Supreme Court Decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, which held that government employees are not protected by the First Amendment when they report concerns at work.
More on this issue to come...
Below is the text of today's National Whistleblower Center Press release:
Washington, DC., December 18, 2007. Last evening the U.S. Senate, by unanimous consent, passed the Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act (S.274). This law enhances the protection for federal employee whistleblowers by expanding the scope of protected activity to cover complaints within an employees chain of command.
Passage of S.274 now sets the stage for a conference between the House and Senate to agree final legislative language. On March 14, 2007 the House enacted the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (H.R. 985), which expanded the scope of whistleblower protections to national security related agencies, permitted employees to obtain jury trials in federal court, provided enhanced protections for federal contractors and protected employees who exposed misconduct to their managers.
“The House and Senate whistleblower protections laws complement each other. They need to be melded together in conference and immediately enacted into law. Only by combining the best of both bills will federal employees obtain realistic protection. Until then, the taxpayers and citizens will remain the losers in this debate, as billions of dollars in waste remains unreported and government officials who violate the law and mislead the American people escape accountability,” said Stephen M. Kohn, the President of the National Whistleblower Center.
“The Senate Action now sets the stage for the final passage of what will be one of the most important laws enacted by this Congress,” added Kohn.
The House and Senate bills were strongly endorsed by a broad coalition of public groups, including the National Whistleblower Center, the Project on Government Oversight, the Government Accountability Project and Taxpayers Against Fraud, the No Fear Coalition, the Make it Safe Coalition, the Liberty Coalition, and the Bill of Rights Foundation, among numerous others.