WASHINGTON — Outside income ban may hold for a while
WASHINGTON -- Government employees may not be able to earn outside income for at least another year, despite last week's federal court ruling that the ban on such fees is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who made the ruling, chose to keep the ban on payment for "speeches, articles or appearances" in place until the Justice Department has a chance to appeal.
Justice has 60 days from last Thursday to decide what action it will take.
The National Treasury Employees Union, a plaintiff in the case, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals Friday to lift the stay preventing the earning of honorarium.
The other plaintiffs are the American Federation of Government Employees and several individuals represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gregory O'Duden, NTEU's chief counsel, said a strong argument can be made to lift the stay because the judge ruled that constitutional rights are being violated.
Some government employees who speak and write on topics unrelated to their regular jobs are saving their extra income in escrow accounts until the issue is resolved.
Judith Hanna of Bethesda, a program specialist with the Department of Education, is one of the ACLU plaintiffs.
Ms. Hanna, who has a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University, has published four books and dozens of articles on dance and the relationship between arts and society.
In January 1991, she was forced by the law to stop writing articles, so she has concentrated on contributing chapters to books, which is not forbidden by the law.
"I joined the civil service to help further the education movement, but felt like I was hit on the head all of a sudden by rules as if I were in a top secret field or in the military," said Ms. Hanna, who started working for the government in 1989.
"I stopped writing for journals because I figured it just wasn't worth the hassle. I really resent the infringement on my civil rights."
The law's many vagaries have complicated the situation.
Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU said a number of federal employees have had difficulty getting information from their agency about specifics of the regulation.
"No one seems to know the answers to detailed questions about if and when the regulations apply and how to set up an escrow account," he said. Many federal workers who wish to abide by the law don't know if they are or not.
Some labor advocates are holding out hope that Justice will decide not to appeal the case. An appeal "would seem a little contradictory because the administration is supporting [pending] legislation that would reform the honorarium ban along the lines we argued in the case," Mr. O'Duden said.
That bill, which would have much the same effect as the recent ruling, has been passed by the House, but is stalled in the Senate. President Bush has indicated he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk, said Diane Witiak, communications director of AFGE.
GULF WAR VETS PAY:
The House has passed a bill that would pay federal and postal workers who served in the Persian Gulf War the difference between their regular salary and their pay as reservists.
Under the bill, approved last week, some 17,000 federaemployees would receive a lump sum payment to make up for the money they lost if their federal pay was more than their reservist pay.
Proponents say the move would not cost the government anything since the full amount of money for the federal salaries already was allocated. But the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the cost at $39 million.
Although the bill sailed through the House with little trouble, it still has to get through the Senate.
And the Bush administration opposes the bill for budgetary reasons, making a veto likely.