Monthly Archives: September, 2011

Congressional mark-up set for postal bill

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The White House is supposed to release its plan for rescuing the U.S. Postal Service this morning, but–perhaps not so coincidentally–Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., isn’t waiting. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, today announced a subcommittee mark-up Wednesday afternoon on his bill that would allow the Postal Service to end Saturday delivery, but would also put the mail carrier under the control of a specially appointed commission if it misses any payment to the federal government—such as the legally required $5.5 billion retiree health care prepayment due at the end of this month. That commission could…

National dialogue on federal websites set to launch

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Starting next week, the public will be asked to brainstorm and submit ideas for improving federal websites. Through the National Dialogue to Improve Federal Websites, set to launch Monday on USA.gov, citizens and web experts can share ideas about user experiences, design and content of federal websites. Those suggestions will guide how federal websites are created, used and managed in the future. People can submit and vote on ideas, and General Services Administration will moderate the two weeks of online discussion. The initiative is part of a larger effort by the White House to cut waste and improve customer service. In…

HHS launches healthIT.gov

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Health and Human Services last week launched a new website aimed at educating providers and patients on the benefits and role of health information technology in delivering better care. HealthIT.gov “is designed to invite active participation and make complex subjects relatable,” said Peter Garrett, with HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which created the website. “It lets personal stories fuel the national movement toward adoption of EHRs [electronic health records]. It puts the “I” in Health IT.” Patients can find information about their privacy rights, talking points about health care to discuss with their doctors and stories from other patients. Healthcare…

Funding extension bill for FAA and highways now on deck

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Some welcome news for Federal Aviation Administration employees: A soon-to-be-introduced bill would extend funding  authorization for various FAA programs through the end of January. It would be the latest in the series of stopgap extensions, the most recent of which expires this coming Friday, Sept. 16. The bill, posted Friday night on the House Rules Committee’s website, is sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla. It can’t actually be introduced before Monday, a Mica spokesman said in an email. Whatever happens after that, FAA employees can only hope that the ensuing congressional debate proceeds a little more decorously than the last time…

Postal unions uniting for nationwide rallies

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There’s nothing like the prospect of looming disaster to bring people together. The latest case in point: The U.S. Postal Service’s four unions are teaming up for an unprecedented “Save America’s Postal Service” day later this month. The basic purpose is to gin up support for legislation by Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., that would let the Postal Service take advantage of billions of dollars in pension fund overpayments identified by an outside actuary to cover retiree health care obligations. Despite almost 200 cosponsors, that bill, like other proposed legislative fixes, is currently stuck in a congressional committee. But on Sept. 27, union members will…

Shareholders benefit from campaign funding disclosure, report says

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Companies that hide their political spending from shareholders have less value on the market, according to a report released Tuesday by researchers at Harvard law and the Public Citizen consumer advocacy group. Harvard law and economics professor John Coates and Taylor Lincoln with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division compared 80 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 that voluntarily disclose their electioneering activities with other S&P 500 companies in the same industry. The companies with disclosure policies had a 7.5 percent higher industry-adjusted price-to-book ratio than other firms, according to the report. The duo looked at price-to-book ratios, as opposed…

VA CIO trades laptop for iPad

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The Veterans Affairs Department still plans to make iPads and iPhones available for use on its network by Oct. 1, Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said this week. More than 100 workers–including Baker– are participating in pilot programs at VA hospitals across the country. Baker said he broke down and ditched his laptop for an iPad, “and it works pretty nice.” His tablet computer is connected to the network, and email data is stored on the device. Medical information will be encrypted and stored on an approved medical application. But the main focus is the clinician because “that’s where the real…

White House to launch e-petition platform

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A new online platform set to launch on whitehouse.gov will allow people to create, share and sign petitions “asking the Obama administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country,” the White House announced Thursday. The web-based feature, called We the People, provides a new way to submit e-petitions, garner support and get an official response from the administration based on how many signatures are received, according to whitehouse.gov. The administration has not announced when the platform will launch, but people are encouraged to create their petitions now and begin promoting their ideas. Here’s how We the People…