Monday morning federal headlines - July 23, 2012

Monday - 7/23/2012, 8:49am EDT

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.

  • Intelligence officials admitted they spied on law-abiding Americans. The director of national intelligence said they violated citizens' Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches on at least one occasion. It said the administration has addressed concerns and both Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court scrutinized the activity. The agency did not offer any more details in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Wyden has accused the government of reviewing emails and phone calls of innocent citizens who are communicating with people overseas. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Office of Personnel Management is moving ahead on updates to federal employee health benefits plans. It has proposed a rule to let children up to 26 stay covered by their parents' plan. That includes children of same-sex domestic partners. The change brings federal plans in line with the Affordable Care Act. OPM also issued proposed rules for letting children of same-sex partners receive coverage under the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program. OPM will take comments on the proposals until Sept. 18. In a separate rule, OPM said child-care subsidies would expand to children of same-sex partners. That was effective starting Friday. (Federal News Radio)

  • Transportation security officers still do not have a labor contract, but their union said they were very close. The American Federation of Government Employees said the 45,000 officers' first collective bargaining agreement was within reach. They said they had a partial agreement after marathon negotiations, but they ran out of time early Saturday morning. Sticking points included performance management, attendance and facilities and services. The parties have agreed to arbitration. (AFGE)

  • If you telework, chances are you've got really fast broadband interconnections right to your home. The latest survey report from the Federal Communications Commission showed across-the-board improvement in service from internet service providers. A year ago, ISPs averaged 87 percent of advertised speeds. Now, they average 96 percent of advertised speeds. The report said the ISPs managed to maintain service levels even during peak demand periods. Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, Mediacom and Verizon fiber deliver downloaded up to 120 percent of promised speeds, the report said. To gather the data, the FCC placed monitoring modems in thousands of homes. (FCC)

  • Federal agencies have found a short-cut to meeting their energy reduction mandates. They are buying renewable energy credits instead of installing expensive new heating or cooling systems. Federal Times reported the credits account for 77 percent of renewable energy use claimed by agencies last year. Agencies spent $2.5 million to purchase credits equal to 2.4 million megawatt hours of electricity. The Energy and Agriculture departments were big buyers of renewable energy credits. (Federal Times)

  • The administration's top ethics nominee urged Congress to update the law covering insider trading. Walter Shaub Jr. has been tapped to lead the Office of Government Ethics. He told a Senate panel, federal managers had safety concerns about the new Stock Act. It requires members of Congress and senior federal officials to disclose transactions they make based on information received in connection with their jobs. Shaub said posting the information online could lead to tracking down of individuals. (Federal News Radio)

  • House Republican leaders are putting two key Senate bills on hold. Legislation to overhaul the Postal Service and farm-and-food-support programs may have to wait until after November. GOP leaders do not want to ignite internal party disputes or risk voters' anger. The farm bill could force fiscal conservatives from rural areas to vote against farm subsidies. On the postal bill, they would have to signal their support for ending Saturday delivery service or go against the party establishment. This was Congress' last week in Washington until September. The House hasn't scheduled either bill for a vote. (Federal News Radio)

  • Lawmakers want to know when the Justice Department will get a handle on bad contractors. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder. They wanted answers by early August. Their letter followed an internal report that found the department wasn't maintaining two key databases that all agencies depended on. One contained information on contractors debarred because of crimes against the Defense Department. The other tracked those debarred because of drug crimes. (Federal News Radio)