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                                                       Calendar No. 647
110th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 2d Session                                                     110-295

======================================================================



 
      THOMAS P. O'HARA PUBLIC LAND CAREER OPPORTUNITY ACT OF 2007

                                _______
                                

                 April 10, 2008.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Bingaman, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 1433]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 1433) to amend the Alaska National 
Interest Lands Conservation Act to provide competitive status 
to certain Federal employees in the State of Alaska, having 
considered the same, reports favorably thereon with an 
amendment and recommends that the bill, as amended, do pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
  Beginning on page 1, strike line 6 and all that follows 
through page 2, line 13, and insert the following:

``SEC. 2. COMPETITIVE STATUS FOR CERTAIN FEDERAL EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE 
                    OF ALASKA.

  ``Section 1308 of the Alaska National Interest Lands 
Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 3198) is amended by adding at the 
end the following:
  ``(e) Competitive Status.--
          ``(1) In general.--Nothing in subsection (a) provides 
        that any person hired pursuant to the program 
        established under that subsection is not eligible for 
        competitive status in the same manner as any other 
        employee hired as part of the competitive service.
          ``(2) Redesignation of certain positions.--
                  ``(A) Persons serving in original 
                positions.--Not later than 60 days after the 
                date of enactment of this subsection, with 
                respect to any person hired into a permanent 
                position pursuant to the program established 
                under subsection (a) who is serving in that 
                position as of the date of enactment of this 
                subsection, the Secretary shall redesignate 
                that position and the person serving in that 
                position as having been part of the competitive 
                service as of the date that the person was 
                hired into that position.
                  ``(B) Persons no longer serving in original 
                positions.--With respect to any person who was 
                hired pursuant to the program established under 
                subsection (a) that is no longer serving in 
                that position as of the date of enactment of 
                this subsection--
                          ``(i) the person may provide to the 
                        Secretary a request for redesignation 
                        of the service as part of the 
                        competitive service that includes 
                        evidence of the employment; and
                          ``(ii) not later than 90 days of the 
                        submission of a request under clause 
                        (i), the Secretary shall redesignate 
                        the service of the person as being part 
                        of the competitive service.''.

                                Purpose

    The purpose of S. 1433 is to amend the Alaska National 
Interest Lands Conservation Act to provide competitive status 
to certain Federal employees in the State of Alaska.

                          Background and Need

    Section 1308 of the Alaska National Interest Lands 
Conservation Act (ANILCA; Public Law 96-487) authorizes the 
Secretary of the Interior to hire Alaska residents on a non-
competitive basis if the employee has special knowledge or 
expertise concerning the natural or cultural resources of 
public lands in Alaska by reason of having lived or worked in 
or near the lands.
    According to the Department of the Interior, there are 
approximately 150 employees who have been hired pursuant to the 
local hire preference authority of ANILCA. Many of these 
employees have spent their entire career with the Department, 
with significant expertise and important job skills. However, 
because they were hired under a non-competitive authority, they 
are unable to compete for promotions or other Federal jobs and 
are prevented from moving within the Federal employment system 
like other Federal employees.
    The bill is named in honor of Thomas P. O'Hara, a National 
Park Service pilot hired under the ANILCA local hire provisions 
who was killed in a plane crash in 2002, while working in the 
Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge.

                          Legislative History

    S. 1433 was introduced by Senator Murkowski on May 21, 
2007. The Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests held a 
hearing on the bill on September 20, 2007. (S. Hrg. 110-216.) 
Similar bills were introduced in the 109th (S. 2797) and 108th 
Congresses (S. 2768), but no further action was taken in either 
Congress. At its business meeting on January 30, 2008, the 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ordered S. 1433 
favorably reported with an amendment.

                        Committee Recommendation

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open 
business session on January 30, 2008, by a voice vote of a 
quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 1433.

                          Committee Amendment

    During consideration of S. 1433, the Committee adopted an 
amendment that incorporates recommendations provided by the 
National Park Service. Specifically, the amendment replaces 
section 2 of the bill. Rather than converting the local hire 
employees to a permanent position after two years of full-time 
service, the amendment makes clear that a person hired pursuant 
to the local hire program should be eligible for competitive 
status in the same manner as any other employee hired as part 
of the competitive service.
    Furthermore, section 2, as amended, states that, not later 
than 60 days after enactment, the Secretary shall redesignate 
any position, and persons in such positions, as part of 
competitive service if any person was hired into a permanent 
position pursuant to the local hire program and is serving in 
the position as of date of enactment. With respect to any 
person hired pursuant to the local hire program who is no 
longer serving in the position, the amendment provides that the 
person may request redesignation of the service as part of the 
competitive service and submit evidence of employment. The 
amendment further states that not later than 90 days after the 
request, the Secretary shall redesignate the service of the 
person.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

    Section 1 provides the short title.
    Section 2 amends section 1308 of the Alaska National 
Interest Lands Conservation Act by adding a new subsection 
regarding competitive status. This provision makes it clear 
that persons hired pursuant to the local hire program are 
eligible for competitive status in the same manner as any other 
employee hired as part of the competitive service. Furthermore, 
section 2 states that, not later than 60 days after enactment, 
the Secretary shall redesignate any position, and persons in 
such positions, as part of the competitive service if such 
persons were hired into permanent positions pursuant to the 
local hire program and are serving in the positions as of the 
date of enactment. In addition, with respect to any person 
hired pursuant to the local hire program who is no longer 
serving in the position, this section provides that the person 
may request redesignation of the service as part of the 
competitive service and submit evidence of employment. Finally, 
this section states that, not later than 90 days after the 
request, the Secretary shall redesignate the service of the 
person.

                   Cost and Budgetary Considerations

    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:

S. 1433--Thomas P. O'Hara Public Land Career Opportunity Act of 2007

    S. 1433 would amend existing law governing the local-hire 
programs of the federal land management agencies that operate 
in Alaska. CBO estimates that implementing this bill would have 
no effect on the federal budget. Enacting S. 1433 would not 
affect revenues or direct spending.
    The bill contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would not affect the budgets of state, local or tribal 
governments.
    S. 1433 would amend the Alaska National Interest Lands 
Conservation Act to clarify that local residents hired by the 
Forest Service and the Department of the Interior may be 
eligible for competitive status as federal employees. The bill 
would ensure that certain federal employees in Alaska are 
eligible for promotions but would not affect their current 
payor benefits.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Deborah Reis. 
This estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                      Regulatory Impact Evaluation

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 1433. The bill is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 1433, as ordered reported.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

    S. 1433, as reported, does not contain any congressionally 
directed spending items, limited tax benefits, or limited 
tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the Standing Rules 
of the Senate.

                        Executive Communications


   Statement of Michael Nedd, Assistant Director, Mineral, Realty & 
             Resource Protection Bureau of Land Management

    Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the 
views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1433, a bill to 
amend the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to 
provide competitive status to certain federal employees in 
Alaska.
    S. 1433 is named after Thomas P. O'Hara, a National Park 
Service employee who was a pilot at Katmai National Park and 
Preserve. Tom and an employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service were on a mission in the Alaska Peninsula National 
Wildlife Refuge on December 19, 2002, when their plane went 
down. Unfortunately, Tom did not survive the crash.
    Tom O'Hara was an experienced pilot with thousands of hours 
of service, whose skills benefited the residents of Bristol Bay 
communities--an area where Tom grew up and lived. Tom was hired 
because of a special local hire program for conservation units 
in Alaska, which was authorized by Section 1308 of the Alaska 
National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). This program 
allows bureaus in the Department of the Interior and the Forest 
Service in the Department of Agriculture to hire ``any 
individual who, by reason of having lived or worked in or near 
a conservation system unit, has special knowledge or expertise 
concerning the natural or cultural resources of such unit. . . 
.'' These local individuals may be selected without regard to 
normal civil service rules requiring formal training or 
experience.
    The program has been used with great success across Alaska. 
The Departments have been administering this program as an 
excepted service program meaning that local hire employees are 
at a disadvantage when applying for other jobs within Alaska or 
elsewhere in the country. Some employees have overcome this 
disadvantage because of additional formal education, training 
or experience. But for others, particularly in small, remote 
locations, this transition to competitive status is difficult.
    In discussing this program with the Office of Personnel 
Management during the course of the review of S. 1433, the 
Departments learned that local hire employees have been 
mistakenly classified as being outside of the competitive 
service. Because ANILCA specifically provides that veterans 
preference applies to these positions the positions are by 
their nature competitive and local hire employees should have 
been classified as being eligible for competitive status.
    S. 1433 provides that local hire employees, after two years 
of satisfactory service, will be converted to competitive 
status. There are many excepted services and positions within 
the Federal government. The Office of Personnel Management is 
rightly concerned about providing a group of excepted status 
employees with this benefit which many others have sought and 
been denied. However, in this case, it appears these local hire 
employees were mistakenly placed into excepted service status. 
Therefore we suggest that S. 1433 be amended to direct the 
Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to 
reclassify as part of the competitive service those employees 
hired into permanent positions pursuant to the local hire 
provisions of ANILCA and currently serving in those positions. 
In addition, provisions should be made for former local hire 
employees who were competitively hired and who served the 
requisite amount of time in their positions to apply to the 
Secretary for competitive status.
    This legislation will provide a lasting memorial to the 
excellent work of Tom O'Hara and other employees who serve the 
public with their expertise and knowledge of Alaska and help 
preserve our public lands for others to enjoy. We would be 
happy to work with the Committee on bill language that would 
accomplish our suggested amendments.
    Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of S. 
1433. I will be happy to answer any questions.

                        Changes in Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, changes in existing law made by 
the bill S. 1433 as ordered reported, are shown as follows 
(existing law proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black 
brackets, new matter is printed in italic, existing law in 
which no change is proposed is shown in roman):

             Public Law 96-487 (94 Stat. 2371, 16 USC 3101)


   AN ACT To provide for the designation and conservation of certain 
public lands in the State of Alaska, including the designation of units 
   of the National Park, National Wildlife Refuge, National Forest, 
 National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Wilderness Preservation 
                    Systems, and for other purposes

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
the United States of America in Congress assembled,
    Section 1. This Act may be cited as the ``Alaska National 
Interest Lands Conservation Act''.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                               LOCAL HIRE

    Sec. 1308. (a) Program.--After consultation with the Office 
of Personnel Management, the Secretary shall establish a 
program under which any individual who, by reason of having 
lived or worked in or near public lands, has special knowledge 
or expertise concerning the natural or cultural resources of 
public lands and the management thereof (as determined by the 
Secretary) shall be considered for selection for any position 
within public lands without regard to--
          (1) any provision of the civil service laws or 
        regulations thereunder which require minimum periods of 
        formal training or experience,
          (2) any such provision which provides an employment 
        preference to any other class of applicant is such 
        selection, and
          (3) any numerical limitation on personnel otherwise 
        applicable. Individuals appointed under this subsection 
        shall not be taken into account in applying any 
        personnel limitation described in paragraph (3).
    (b) Preference Eligibles Within Local Hire.--
Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this 
section, any individual who is eligible to be selected for a 
position under the provisions of subsection (a) of this section 
and is a preference eligible as defined in section 2108(3) of 
title 5 shall be given an employment preference, consistent 
with the preference in the competitive service as defined in 
section 2102 of such title for which such person is eligible 
under subchapter I of chapter 33 of such title, in selection to 
such position.
    (c) Payment of Expenses After Death of an Employee.--
          (1) Definition of immediate family member.--In this 
        subsection, the term ``immediate family member'' means 
        a person related to a deceased employee that was a 
        member of the household of the deceased employee at the 
        time of death.
          (2) Payments.--If an employee appointed under the 
        program established by subsection (a) of this section 
        dies in the performance of any assigned duties on or 
        after October 1, 2002, the Secretary may--
                  (A) pay or reimburse reasonable expenses, 
                regardless of when those expenses are incurred, 
                for the preparation and transportation of the 
                remains of the deceased employee to a location 
                in the State of Alaska which is selected by the 
                surviving head of household of the deceased 
                employee;
                  (B) pay or reimburse reasonable expenses, 
                regardless of when those expenses are incurred, 
                for transporting immediate family members and 
                the baggage and household goods of the deceased 
                employee and immediate family members to a 
                community in the State of Alaska which is 
                selected by the surviving head of household of 
                the deceased employee.
    (d) Reports.--The Secretary shall from time to time prepare 
and submit to the Congress reports indicating the actions taken 
in carrying out the provisions of subsection (a) of this 
section together with any recommendations for legislation in 
furtherance of the purposes of this section.
    (e) Competitive Status.--
          (1) In general.--Nothing in subsection (a) provides 
        that any person hired pursuant to the program 
        established under that subsection is not eligible for 
        competitive status in the same manner as any other 
        employee hired as part of the competitive service.
          (2) Redesignation of certain positions.--
                  (A) Persons serving in original positions.--
                Not later than 60 days after the date of 
                enactment of this subsection, with respect to 
                any person hired into a permanent position 
                pursuant to the program established under 
                subsection (a) who is serving in that position 
                as of the date of enactment of this subsection, 
                the Secretary shall redesignate that position 
                and the person serving in that position as 
                having been part of the competitive service as 
                of the date that the person was hired into that 
                position.
                  (B) Persons no longer serving in original 
                positions.--With respect to any person who was 
                hired pursuant to the program established under 
                subsection (a) that is no longer serving in 
                that position as of the date of enactment of 
                this subsection--
                          (i) the person may provide to the 
                        Secretary a request for redesignation 
                        of the service as part of the 
                        competitive service that includes 
                        evidence of the employment; and
                          (ii) not later than 90 days of the 
                        submission of a request under clause 
                        (i), the Secretary shall redesignate 
                        the service of the person as being part 
                        of the competitive service.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *