Senate Passes the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act

Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE) “on Friday applauded the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010 (S. 3196) – bipartisan legislation that would encourage candidates and incumbent administrations to engage in earlier pre-election transition planning,” according to a press release.

The bill, introduced in April with Senators George Voinovich (R-OH), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), formalizes many of the recent transition’s successes and provides additional resources to help candidates begin their transition efforts earlier. Senior Delaware Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are also cosponsors.

Some specifics from the release:

Make candidate transition planning an act of responsibility, not presumptuousness:

  • The Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act seeks to make the decision to undertake transition planning easier by providing resources and educating the campaigns, the press, and the public on the importance of early transition activities.
  • The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will offer each candidate a set of services promptly upon nomination, including fully equipped office space, communication services, briefings, training, and initiation of security clearances for prospective personnel.
  • Candidates eligible for services include major party candidates and others determined eligible based on the criteria similar to those used by the Commission on Presidential Debates for candidates participating in general election debates.
  • GSA shall distribute to candidates a report on modern transitions, including a bibliography of resources, which shall be released to the public and posted online.
  • Staff compensation, travel expenses and allowances shall continue to be paid for exclusively by separate funds of the campaigns prior to the election.
  • Provision of services and information to eligible candidates is to be provided on an equal basis and without regard to political affiliation, and are to be used by candidates or staff only for transition purposes.
  • Candidates will be expressly authorized to establish at any time a separate 501(c)(4) fund comprised of campaign monies and/or separately raised funds (with a $5,000 per person contribution limit) to cover any transition-related expenses or to supplement the services provided through GSA.

Encourage administration preparation for transfer of power:

  • Not every incumbent administration has made or can be expected to make transition planning the priority it was made by the Bush Administration.  Nonetheless, bringing greater awareness to the public – as well as to political and career agency personnel – of the critical value of a well-prepared transfer of power can enhance the likelihood of effective transition planning.
  • Authorization of appropriations expressly for use by the Administration to plan and coordinate activities by the departments and agencies to facilitate an efficient transfer of power, which may include, among other activities:
  • Establishment and operation of a transition coordinating council comprised of such high-level administration officials, or their designees, as the Chief of Staff to the President, Cabinet Secretaries, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of General Services, Director of the Office of Management Personnel, Director of the Office of Government Ethics, and other senior officials.
  • Establishment and operation of an agency transition directors’ council, which would include career employees designated to lead transition efforts within Departments or agencies.
  • Development of briefing materials on departments and agencies and the major issues facing an incoming administration.
  • Development of computer software, publications, contingency plans, issue memoranda, memoranda of understanding, training (including crisis training), programs, and other items appropriate for improving the effectiveness, efficiency and safety of a presidential transition.
  • The Administration shall provide reports to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform six months and three months before the election describing the activities undertaken by the Administration, departments, and agencies to prepare for the anticipated or potential transfer of power.

Update (10/16): President Obama signed this bill into law yesterday.

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