An attorney for two Internal Revenue Service employees in Utah and Texas says a U.S. appeals court is expected to rule by Tuesday on whether federal workers can continue to earn outside income.
"We expect the court will act before the first of January," said Barbara At-kin, a National Treasury Employees Union attorney representing IRS tax examiners Jan Adams Grant of Ogden and Thomas Fishell of Dallas.On Jan. 1, Grant, Fishell and other federal government employees will fall under Ethics Reform Act changes aimed at reducing the impact of special-interest groups on members of Congress.
The amendment takes away honoraria, or outside pay, given House and Senate members for appearances and speaking engagements.
A member of Congress could earn up to $26,850 this year in honoraria. In exchange for giving up that money, a House member's salary will jump by $28,500 next year, to $125,100. But most federal employees earn far less in outside income and will not be receiving such a significant pay hike to compensate any losses.
Grant, a geologist by training, earns a few thousand extra dollars annually conducting earthquake preparedness seminars. And Fishell, an ordained minister, has similar earnings from conducting marriages and funerals in his spare time.
The union suit filed earlier this month claimed the honorarium law violates federal employees' free speech guarantees. On Dec. 20, Judge Thomas P. Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the motion for a restraining order barring the Justice Department from enforcing the law.
Atkin said the case then was taken to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where the judges told attorneys for both sides to have all their motions and responses filed by Friday.
If the suit is unsuccessful, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, has said he will sponsor legislation to exempt career federal workers from the honorarium change.