Rep. Chuck Fleischmann introduced his first two bills of the 113th Congress Tuesday, one a version of a bill introduced in 2012 and another geared toward government efficiency.
The congressman reintroduced his Agency Conference and Conventions Operating Under Necessary Transparency (ACCOUNT) Act, which was initially brought forward in the wake of last year's scandal surrounding wasteful spending at a conference attended by General Services Administration workers. The bill would require agency heads to approve any conference or retreat attended by workers in which the costs exceeded $25,000 and provide a detailed account of the rationale for attending the event online.
Fleischmann also introduced the Returned Exclusively for Unpaid National Debt (REFUND) Act, a proposal similar to others put forward in recent years, which would allow states to return unused federal funds to the government, which would mark the funds for paying down the national deficit.
In an interview with Nooga.com, the congressman said he hoped that by introducing the legislation early, the bills would be able to quickly gain co-sponsors and move through Congress. Fleischmann said that despite the ACCOUNT Act not being picked up earlier, he thought the bill, along with the REFUND Act, were still worth pursuing.
"It's going to take some time to change the spending culture in Washington, D.C.," Fleischmann said. "Washington, for too long, has spent and borrowed, and now, we're at $16 trillion in national debt. We're going to have to work hard to change the culture, so what was a good idea then is still a good idea know. Hopefully, we'll have more co-sponsors."
Fleischmann added that both pieces of legislation were being endorsed by the National Taxpayers Union, a Virginia-based lobbying organization that works to influence government approaches to taxation.
Describing the REFUND Act, the congressman said the legislation would provide a "win-win" scenario for both states and the federal government to practice fiscal responsibility. Currently, states with surplus federal funds remaining in their budgets are required to return the monies to the government, which then redistributes them to other states.
"[States] have tried to return the money to the government and could not do it," he said. "It was automatically usurped; there was no real savings incentive … this now gives states an incentive to be fiscally conservative and to show the federal government that when they do make future funding requests, that they're a fiscally responsible state."
The congressman mentioned Montana as a state that recently returned unspent federal monies to the government, only to have them be redesignated to other states. When asked, Fleischmann said he was not aware of any other states where the situation had taken place.
"I'm not aware of any, but it could arise," he said. "If it did, we've have a situation where this formula-specific bill could be used. There hasn't really been any type of incentive up until this point."
During his first term, Fleischmann introduced six bills. Though none were enacted, language from a bill to eliminate an unfunded mandate on sign retroreflectivity was included in a broader bill. The congressman said that, in terms of new bills, his second term would be busier.
"We're going to be more legislatively active in the 113th Congress," he said.
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