Borrowing President Donald Trump’s campaign mantra “drain the swamp,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio, 8th District) has introduced a new bill he believes could pull the plug.
Davidson, a freshman Republican congressman from Troy, Ohio, introduced the “Drain the Swamp Act of 2017” which will, in part, require federal agencies in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to develop a plan to relocate 90 percent of its offices outside the region.
That could mean the U.S. Department of Agriculture would relocate closer to farming communities, and the U.S. Department of Commerce would move closer to the country’s financial district in New York City.
Davidson’s bill, if approved, would require the heads of each executive federal agency to submit a plan by September 2018 to relocate, and put the plan into action by September 2023.
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He said this bill is likely to have a lot of discussion, and it “may get a sympathetic ear, given the administration.”
“At a minimum, it will generate some good discussion in how our government should be organized, and where we need them to be,” he said.
Davidson, who represents Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, realizes there’s going to be a cost to this and believes the cost of remaining in D.C. would be greater, but said the cost-benefit analysis will be part of that agency’s report.
“The initial phase is to get the report of what will it take to do this,” he said. “Maybe will say, ‘Gee, the idea was interesting, but we’re not going to pay that tab.’”
There are many government buildings in D.C. that are being refurbished, such as the Cannon House Office Building, which Davidson said is costing around $1,000 per square foot to rehabilitate. While it’s impractical to move certain federal buildings, like the House offices, he said there are many federal buildings that need costly rehabilitation work that could be vacated and sold to the private sector.
“I know you can build some phenomenal stuff in Ohio for a fifth of that ($1,000 a square-foot restoration price),” Davidson said.
And there is no need for so much public sector congestion in the nation’s capital because of technology, Davidson said. The world is a lot closer with with cellphones, fiber optics and other advances of technology, those producing the work of the agencies will be “connecting to the local area.”
“If you look over the years, lots has changed in respect to the the need for everybody to be in the same town to get work done,” he said.
Davidson, who owns businesses in his hometown of Troy and in Butler County, said corporate headquarters do not have a lot of employees. Those who are producing the products of businesses are in the community.
When people from across the country come to D.C., Davidson said “they lose touch” with their hometown roots.
“I think with our agencies, that’s one of the things that happen,” Davidson said. “They spend so much time here that you get a little bit disconnected of how the rest of the country operates.”
Davidson said he doesn’t know if this will see any action in the House, but he said it will be discussed in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who has introduced a resolution with a lot of similarities to Davidson’s bill.
House Resolution 38 says offices should not be required to operate out of the District of Columbia.
“Government needs to be closer to the people it regulates,” said Chaffetz. “As it stands, decision makers at various agencies are largely shielded from the impact of their decisions. Housing federal agencies in a city with one of the highest median incomes in the United States is not only expensive, but keeps federal bureaucrats in an economic and political bubble that offers a distorted view of the realities facing this country.”
Davidson said Chaffetz has had some preliminary conversations with the White House about his resolution, so he believes his bill “has a chance to get some traction.”
The bill would also help eliminate some of the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Though House and Senate members will still be lobbied, Davidson said in the era of no earmarks these federal agencies get their fair share of lobbyists knocking on their doors to influence legislation.
“When earmarks went away in Congress … a lot of the lobbying just shifted,” Davidson said. “In the area of no earmarks a lot of the influence is out in the regulatory agencies.”
Davidson said he hopes the change may also bring some of the lawmaking influence back to Congress with the move.
“Hopefully if we spread them out we can reign in some of the authority they’ve taken, or have been given, over the years,” Davidson said of the federal agencies.
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