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House-passed Oversight Package Would Expand Federal Employee Whistleblower Protections

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The House on Thursday passed a package of oversight and transparency initiatives, a grab-bag of legislative proposals that touch on everything from presidential power to federal employee whistleblower protections.

Many of them are familiar, ranging from new protections for agency inspectors general to limitations on how long acting officials can serve.

The 174-page bill, known as the Protecting Our Democracy Act, includes plenty of provisions that are relevant for federal employees, including new whistleblower protections and updates to the 80-year-old Hatch Act.

But the bill also includes an array of provisions that are a legislative reaction to issues that lawmakers grappled with during the previous administration. Provisions that, for example, ban self-pardons by the president and prohibit the acceptance of foreign or domestic emoluments, got the most attention. Other provisions require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, while others suspend the statute of limitations for offenses committed by a sitting president or vice president.

Republicans certainly took notice of those provisions. Only one voted for the bill Thursday, despite the fact that pieces of the legislation, including provisions expanding federal employee whistleblower protections, had bipartisan support on their own.

“Democrats are determined to make the federal government run as inefficiently as possible by allowing incompetent or dishonest federal employees to keep their jobs,” James Comer (R-Ky.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said Thursday from the House floor. “The so-called whistleblower protections in the bill are so expansive that if a federal employee, even a bad or ineffective one, claims they are a whistleblower, they are almost immune from scrutiny. The oversight committee has great respect for whistleblowers; we need them to conduct true oversight. They serve an essential role in evaluating waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government. But sometimes federal employees attempt to claim they are whistleblowers to shield themselves from scrutiny of poor performance.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) likened the legislation to the series of laws Congress passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal during the late 1970s.

“In the wake of presidential abuses of power during the Nixon administration, Congress responded with a broad set of reforms to strengthen the institutions of our democracy,” he said Thursday during a press conference on the new oversight package. “New campaign finance and ethics laws were put in place, along with transparency requirements, including mandatory financial disclosures. Offices of inspectors general were stood up to search out corruption and malfeasance. Congressional committees were organized to oversee intelligence agencies, and the president’s power to declare war was circumscribed. These post-Watergate reforms and others did a great deal to preserve the balance of power for much of the last half-century. But many of these limits on executive power have been worn away by successive presidents after Nixon.”

Democrats included the entirety of the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act (WPIA), a bill that House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) introduced back in May.

The WPIA prohibits agencies from launching retaliatory investigations against whistleblowers and bars them from retaliating against federal employees who share information with Congress.

Notably, the bill gives federal employees access to a jury trial under certain circumstances, a feature that didn’t make the cut in the last update to whistleblower law back in 2012.

Specifically, the legislation lets whistleblowers appeal their cases in federal district court if the Merit Systems Protection Board doesn’t issue a decision within six months, or eight months for more complex cases.

The MSPB currently can’t review many of these cases because it doesn’t have a quorum, and hasn’t had one in nearly four years. The board hasn’t had any members in more than two years. The president’s three nominees for the board are awaiting action in the Senate.

The bill also extends whistleblower protections to members of the non-career Senior Executive Service, Public Health Service officers or applicants and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s commissioned officer corps.

In addition, the legislation takes steps to protect a whistleblower’s identity, to include employees in the intelligence community. It prohibits, for example, government officers or employees from sharing whistleblower disclosure information with anyone involved in that disclosure.

“This reform legislation, when enacted, will finally provide the type of support for federal employee whistleblowers that we have sought for over forty years and that recent polls indicate the public is demanding as well by overwhelming percentages,” Louis Clark, president and CEO of the Government Accountability Project, said Thursday in a statement. “Whistleblowers are and with this help will remain true agents of accountability and integrity.”

A Hatch Act update, more IG protections

The new bill also attempts to add more teeth to the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that prohibits most in the executive branch from engaging in certain political activities as public servants.

That law has gotten national attention after OSC recently uncovered Hatch Act violations from 13 Trump officials during the administration’s last year.

Congress has done little to change the Hatch Act since 1939, with a few exceptions. The Civil Service Reform Act set a new enforcement scheme for the Hatch Act with the creation of the MSPB and OSC, and a 2012 law later changed the penalties for federal employees.

The Protecting Our Democracy Act lets OSC bring Hatch Act violations from political appointees to the MSPB, as long as the president hasn’t taken the recommended disciplinary action against the official.

The bill also allows the board to impose penalties of up to $50,000 against political appointees who have committed Hatch Act violations.

The Protecting Our Democracy Act includes a range of other familiar oversight initiatives.

The legislation, for example, limits a president’s authority to fire an IG to a narrow set of reasons, a key feature of the  IG Independence and Empowerment Act. A full version of that bill already cleared the House earlier this year.

Article: federalnewsnetwork.com

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IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card Review (2022)

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Hotel credit cards are incredibly underrated. Even if you don’t spend much money on them, they can offer huge perks, including elite status and free night certificates. When you combine these two factors, a lot of these cards offer outsized value.

In this post, I wanted to take a closer look at a hotel credit card that I think just about everyone should have, for the anniversary free night certificate if nothing else. This is an especially good time to get the card, as the current welcome bonus is excellent.

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card Basics For January 2022

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is the premium Chase and IHG co-branded credit card. Even if you don’t plan on putting much spending on the card, this card can be worth having for the anniversary free night certificate, fourth night free on award redemptions, and more.

For those of you not familiar with IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), the group owns InterContinental, Six Senses, Regent, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, and more.

Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about this card.

Welcome Bonus Of 125,000 Points & Free Night

At the moment the IHG Premier Card is offering an excellent two-part welcome bonus, which is earned after spending $3,000 within the first three months:

Receive 125,000 IHG Rewards pointsReceive a free night award valid at a property costing up to 40,000 points

Personally I value IHG points at 0.5 cents each, so the 125,000 points are worth ~$625 to me, while the free night certificate can be worth up to ~$200.

Card Eligibility

The welcome bonus on the IHG Premier Card isn’t available to those who currently have this specific card, or those who have received a new cardmember bonus on this card in the past 24 months. You’re eligible for the IHG Premier Card even if you have the no annual fee IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card (review).

Furthermore, you’re eligible for the IHG Premier Card even if you have IHG’s previous co-branded credit card. These cards are even great complements to one another.

While you can get multiple cards, note that Chase also typically lets you product change between personal cards, assuming you’ve had a card for at least 12 months. You’ll need to phone up the number on the back of your card to find out more.

Chase’s 5/24 Rule

Chase has what’s known as the 5/24 rule. This means that if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months you typically won’t be approved for this card. So if you do apply for this card, make sure you’re under that limit. Chase’s other general application restrictions apply.

$89 Annual Fee

The IHG Premier Card has an $89 annual fee. You can add additional cardmembers to your account at no extra cost. As I’ll explain below, the annual fee is well worth it even if you don’t spend money on the card, since you get an anniversary free night certificate.

Earning Points With The IHG Premier Card

The IHG Premier Card offers some bonus categories, though in general this isn’t a card that I would put much spending on, given the relatively low value of IHG Rewards points.

10x Points At IHG Properties

If you have the IHG Premier Card then you can earn a total of 25x IHG Rewards points per dollar spent at IHG properties. However, in reality, not all of those points are coming from the credit card as such. Here’s how this breaks down:

You earn 10x points from IHG for being an IHG Rewards memberYou earn 5x points from IHG with Platinum status, which is a benefit of this cardYou earn 10x points for paying with your IHG Premier CardEarn 10x points for stays at IHG properties

2x Points At Gas Stations, Grocery Stores, And Restaurants

The IHG Premier Card offers 2x points for purchases made at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Given my fairly low valuation of IHG points, that translates to a return of about one cent per dollar spent.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend spending money in these categories with this card, since there are much better options out there.

Earn 1x Points On Other Purchases

For categories in which you can’t earn 2-10x points, the card offers one IHG Rewards point per dollar spent. I would highly recommend against spending money on the card at that rate, since you can do better with other cards.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

The IHG Premier Credit Card has no foreign transaction fees, so it’s a good card for purchases abroad. That’s especially true when staying at IHG properties abroad, as well as for dining and commuting outside the United States.

IHG Premier Credit Card Benefits

What truly makes the IHG Premier Card exceptional is the benefits and perks that it offers, which in my opinion more than offset the annual fee on the card.

Anniversary Free Night

Every year on your account anniversary you get a free night certificate, valid at any property costing up to 40,000 points per night. This will be issued shortly after your anniversary and is valid for 12 months. This is in addition to the free night certificate currently being offered as part of the welcome bonus.

This covers a vast majority of IHG properties worldwide, and I’ve consistently gotten outsized value with this. For example, I’ve now three times in a row redeemed it at hotels that would have cost $250+ for one night if paying cash.

I’ve used a free night certificate at the Kimpton EPIC Miami

Fourth Night Free On Award Redemptions

Just for having the IHG Premier Card you get a fourth night free on award redemptions. When you stay four consecutive nights on an award redemption then you only have to redeem points for the first three nights.

This is an awesome perk, since it can be used an unlimited number of times (you can even use it to book multiple rooms at the same hotel). If you usually redeem points for stays in increments of four nights, this is like getting 25% off all your redemptions.

Get a fourth night free on an award at the InterContinental Maldives

IHG Rewards Platinum Status

You receive IHG Rewards Platinum status for as long as you have the card. While IHG isn’t the richest program in terms of elite benefits, this more than does the trick for those who only occasionally stay with IHG.

Among other things, IHG Rewards Platinum members receive:

Complimentary room upgrades, subject to availability50% bonus pointsLate check-out, subject to availabilityPriority check-inComplimentary internetWelcome amenityGet room upgrades as an IHG Rewards Platinum member

Global Entry Or TSA Pre-Check Credit

The IHG Premier Card offers a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit once every four years. Just charge the membership fee of up to $100 to your card, and it will automatically be reimbursed. It doesn’t matter who the fee is being paid for, as long as you charge it to your eligible card.

Chase Offers

One of the great features of Chase cards is access to Chase Offers, which provides savings on purchases with all kinds of retailers. The program wasn’t launched that long ago, but has already saved me a significant amount of money.

Secondary Car Rental Coverage

The IHG Premier Card offers auto rental collision damage waiver coverage. Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card.

Coverage is provided for theft and collision damage for most cars in the United States and abroad. Do note that domestically the coverage is secondary to your personal insurance, though.

Protection With Trip Delays, Lost Luggage, And More

The IHG Premier Card offers a variety of other protection when traveling. Among these features is:

Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption Insurance — be reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip when your trip is canceled or cut short due to sickness, severe weather, etc.Lost Luggage Reimbursement — be reimbursed up to $3,000 per passenger if you or your immediate family member check or carry on luggage that is damaged or lost by an airlineBaggage Delay Insurance — be reimbursed up to $100 per day for three days for essential purchases when your bag is delayed by over six hours

Make sure you check your cardmember agreement for all of the details, since there are terms & conditions.

Is The IHG Premier Credit Card Worth It?

I think the IHG Premier Card is absolutely worth having. While this isn’t a card I would put much spending on, the card is worth the $89 annual fee for the incredible perks that it offers. The card offers an anniversary free night certificate, a fourth night free on award redemptions, IHG Rewards Platinum status, a Global Entry fee credit, and more.

Everyone in my family has an IHG Card, if for no other reason than that we consistently redeem the free night certificates at hotels that would cost $250+ when paying cash.

IHG isn’t my favorite hotel group, but there are 5,000+ locations, and I inevitably end up staying at IHG hotels several times per year, because the brand often has the best options.

Let’s discuss a few other aspects of the card, though…

Quick Comparison: IHG Premier Vs. IHG Traveler Card

Above I’ve written about the $89 annual fee IHG Premier Card, though there’s also the no annual fee IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card (review). The Premier Card is absolutely worth the annual fee. Why?

The Premier Card offers an anniversary free night, while the Traveler Card doesn’tThe Premier Card offers IHG Platinum status, while the Traveler Card offers IHG Gold statusThe Premier Card offers a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit, while the Traveler Card doesn’tThe Premier Card offers a huge welcome bonus

Like I said, the single best benefit of the Premier Card is the anniversary free night certificate, and that’s worth way more than its annual year.

Other Options For Earning IHG Points

The IHG Premier Card doesn’t actually offer great points earning rates when you factor in the fairly low per point value of IHG Rewards.

Do keep in mind that IHG is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you could transfer points at a 1:1 ratio. For example:

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review) offers 3x points on dining and travelThe Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) offers 3x points on dining, online groceries, and streaming services, and 2x points on travelThe Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review) offers 3x points on the first $150,000 spent annually on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search enginesThe Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review), in conjunction with one of the above cards, earns 3x points on dining and drugstores, and 1.5x points on all purchasesThe Chase Freedom FlexSM (review), in conjunction with one of the above cards, earns 3x points on dining and drugstores, and 5x points in rotating quarterly categories

That being said, in general I absolutely wouldn’t recommend transferring Chase points to IHG. As I said, I value IHG points at ~0.5 cents each, while you can instead transfer points at the same ratio to programs like World of Hyatt, where I value the points at ~1.5 cents each (three times as much).

Sometimes it can make sense to buy IHG points when the program has a sale. IHG Rewards sometimes sells points with a 100% bonus, which brings down the cost per purchased points to 0.5 cents each. When you stack that with the fourth night free offered by this card and the Platinum perks you’ll receive, that could be well worth it.

Have The IHG Select Card?

Back in the day, there was the IHG Select Card, which is no longer open to new applicants. If you have that card, then you should absolutely hold onto it and then also apply for this card, as you’re eligible for both. Why? Because you can stack the benefits on both cards:

Both cards offer an anniversary free night certificate, so you could earn two of those each year, and use them for back-to-back staysThe old card offers a 10% refund on redeemed points (up to 100,000 refunded points per year), while the new card offers a fourth night free on award redemptions, and you could stack those benefits; in other words, if you make a four night stay at a hotel costing 70,000 points per night you’d end up paying 210,000 points, and then would get 21,000 points back, for a total cost of 189,000 points, which is over 30% off

Bottom Line

The IHG Premier Card is a card that I highly recommend getting. Not because it makes sense to put a lot of spending on the card long term, but because the anniversary free night certificate can be worth way more than the $89 annual fee.

Add in the IHG Platinum status, fourth night free on award redemptions, Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check credit, and more, and this card is a no-brainer. The card even has a top notch bonus right now, getting cardmembers even more value.

I know some people are opposed to having a lot of credit cards, but often it can make sense to have some cards just for the perks they offer, even if they’re not worth spending much money on. This is one of those cards.

If you want to learn more about the IHG Premier Credit Card or apply, follow this link.

Source Here: onemileatatime.com

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Commentary: “Hockey Day” Was a Rousing Success

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FITCHBURG — Money aside, it’s safe to say Saturday’s “Hockey Day in the Burg” was a success.

That’s not to say the thousands of people who entered the Wallace Civic Center didn’t raise a boatload of money for the Thibeault Family Rehabilitation Trust. They certainly did.

But the smile that was pasted on Jake Thibeault’s face — clearly visible at all times, even with a mask on — was proof that the event was successful. That happiness, the escape it brought even temporarily, was worth more than any amount of money.

Thibeault was greeted by friends, teammates and coaches. In a way, it was akin to a family reunion for the teen.

He was welcomed back to his hometown rink as rock star, posing for photos, chatting with each and every person who came up to say hello. Turn and look at any 10 people and at least one would be wearing one of the “TBOTOUGH” T-shirts that were being sold.

What a boost that must be for Thibeault, who arrived back to his home in Fitchburg Friday for the first time since a hit during a September hockey game left him without sensation from the waist down. Until then, it had been all hospital time in Boston, working hard in rehab to hopefully someday walk again.

If any of that was on Thibeault’s mind throughout Saturday’s three hockey games, you wouldn’t know it. He was back with teammates, embraced by coaches. When I mused that it would be a long day for him, Thibeault smiled and said “yeah, but it’ll be a great day.”

If you haven’t had a chance to talk to Jake Thibeault, here’s a primer on what you pick up on immediately. He’s polite. Thoughtful. Wise beyond his years. Engaging. Determined.

His positivity is contagious. Inspiring. The road ahead of Jake Thibeault is a long one that will be filled with challenges, but it’s one he’s meeting with the mindset of a hockey player: he’s going to grind it out every day and he’s going to win.

“Every day is a new day with ups and downs, but I try to minimize the bad days and just have bad moments,” he told me. His focus is on the good.

Want a glimpse at what kind of young man Jake Thibeault is?

He’s not worried about living a fulfilling life; he knows he’s going to no matter what obstacles are ahead. And his biggest concern? Letting people know how grateful he is for the support he’s received.

“I have so many people that I have to repay and I don’t know how I will,” he said.

Humble. Determined. Full of respect and love for those who have shown the exact same thing to him.

It’s been an incredibly tough few months for the Thibeault family, but Mike and Tracy — Jake’s parents — know they’ve raised a remarkable young man. He didn’t become that way because of a tragic accident on the ice; he’s been that way for a long time.

Whether or not he walks again doesn’t change that one bit. Jake Thibeault off the ice is what he’s always been on the ice to teammates and coaches; a dedicated and determined leader who works hard and is the kind of kid you root for.

And using Saturday’s showing at the Wallace Civic Center as a clear indication, he still has a lot of people rooting for him.

Source Here: sentinelandenterprise.com

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Large Scale Renovation Plans for Richford Arms Soon to Be Unveiled

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A large scale plan to renovate one apartment building in Downtown Erie is close to being unveiled.

The owner of Richford Arms, the apartment building located on State Street, has reportedly planned what they’re calling a “kick off event” for January 24th.

Beacon Communities has already begun the work on the north side of the apartment building.


Plans to renovate Richford Arms set to be unveiled in “Kickoff Event” next week

The project has been priced at 27 million dollars and will include major updates inside and outside of the 100 unit building.

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According to Beacon, the changes will include a two story addition and six new fully-accessible units.

Source Here: yourerie.com

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