Report & Publication
March 04, 2020

President Trump signs S. 394, the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, into law

The Partnership for Public Service lauds President Trump for signing S.394, the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, following approval of the bill by both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives by voice vote.

The bill contains several provisions recommended by the Partnership for Public Service and will clarify ambiguities in existing law and build on best practices of prior transition teams.

“Presidential transition legislation has always been nonpartisan because it is about the effective function of our government, not any one presidential candidate,” said Kristine Simmons, vice president of government affairs at the Partnership for Public Service. “The President and Members of the House and Senate deserve credit for working across the aisle to ensure that the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act continues that nonpartisan tradition.  This is ‘good government’ legislation that clarifies existing law based on lessons learned in the 2016 transition.”

Among other things, the legislation:

  • Requires a process for negotiation and implementation of MOUs between transition teams and the General Services Administration regarding post-transition support, including treatment of transition team records;
  • Clarifies that agency representatives on the Agency Transition Directors Council are the senior career employees responsible for their agencies’ transition efforts;
  • Requires that by September 15 of an election year, each agency have a succession plan in place for senior political positions so that agencies are prepared for the turnover that will occur in the transition to a second term or to a new administration;
  • Ensures that GSA will provide transition teams with office space and other support for 60 days after the inauguration, in order to help the transition team focus on recruiting and hiring in the early days of administration while White House personnel settle into their new jobs; and
  • Codifies the past practice of transition teams publicly disclosing the ethics requirements for their transition team members.

“One important provision of this bill requires that by September 15 in any election year, each agency must have a succession plan in place for senior political positions so that the administration is prepared for turnover in those positions,” Simmons said, “Turnover is likely to occur even if the president is re-elected.  The Partnership’s Center for Presidential Transition analysis of the last three two-term presidents shows that from Election Day through the first six months of the second term, an average of 43% of secretaries, deputy secretaries and undersecretaries left their jobs.”

The bill, sponsored by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), moved through the Senate with the co-sponsorship of Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).  On the House side, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Mark Meadows (R-NC) were instrumental in seeing the bill through House passage. The ethics provisions of the bill are based on legislation originally introduced by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), along with Senators Carper and Warren.