A Clean Sweep Planned for House Hallways

Posted May 2, 2008 at 5:36pm

Within three months, the hallways in House office buildings will seem wider as a new policy is ejecting all those large laminated signs, unused tables and flag posts.

The policy went into effect on Friday afternoon, largely prohibiting signs, easels, electronic kiosks and sign-in tables from cluttering hallways. Flags no longer will be displayed in floor-based stands but rather in wall-mounted flag holders adjacent to the main door of each Member and committee office.

Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard and House Office Buildings Superintendent Frank Tiscione announced the policy change in a “Dear Colleague” letter to Members, committees, staffers and others. The pair will jointly share responsibility of implementing and enforcing the new policy.

“We have been directed by the Leadership to enforce this policy, which has been four years in the making,” CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura said in a statement. “It will ensure that the House’s hallways remain safe for everyone, including those with disabilities — and will be enforced with equity and without exception.”

The transition will take place over the next three months, according to the letter.

After that period, items in hallways without permission will be removed, the policy states. Items will be held by the CAO for a short period of time — usually three days — and then disposed of. The policy does not apply to the cluttered hallways of the Capitol.

Security officials, disability groups and others have lodged complaints over all the stuff that has cluttered the hallways for years, something Beard and Tiscione noted in their letter.

“In an emergency evacuation, the many items placed in the hallways of House Office Buildings can interfere with the safe exit of Members, staff, and visitors, as well as pose tripping hazards for disabled persons on a daily basis,” the letter said.

The policy’s development stems from recommendations from the Office of Compliance and has been jointly recommended by House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.).

House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood, Chief Fire Marshal Kenneth Lauziere and Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse also have endorsed the plan.

But the policy could not go into effect until the House Building Commission, made up of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) approved it.

There are exceptions to some of the prohibitions, however. Members can request that their flags continue to be displayed on floor-based stands, for example.

Temporary, extended and long-term storage also will be available for items approved by the CAO or superintendent. Authorization for storage will vary.

If a special event is being held in a committee or meeting room, for example, the host can place a table and chairs in the hallway to serve as a check-in point. But the table and chairs are limited to one hour before the event and must be removed immediately after it ends.

Extended storage will allow staffers to store items in a hallway for more than 24 hours but not longer than 30 days.

Typical authorization for this storage will be for office moves, repairs and renovations or furniture/equipment deliveries. All items must be stored to maintain a minimum width of 70 percent of the hallway or 48 inches, whichever is greater.

Long-term storage involves storage lasting more than 30 days. It will be granted on a limited basis, and all items “shall be de minimus in size and space consumed to the extent practical,” according to the policy.

The fire marshal can terminate a long-term storage authorization at any time but must provide 24 hours advance notice to the affected office, the policy reads.

Caterers also will be affected by the new policy. They must check in with the CAO before an event and set up in an area designated by the agency, according to the policy, and they also are constrained by rules on hallway access.