Brady Introduces Bill Setting The Stage for CVC Operation

Posted January 29, 2008 at 6:34pm

Preparations for opening the Capitol Visitor Center took a big step forward on Tuesday when House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) introduced legislation outlining how the CVC will be managed once it starts operating this fall.

Co-sponsored by ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), the bill gives the Architect of the Capitol operational control over the facility and creates a new office charged with disability access on the Capitol complex.

“The completion of the CVC represents the culmination of years of work and substantial financial investment,” Brady said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that the facility is operated in a safe, efficient and professional manner.”

CVC operations included in the measure will go into effect when a certificate of occupancy has been issued to the facility, according to the legislation. That is expected to happen by the end of the summer, once workers complete complicated tests of the facility’s fire and life-safety systems.

The provisions included in the operations bill are not unexpected. Under the legislation, the Capitol Police retain control over all security matters affecting the CVC, for example.

The bill also officially outlines the role of the chief executive officer for visitor services, who will serve directly under the AOC and take charge of the management of the facility.

It’s a position already filled by Terrie Rouse, who came to the CVC in the fall of 2007 after years of overseeing museums across the country. Rouse has spent the past months planning for CVC operations, and Brady’s bill gives her the power to hire and fire personnel, propose the facility’s annual budget, run the CVC gift shop and cafeteria, and enter into contracts.

The CEOVS also will work with the Capitol Police to develop procedures for background checks for CVC employees and will be charged with providing a semi-annual report to Members that includes financial statements and a description of current operations, according to the legislation.

In another move, the measure mandates that the Capitol Guide Service move into the CVC after it opens. But it also elevates the role of the Congressional Special Services Office, the group that assists with disability access on Capitol Hill.

Special Services, which now operates under the Guide Service, will become an independent entity known the Office of Congressional Accessibility Services. That new office will report to the CEOVS and be charged with providing and coordinating accessibility services for visitors with disabilities, as well as helping Members and Congressional staffers with accessibility issues.

The legislation also creates the position of director of accessibility services, who will be appointed by the Capitol Police Board.

“This measure has far broader impact than simply providing for accessibility in the CVC,” Brady said. “The Office of Congressional Accessibility Services will ensure that we implement appropriate accessibility measures throughout the entire Capitol complex.”

Money matters also are handled in the bill. The measure officially creates a CVC revolving fund that will consist of two accounts — one for the gift shop and a second for all other profits, including those from donations and money made through the cafeteria.

Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for House Administration, noted that the introduction of the bill is a clear turning point in CVC preparation. The facility originally was to open in spring 2005 at a cost of $300 million, but cost-overruns and delays now have it opening in November with a price tag of $621 million.

“It paves the way for the actual operation of the CVC, and it allows it to hit the ground running when it comes online,” Anderson said of the bill. “We’re in the home stretch.”