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"Spatially Speaking" is the official MAPPS blog providing information on topics related to the association and profession and MAPPS involvement with the issues.


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MAPPS to Host Special Washington Policy Lunch to Address UAVs, August 14

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 9, 2013



MAPPS will host a special roundtable discussion of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) issues featuring key Congressional staff on Wednesday, August 14.

In just the last week, two certificates of authorization (COAs) were awarded for commercial use and panelists at the MAPPS 2013 Summer Conference were optimistic that a small class of UAVs could receive special approval by the end of 2013. MAPPS is working to continue to keep members and the community up to date with legislative and regulatory information to advance the use of the technology in the commercial market.

This luncheon will take place at Noon at Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center, 901 K Street, NW, Suite 1100 Washington, DC 20001 and coincides with the annual conference and exhibition of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to be held at the Washington, DC Convention Center. MAPPS has developed a relationship with AUVSI to educate lawmakers at the Federal and state level on the benefits of UAV implementation.

This luncheon will provide attendees an opportunity to hear and learn about policies, legislation and other governmental actions affecting commercial certificates of authorization for UAVs, which can become a popular platform for acquisition of imagery and other geospatial source data. Engage in a discussion of timely topics on the timing, policies and issues affecting UAVs.

MAPPS has confirmed a bipartisian panel of Capitol Hill staff as speakers:

Blas Nunez-Neto, Senior Professional Staff Member (Majority) at Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC). Mr. Nunez-Neto will discuss HSGAC Oversight of UAV-UAS Operations along the Border (CBP/DHS). He was formerly an analyst in Domestic Security, Criminal Justice, and Immigration for the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Joan V. O'Hara, Deputy Chief Counsel (Majority) for the House Committee on Homeland Security. Ms. O'Hara will cover Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)/DHS operation of UAVs along the borders, how DHS is interacting with FAA for certificates of authorization (COAs), and prospects for legislative language covering UAVs in the DHS Reauthorization and Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Mitchell "Mitch” Kominsky, Counsel (Majority), House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Mr. Kominsky will cover oversight plans by Chairman Darrell Issa (CA) for UAV technology and applications.

Tim Tarpley, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director, Rep. Ted Poe (TX). Mr. Tarpley will discuss Rep. Poe's sponsorship of H.R. 637, the "Preserving American Privacy Act of 2013".

Additional speakers may be added.

This event is open to MAPPS members, government partners, and guests. MAPPS members are encouraged to invite principals of private sector geospatial firms to attend the lunch.

Registration for the AUVSI conference is not required to attend the lunch.

The Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center is located one-half block west of the Washington, DC convention center.

Click here, to register for the lunch.

Tags:  Customs and Border Patrol  DHS  FAA  Privacy  UAV 

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MAPPS President Highlights Accomplishments Over the Past Year

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, August 2, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 1, 2013
MAPPS President Highlights Accomplishments Over the Past Year

At the MAPPS Membership Annual Business Meeting held Tuesday, July 23, 2013 in Rockport, Maine, departing MAPPS president Dick McDonald, CP, PLS (T3 Global Strategies, Bridgeville, PA) provided his final report to the membership. Below are some of his remarks providing the accomplishments of the association over the last year:

"It has been a tradition at these meetings that the President of MAPPS stands before the membership and announces a list of significant accomplishments of this organization.
This year is no exception.
Since we last met for an annual meeting in Snowmass, Colorado last July, the following are just a few of MAPPS’ achievements –
  • The Department of Homeland Security finally … finally … awarded its contracts for imagery and geospatial services for emergency response.  This QBS, multiple award ID/IQ contract is the result of more than 10 years of effort by MAPPS. That contract was MAPPS idea and it is the result of a decade of tenacity and advocacy by MAPPS;

  • I had the privilege of testifying before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act and NOAA geospatial programs;

  • We won approval of a Defense Department land inventory provision in the Defense Authorization bill currently before Congress;

  • We met with the staff of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor in Virginia, and Cabinet members, to promote greater use of geospatial services and reliance on the private sector;

  • In other activities at the state level, we successfully battled competition from DOTs, dealt with sales tax issues and successfully placed members on state geospatial coordination councils to insure the private sector was represented, and we made progress on a state council bill in Pennsylvania;

  • We launched a state chapter in Alabama, and began organizing in Florida.  Additionally, our Maryland chapter is now up and running;

  • MAPPS recognized firms’ projects in the sixth annual Excellence Awards competition and reception in November. And our seventh competition is now on, with entries due by September 20.  So get your best projects together and please submit.  This is so important to promoting our profession, demonstrating the capabilities and capacity of the private sector, and highlighting how we as a community contribute to the quality of life in our Nation.  Please, enter a project;

  • MAPPS worked with Congress to develop a GAO study of Federal geospatial coordination to identify duplication and redundancies in agencies that has received repeated news media attention;

  • We assisted our brethren in land surveying in opposition to the Labor Department’s classification of survey technicians as "laborers and mechanics”, subject to the Davis-Bacon Act;

  • It is MAPPS that is leading the fight in Washington against insourcing and government competition, to provide more opportunity for the private sector; 

  • We had a successful Joint Conference with ASPRS in Tampa, Florida and an excellent Winter Meeting in Miami, Florida.  Once again, MAPPS charged Capitol Hill in another very productive Federal Programs Conference in Washington, DC;

  • We’ve had the FLAIR Act, Map It Once Act, Digital Coast Act, Prison Industry Reform bill, and the Freedom from Government Competition Act introduced in Congress;

  • We conducted a LIDAR capacity analysis for USGS and led an effort supported by several other organizations in support for funding of the USGS 3DEP program in Congress;

  • MAPPS led an effort to get all the members of COGO, the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations, to unanimously support a resolution on the importance of geospatial data to our society and proclaiming that privacy restrictions should not be a concern and should not apply to our profession’s activities;

  • We’ve been a leader in getting lawmakers in Congress and State Legislatures to recognize that aerial imagery for mapping from UAVs benefits the public and should NOT be part of restrictions on future UAV use;

  • We conducted a Salary Survey, which will be reported later this week, and two Economic Surveys;

  • We continue to have a successful MAPPS PAC and set a record for members’ contributions, and PAC contributions to candidates in the 2012 election. We had an outstanding MAPPS PAC dinner in Washington in March with Senator Johnson of Wisconsin and Congressman Massie of Kentucky.  I want to thank all the members who contributed and call on everyone to give something to the PAC.  We have a more pro-free enterprise U.S. House of Representatives as a result of the generosity of those who contributed. I encourage you all to make a personal contribution today, whether it is for $50, $100, $200 or $1,000 … the legal limit is $5,000 (actually $10,000 for husband and wife);

  • We did good … we performed community service with our Bike Build to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami at our Winter Meeting.  The look on those kids’ faces was priceless and heartwarming.

    And that is just in the past 12 months.  
I thank the membership for its support and participation.  I urge your continued involvement and commitment to MAPPS.  As we’ve often said, ‘in an economy where you are counting every dollar, it’s good to know you can count on MAPPS’.”

Tags:  Economy  FLAIR  Geospatial  MIO-UIMT  Privacy  UAV 

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Call for Nominations for National Geospatial Advisory Council (NGAC)

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, July 18, 2013
Updated: Thursday, July 18, 2013
The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and the Department of the Interior have announced the next call for nominations for appointment to the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC). Information about the nomination process is posted on the NGAC website.  Nominations are due by August 12.  

Any MAPPS member interested in applying should also contact MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello, a former NGAC member.

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How's It Going? MAPPS Conducting Economic Survey

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
At the midway point of 2013 are you trying to gauge how your firm's performance compares to others in the geospatial community?

Having this information to benchmark against others would be valuable to every private sector geospatial firm. That is why MAPPS is once again conducting an Economic Survey. The survey has been sent to MAPPS Regular Member Firms and closes on Tuesday, July 16.

 As we've said before, in an economy where you are counting every dollar, it's good to know you can count on MAPPS.

MAPPS has conducted a salary survey twice a year since 2009. It provides a barometer of attitudes, experiences and projections of MAPPS member firm principals about the recent past, current and near term future economic climate. The poll asks firms to report on whether their revenues are increasing or declining, and whether they foresee growth or a downturn in the geospatial market in the coming months. The poll measures attitudes, not empirical data, so you don't need a balance sheet, P/L or financial statement in front of you. This economic survey is different than the Salary and Wage Benefits Survey that was conducted in the spring.

The results of the survey will be reported at the MAPPS Summer Conference in Rockport, Maine beginning on July 22. This will provide an opportunity for MAPPS member firm principals to assess and compare their own experience and assessment with those of the larger MAPPS community since our last survey in January.

All MAPPS members will be provided complete survey results after the Summer Conference.  

MAPPS members have found this benchmark survey to be of value. It is one more unique benefit of membership in MAPPS. To become a MAPPS member and participate in the survey, click here.

If you have not yet registered for the Summer Conference and wish to attend, please click here.

MAPPS is offering a special membership promotion for firms that are not current members. The association invites principals of firms to attend the Summer Conference at the non-member rate. If the firm joins MAPPS prior to the end of the conference on July 26, 2013, the firm will be credited with the difference between the member and non-member rate. That is a 56% savings. The reimbursement will be credited toward the firm's 2013 membership dues in MAPPS.

Tags:  Economy  Survey 

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MAPPS Participates in Digital Coast Congressional Briefing

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Update - July 10, 2013

A standing room only audience, including House and Senate staff, attended the briefing hosted by Congressman C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Congressman Don Young (R-AK), former chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,  co-sponsors of H.R. 1382, the Digital Coast Act of 2013.

A PowerPoint presentation by stakeholders who rely upon data collected and disseminated by the Digital Coast project outlined the framework, benefits and applications. This panel included Kurt Allen (Photo Science, Inc.) on behalf of MAPPS.   

John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director, made remarks, telling the audience "MAPPS strongly supports and enthusiastically recommends the coastal geospatial services contracts carried out by NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in Charleston, SC in support of Digital Coast.”  He said it is "a model for defining roles and responsibilities in the geospatial community with NOAA, as the data partner for federal, state, and local government, facilitating the demand for geospatial data, while the private sector provides the supply of data as contractors to NOAA.”  He noted that all the Digital Coast prime contractors are MAPPS member firms and several projects have won awards in the annual MAPPS project excellence awards competition. Palatiello cited Dick McDonald’s recent testimony before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oceans where the MAPPS President called Digital Coast "a best practices model” and said while GAO has been critical of duplication in federal geospatial activities, Digital Coast and H.R. 1382 provide a solution. 

Pictures from the briefing are available on MAPPS Facebook page.

Original Post - July 2, 2013   

A briefing for members of Congress and their staffs on the Digital Coast program will take place at 2:00PM on July 8, 2013 in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Digital Coast is a program managed by the Coastal Services Center (CSC) based in Charleston, South Carolina to improve coastal economies and ecological health by helping communities address on-the-ground planning and resource management challenges with just cost-effective, and participatory solutions, including geospatial data.  H.R. 1382, the "Digital Coast Act of 2013", introduced by Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Don Young (R-AK),  would authorize NOAA to establish Digital Coast as a constituent-driven program that collects priority coastal geospatial data. The program would support an information platform capable of efficiently integrating coastal data with decision support tools, training, and best practices to inform and improve local, state, regional, and federal capacities to manage the coastal region.

John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director, will speak in support of H.R. 1382. In addition, Kurt Allen (Photo Science, Inc.) MAPPS Past President, Legislative Affairs Committee Chairman and Oceans and Coastal Mapping Task Force Chairman will also make remarks at the briefing.

MAPPS has worked with a coalition of organizations to support the Digital Coast program and has been a supporter of H.R. 1382.

For more information about the briefing, click here.

The Digital Coast provides an opportunity to help America’s fragile oceans, coasts and shorelines by addressing issues raised by the U.S. Oceans Commission, the Pew Commission, as well as several National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences reports, all of which have highlighted the needed surveying, charting, remote sensing, and geospatial data for America’s coasts, harbors and ports, shoreline and ocean resources critical to our nation’s most basic activities.

The Digital Coast program will also coordinate the pooling of resources from multiple agencies (Federal, state, and local) and other stakeholders to map the various needs once, and then utilize and apply the high-quality data and products numerous times, thus reducing costly waste of tax dollars while maximizing the return on investment for all stakeholders.

Action Alert:

Your action is needed NOW to alert your respective member of Congress and Senators to attend to learn more about how geospatial technology, data, services and products will benefit their District, State or other constituencies.

Contact your member of Congress TODAY to have them and/or their staff attend. Look up your Representative and Senators. If you have any questions, contact John "JB" Byrd, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager.

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Business Coalition Forum on Non-Profit Competition with Private Sector

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, June 21, 2013
On June 25, the Business Coalition for Fair Competition (BCFC) is hosting a forum in historic downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia to measure the impact and scope of unfair non-profit (including university) competition with the private sector, including small business. MAPPS members are invited to attend to provide case studies of non-profit, including university, competition with the private sector.
The SBA Office of Advocacy will attend in a listening capacity to hear from a wide range of markets, professions and industries. This government agency is considering this issue as part of their "Innovation Initiative", an effort focused on the specific needs and concerns faced by companies and entrepreneurs. Representatives of individual private sector firms, trade associations and policy groups are welcome to attend.
With Congress working on comprehensive tax reform and with the SBA Office of Advocacy attending, you can help influence those institutions to modify existing regulation and legislation. 
This forum is scheduled for June 25 from 9:45am - 2:00pm at The Inn at Fredericksburg Square, 525 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401.
Fredericksburg is just a short (less than 1 hour) drive south of Washington, DC and is accessible by the Virginia Railway Express (VRE). The Inn at Fredericksburg is a short walk from the VRE station.
This event is free to attend and includes a networking luncheon on site courtesy of the Perroy Family, which manages the The Inn at Fredericksburg Square, a member of BCFC. 
Register now as this event is limited to the first 50 to RSVP. To RSVP, please contact BCFC.  
MAPPS member firms that are not able to attend but have examples of non-profit competition can should submit one-page examples to John "JB" Byrd, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager.

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Davis-Bacon Rule Could Impact MAPPS Members

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a ruling, reversing more than 50 years or policy and precedent, to expand the application of the "Davis-Bacon Act” to members of survey crews.  Davis-Bacon is a 1931, Depression-Era law that requires the payment of the "prevailing” local wage to construction workers.  Since at least the John F. Kennedy Administration in 1962, the Labor Department has ruled that members of survey crews are exempt from the law, except to the extent such workers "perform manual work, such as clearing brush and sharpening stakes” which then-Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg observed "are not commonplace”.

In March of this year, the Labor Department ruled, in response to a request from the Operating Engineers Union, that survey technicians are "laborers and mechanics” under the Davis-Bacon Act, subject to the prevailing wage provisions.

Congress held a hearing on the issue on June 18. National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) Executive Director Curtis W. Sumner, LS, testified in opposition to the ruling. NSPS has also asked the Labor Department to reverse its position. MAPPS supported the NSPS position in a letter entered into the House subcommittee hearing record, as was a letter by more than a dozen organizations.  Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, criticized the Labor Department’s actions.

This issue raises several important questions for firms performing photogrammetric and related services.  Are photogrammetry projects truly "construction-related” and subject to Davis-Bacon, or pre, post, or non-construction and outside the law’s scope?  Is survey control part of the surveying now covered?  Are technicians setting photo control engaged in Davis-Bacon covered activities for more than 20 percent of a workweek?

Sumner said the decision came with "no public notice that the Labor Department was considering a change in its regulations; no request for public input or comments; no notification seeking of advice, comment or input from the surveying profession and employers/management; and in fact no public announcement of the new policy”.  He called the ruling "detrimental to the surveying profession” and said it will "be an administrative nightmare for surveying firms, contracting agencies, and the Labor Department … (and ) will result in confusion and costly compliance issues”.

Comments, reactions and discussion from MAPPS members is encouraged.

Tags:  Davis-Bacon  Jobs  Surveying  Workforce 

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MAPPS to Testify Before House Subcommittee on Hydrographic Services Improvement Act

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dick McDonald, CP, PLS, (T3 Global Strategies, Bridgeville, PA) President of MAPPS, the national association for private sector geospatial firms, will testify tomorrow, Thursday, June 13 before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs

Mr. McDonald will testify on H.R. 1399, a bill to reauthorize the Hydrographic Services Improvement (HSIA) Act of 1998, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). HSIA authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to acquire hydrographic data, provide hydrographic services, conduct coastal change analyses necessary to ensure safe navigation along the coastal areas of the United States, and improve the management of coastal change in the Arctic. The legislation also directs the Comptroller General (GAO) to compare the cost of NOAA conducting hydrographic surveys compared to contracting with the private sector. 

In relation to H.R. 1399, Mr. McDonald will discuss the Digital Coast Act, H.R. 1382.  

The hearing will take place at 10:00 AM (EDT) in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill and will be webcast live on the Committee's website. 

Tags:  Congress  Digital Coast  HSIA  Hydrographic  NOAA 

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A status update on UAVs and Privacy

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, June 12, 2013

John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director, provided a recorded presentation for The Survey Association (TSA), MAPPS counter part in the United Kingdom. The presentation provides an overview on policies and legislation impacting unmanned aerial vehicles in the United States. The presentation also provides an overview of privacy regulations that are a concern to the geospatial community in the U.S. 

Want to learn more? MAPPS will hold more in-depth sessions on UAV regulations and sensors for surveying and mapping, as well as a session on privacy during the MAPPS Summer Conference to be held July 22-26, 2013 in Rockport, Maine. Register today to attend!

Is your firm not yet a member of MAPPS?

MAPPS is offering a special membership promotion for firms that are not current members. The association invites principals of firms to attend the Summer Conference at the non-member rate. If the firm joins MAPPS prior to the end of the conference on July 26, 2013, the firm will be credited with the difference between the member and non-member rate. That is a 56% savings. The reimbursement will be credited toward the firm's 2013 membership dues in MAPPS. Register today!

Tags:  Privacy  UAV 

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Why the IRS Scandal is Important to MAPPS Members

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, May 24, 2013

The current controversy over the IRS’s politically tainted scrutiny of conservative 501(c)(4) organizations is focusing attention on the Exempt Organizations Division of the federal tax agency. As the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported, this IRS division has been a longstanding administrative problem. Moreover, it is the office that is responsible for assuring that exempt organizations comply with applicable tax laws. And, it is in charge of overseeing the activities of exempt organizations so that such entities do not engage in unfair competition with private sector, for-profit firms, including small business.

Exempt organizations are not required to pay taxes on revenue that are related to the purpose for which they receive tax exemption. However, such organizations, including MAPPS, are required to pay an unrelated business income tax, or "UBIT” on non-exempt revenue. For example, dues, conference registration fees, sponsorships, publications and other similar normal MAPPS revenues are not taxable because they directly support the association’s exempt purpose. However, revenue from the sale of advertising on our web site is subject to UBIT, inasmuch as that is not related to the mission of MAPPS and is solely for the business benefit of the advertiser. MAPPS can sell advertising, but we must pay tax on that revenue.

A look at the tax law affecting the entire family of 501(c) organizations is in order, to include IRS oversight and enforcement of commercial activities of nonprofit organizations and UBIT, as well as how the IRS is lax in enforcing the law to prevent unfair nonprofit competition with private enterprise.

Recently, the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, the very office now the subject of several investigations, conducted a Colleges and Universities Compliance Project, which looked at the UBIT payments (or lack thereof) of colleges and universities. The April 25, 2013 IRS Report, according to a news article, "found increases to unrelated business taxable income for 90 percent of the colleges and universities examined, totaling about $90 million. There were over 180 changes to the amounts of unrelated business taxable income reported by colleges and universities on Form 990-T; and disallowance of more than $170 million in losses and net operating losses that could amount to more than $60 million in assessed taxes."

As Accuracy in Academia has reported, at the same time the IRS Exempt Organizations Division was targeting conservative groups, it was being lax on universities engaging in commercial activities without paying UBIT on revenue from such activities, in unfair competition with private sector, tax-paying companies.

The underlying difficulty of tax fairness among exempt organizations and nonprofits is deeper and more longstanding. Gilbert M. Gaul and Neill A. Borowski of The Philadelphia Inquirer won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigation that identified rampant abuses of America's nonprofit tax laws. Many of the issues raised in this series are still evident today.

A 1980 report by the Small Business Administration also singled out universities as a major source of tax dollar-supported unfair competition with private companies, particularly small firms -- "Unfair Competition by Nonprofit Organizations With Small Business: An Issue for the 1980s” (June, 1984). SBA offered testimony, when requested by the House and Senate Small Business Committees in 1988 and 1996 and conducted some research on non-profit competition in 1999

Many MAPPS member firms encounter unfair competition from universities. Look, for example, here, here or here, to see just a sampling. We’ve held sessions at MAPPS meetings on university competition.

The 1995 White House Conference on Small Business made this a priority issue when its plank read, "Congress should enact legislation that would prohibit government agencies and tax exempt and anti-trust exempt organizations from engaging in commercial activities in direct competition with small businesses.” That was among the top 15 vote-getters at the 1995 Conference and was number one among all the procurement-related issues in the final balloting.

An entire book has been written on this issue, Unfair Competition: The Profits of Nonprofits, James T. Bennett, Thomas H. DiLorenzo, Hamilton Press, 1989. 

The Ways and Means Committee last held extensive hearings on this problem in 1987 and had GAO conduct an investigation. The Small Business Committee has also held hearings, but that was back in 1996.

I testified before the House Ways and Means Committee in February and later participated in a Roundtable hosted by Rep. Reichert and Rep. Lewis, who make up the House Ways and Means Committee Special Panel on Tax-Exempt Organizations.

John Palatiello testifies April 11, 2013 before House Ways and Means Committee

To help Congress address this issue in more detail, focused on university competition with geospatial firms, please submit your examples of university competition to John "JB" Byrd, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager.

Tags:  Congress  IRS  Tax  UBIT 

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