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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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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 President Joins U.S. Representatives at News Conference on Federal Prison Industries

Posted By John Palatiello, Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 17, 2012

MAPPS President Dick McDonald, T-3 Global Strategies (Bridgeville, PA) joined U.S. Representatives Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Walter Jones (R- NC), and Don Manzullo (R-IL) at a news conference on Thursday, February 16 to announce House legislation that will permit manufacturers and service providers to compete on equal footing for contracts with the federal government by reforming Federal Prison Industries (FPI). Speakers at the media event included John Palatiello, President, Business Coalition for Fair Competition (Reston, VA); Alan Bubes, Chief Executive Officer, Linens of the Week (Washington, D.C.) and Jonathan Long, Program Manager, Propper International (Weldon Spring, Missouri). The event was held in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Room HVC-200 in Washington, DC.

Video of the news conference is available above. Read the news release from Rep. Huizenga.

Currently cosponsored by 12 bipartisan members of the U.S. House and supported by 10 business organizations, H.R. 3634 provides greater competition in federal contracting by permitting private sector firms, including small business, more opportunities by reducing FPI’s unfair advantages. Additionally, H.R. 3634 would prohibit FPI and its inmate workers from having access to a variety of geospatial information, about individual citizens' property or critical infrastructure location.

This bill is virtually identical to H.R. 2965, the bill that passed the House in 2006 by a 362-57 vote (Roll no. 443). MAPPS supported that bill. A companion bill was approved by a Senate committee, but was not enacted into law. However, other piecemeal FPI reforms have been put in place by Congress in recent years.

With unemployment continuing at dangerously high levels, 2012 may be the year Congress enacts a bill that has support from Republicans and Democrats, business and labor.

Like its predecessor, H.R. 3634 includes two provisions significant to MAPPS.

First, the bill prohibits agencies from specifying FPI, or its products, as a source in any Federal agency synopsis/solicitation. There have been incidents where architect-engineer (A/E) contracts have required the A/E firm to specify a FPI product, such as a modular furniture system, in its designs.

Most importantly, the bill prohibits FPI and its inmate workers from having access to a variety of geospatial information, about individual citizens’ property or critical infrastructure location. Specifically, it bans FPI from providing "a service in which an inmate worker has access to personal or financial information about individual private citizens, including information relating to such person’s real property, however described, without giving prior notice to such persons or class of persons to the greatest extent practicable; geographic data regarding the location of surface and subsurface infrastructure providing communications, water and electrical power distribution, pipelines for the distribution of natural gas, bulk petroleum products and other commodities, and other utilities; or data that is classified.”This provision would prohibit FPI from engaging in most, if not all, geospatial activities.

With regard to services, the bill eliminated FPI’s status as a preferred source. A Federal agency can only contract with FPI for services, such as GIS, CAD, scanning, digitizing, if the buying agency’s contracting officers determines FPI’s services meet the agency’s need in a number of criteria, can perform on time, and provides the service at a fair market price. This eliminates enormous advantages FPI has enjoyed in providing services. With regard to products, FPI’s previous mandatory source status is ended in favor of full and open competition.

The bill also prohibits FPI from providing services in the commercial market. Although FPI’s original 1930’s enabling law prohibited prison-made products from commercial market entry, the organization secured a legal opinion during the Clinton Administration that said since Congress mentioned products in the 1930’s, and not services, then sale of prisoner provided services must be permitted, notwithstanding that the United States did not have a service economy in the 1930s. Several state attorneys general have issued similar opinions with regard to state prisons.

Federal Prison Industries, Inc., which operates under the trade name UNICOR, is a self-supporting, wholly-owned government corporation that employs federal prison inmates. A program of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, FPI offers hundreds of products and services, including a number of data conversion activities.

A number of state prison industry operations have extensive GIS capabilities, including Colorado, Florida, and Texas, to name a few.

A recent MAPPS legislative issues poll found 51 percent of members continue to view prison industry reform legislation as a very important or somewhat important issue.

It has been reported that FPI won a contract from the Corps of Engineers to make signs. The funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ARRA, commonly known as the stimulus bill. While that bill was intended to put law-abiding, unemployed Americans back to work, not to support inmates, the expenditure of Federal ARRA funds on prison industries is being investigated by Congress.

Here is a news story about the bill.

Under H.R. 3634, FPI/UNICOR would be required to submit a detailed analysis of the impact to the private sector before entering into new product markets and would not be able to sell products commercially or internationally; the only customer could be the federal government. It also prohibits agencies from contracting with FPI in which inmates would have access to sensitive or classified information.

"This bill gives the taxpayer the greatest value for their hard-earned money by forcing federal agencies to bid for fair and reasonable prices and for products that best suit their needs. The bill preserves market access for these products or services to the hard-working men and women of our districts. This is simply one more easy, common sense way to preserve jobs and help restore economic security for America," Huizenga said.

"This legislation will protect the jobs of hard-working American taxpayers while providing valuable alternative rehabilitative opportunities to better prepare inmates for a successful return to society. It is a workable, bipartisan solution to the problem," Rep. Maloney added.

"It is time to allow for fair competition for U.S. manufacturers," according to Rep. Frank.

"We should be looking to make government more efficient and cost-effective, and this bill does that. I support this legislation because it will save taxpayer money and open up the contracting process to competition by allowing businesses to bid for these contracts," Sensenbrenner said.

Other examples of the industries FPI competes in include: clothing and textiles, electronics, vehicular components and fleet management, industrial products, office furniture, electronics recycling, and services such as call center and data and document conversion.

The bill has already gathered interest from a broad coalition of business groups and has a bipartisan list of supporters in Congress from all across America. Original co-sponsors include Reps. Donald Manzullo (R-IL), Edward Royce, (R-CA), Patrick Tiberi (R-OH), and John Olver (D-MA).

In the past, studies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found FPI products and services did not meet agency requirements, were not delivered in a timely manner, and were at times more expensive that the private sector.

Tags:  Competition  Congress  FPI  Jobs  MAPPS  Prison  Private Sector  Reform 

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MAPPS Signs Coalition Letter Urging President and Congress to Invest in Construction and Design

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, December 20, 2011
MAPPS joined 44 construction and design groups in a letter (December 7) to President Obama and Congress to pass legislation providing certainty in the construction community.

The letter has three "asks" for the President and Congress.

  1. Pass and sign surface transportation, aviation, water resources, and clean water and drinking water infrastructure authorization bills. Enactment of these authorizations will immediately provide programmatic and fiscal certainty that will help job creators in every state put people back to work.

  2. Pass and sign appropriations bills for the remainder of fiscal year 2012. Short-term continuing resolutions provide little or no certainty to public agencies or those who perform work for them. In fact, our members say that the failure to pass routine authorizations and appropriations bills undermines business confidence.

  3. Increase public-private partnerships. Any effort to reinvigorate the design and construction markets must successfully jumpstart new privately-funded construction. The strength of the private sector market is the single largest determining factor in the health of the construction industry. The best way to boost private demand for construction is to put in place pro-growth policies that will boost economic expansion.

The coalition posted the above ad in Roll Call, a newspaper focused on Congress, on December 8.




Download File (PDF)

Tags:  Congress  construction  jobs  Letters  mapping 

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Those Aren’t Rich Corporate Executives’ Jets, They’re Small Businesses – The Backbone of America’s Economy

Posted By John Palatiello, Thursday, September 15, 2011

President Obama - and almost every other political figure on the American landscape – has at one time or another declared that small business is the backbone of America’s economy. Then why is the President proposing to raise taxes on the very entrepreneurs he’s counting on to create jobs?

 Photo provided by Keystone Aerial Surveys
On Monday, President Obama formally sent his "American Jobs Act” to Congress.  As promised in his address to Congress and the Nation last Thursday, the package includes measures to pay for his latest proposal to jump start the American economy. Included in the bill is a provision on "General Aviation Aircraft Treated As 7-Year Property”. That’s tax jargon for the President’s now infamous but inaccurate attack on a tax loophole for corporate jets.

The fact of the matter is most general aviation aircraft is owned by small to mid-sized businesses, not corporate fat cats.  These planes and helicopters are not used to whisk CEO’s off to exotic destinations.  Rather, they are used for aerial photography in support of surveying and mapping of new highways, monitor dangerous encroachment of underground pipelines, conduct danger tree surveys to prevent power outages, apply fertilizer and pesticides to crops for maximum yield of food by farmers, researching the atmosphere and environment, keep an eye on traffic, and move employees, customers, cargo and products.

The President’s plan is based on polling and focus group sessions that show average Americans frustration with tax loopholes that permit some individuals and businesses to pay little or no taxes. In fact, what is at issue is the length of time a taxpayer is permitted for depreciation of an asset, in this case an airplane. Owners of business aircraft can depreciate their investment over five years. President Obama has proposed changing the depreciation schedule for general aviation aircraft to seven years calling the current five year schedule a tax loophole. The depreciation schedule for general aviation aircraft has been in existence since the early 1980s.  Business aircraft are treated similarly to other assets such as cars, trucks, and certain equipment, which can be depreciated over a five year period when purchased for business use.

According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), in the first six months of 2011, total general aviation airplane shipments worldwide fell 15.5 percent, from 936 in 2010 to 791 this year.  There is no doubt the Obama proposal would only make this situation worse.

Shorter depreciation schedules create jobs. The faster a business can expense capital equipment, the faster it can buy more – putting more people to work. Making it difficult for businesses to purchase and depreciate aircraft will not punish wealthy CEO’s, but reduce jobs for the pilots, crews, mechanics, airport operations workers, and ultimately the folks that work the assembly lines at aircraft factories. At a time when application of digital aerial imagery, LIDAR and other airborne acquired geospatial data is exploding, aerial photographers, surveyors, and users of geospatial services will also see their jobs jeopardized.

It is difficult to see how taxing aircraft supports the broader goal of addressing the nation's job crisis. This proposal is virtually identical to what happened in 1990 when Congress imposed a "luxury” tax on yachts. The rich people who could afford these boats were unaffected, but the workers built them lost their jobs. As a result, Congress scrambled to repeal the tax. Pardon the pun, but Congress should not let the plane tax proposal ever get off the ground.

Tags:  Aviation  Congress  Jobs  Tax 

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