1. The House of Representatives unanimously approved two bipartisan bills on May 23 to shrink the federal footprint, improve the federal government’s management of its real estate portfolio, and to streamline the disposal of excess or underutilized federal buildings to save taxpayers billions of dollars. The Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act of 2016 (H.R. 4487) and the Federal Asset Sale and Transfer Act of 2016 (H.R. 4465) would reform the General Services Administration (GSA), the agency responsible for the management of much of the federal real estate inventory, and the processes of selling and disposing of unneeded federal real estate.
NECA’s Look Ahead: NECA will continue to advocate that Congress should enact property reform legislation that will incentivize retrofits and upgrades to improve the energy efficiency of federal buildings.
The Federal Asset Sale and Transfer Act of 2016 (H.R. 4465)
H.R. 4465 was introduced by Reps. Denham, Chaffetz, Shuster, DeFazio, Barletta, Carson, and Cummings.
This legislation implements reforms to shrink the size of government and help ensure savings by selling or redeveloping high value properties, consolidating federal space, maximizing the utilization rates of space, and streamlining the disposal of unneeded assets.
The bill establishes a Public Buildings Reform Board of members who will identify opportunities to reduce the real property inventory and make recommendations for the sale of up to $8 billion worth of underutilized and vacant federal properties. The bill also requires the GSA to create and publish a single, comprehensive database of all federal real properties, including whether those properties are excess, surplus, underutilized, or unutilized to prevent a future stockpiling of unused and underutilized property.
Click here for more information about the Federal Asset Sale and Transfer Act of 2016.
The Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act of 2016 (H.R. 4487)
H.R. 4487 was introduced by Reps. Barletta, Carson, Shuster, DeFazio, and other Members of the Transportation Committee.
The GSA reforms included in H.R. 4487 will enable the agency to better facilitate consolidations, reduce space, and negotiate the best possible office space lease deals to save billions of dollars. The bill establishes a Streamlined Leasing Pilot Program that reduces the administrative red tape on most GSA leases and encourages space consolidations, improves accountability in the acquisition and construction of new federal space, ensures federal construction projects remain within or under budget, sets clear timeframes on authorized projects, and clarifies congressional oversight of property exchanges. The bill also strengthens authorities of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) in order to improve security at federal buildings, clarifies protection authorities related to federal buildings, and improves accountability and oversight of the use of such authorities.
Click here for more information about the Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act of 2016.
2. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on May 31 that a landowner can appeal a determination from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that a water body is subject to federal jurisdiction and permit requirements under the Clean Water Act. In Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. Inc., the Court ruled that a property owner can challenge a determination from USACE immediately upon receipt, rather than wait for enforcement action and risk significant fines.
NECA’s Look Ahead: The ruling is a major victory for the electrical construction industry. Until the court decision, any ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or USACE determining that a body of water falls under the “Waters of the United States” standard would mean the landowner would need federal permits for any construction activity near the body of water. This decision will limit the regulatory permitting burden of NECA contractors potentially working under such conditions.
3. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is proposing a rule to facilitate mergers of multiemployer pension plans.
NECA’s Look Ahead: Mergers are a way some plans can preserve and protect the benefits earned by workers and retirees. The proposed rule will be formally published in the Federal Register on June 6. It aims to implement changes under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA). PBGC has authority to facilitate plan mergers by providing technical assistance, or financial assistance if necessary to avoid plan insolvency. Before assisting a merger, PBGC must determine that the merger is necessary to avoid plan insolvency, the assistance will reduce PBGC's expected long-term loss, and the assistance will not harm PBGC's ability to meet existing obligations.