2010 Legislative Year in Review

It’s that time of the year again to look back at what Congress and the federal government have done to help (or hurt) the surveying profession. This was a very slow year for legislation relating to surveyors, but those of us who advocate for the profession kept pushing anyway and made some headway. Here are some  highlights of 2010.

Coastal-Mapping Legislation


Legislation was introduced earlier this year (Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act, H.R. 365 and S. 174) that would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to coordinate federal ocean- and coastal-mapping and surveying activities with other federal efforts (including the Digital Coast, Geospatial One-Stop, and the Federal Geographic Data Committee), international mapping activities, coastal states, user groups, and nongovernmental entities. It also authorizes the administrator of NOAA to convene an ocean- and coastal-mapping advisory panel consisting of representatives from nongovernmental entities to provide input regarding committee activities.

The legislation directs the NOAA administrator to develop a plan for an integrated ocean- and coastal-mapping initiative within NOAA that: 1) identifies all ocean- and coastal-mapping programs within NOAA, establishing priorities, 2) encourages the development of innovative ocean- and coastal-mapping technologies and applications, and 3) documents available and developing technologies, best practices in data processing and distribution, and leveraging opportunities with other federal agencies, coastal states, and nongovernmental entities.

The legislation also authorizes the NOAA administrator to establish joint ocean- and coastal-mapping centers of excellence (including a joint hydrographic center) in institutions of higher education to conduct specified activities, including: 1) research and development of innovative ocean- and coastal-mapping technologies, equipment, and data products and 2) mapping of the U.S. outer continental shelf. It also requires the administrator to continue developing a strategy for expanding contracting with nongovernmental entities.

National Land Remote Sensing Outreach Act


The National Land Remote Sensing Outreach Act, H.R. 2489, directs the secretary of the Interior to establish and maintain a national land remote sensing outreach program, within the United States Geological Survey (USGS), to advance the availability, timely distribution, and widespread use of geospatial imagery for education, research, assessment, and monitoring purposes in each state and on the lands of an Indian tribe.

The legislation requires the secretary, under such program, to: 1) support geospatial imagery sharing, applied research, and educational programs of each participating state and Indian tribe, 2) identify new geospatial imagery needs and infrastructure, 3) share and cooperate in the development of geospatial imagery applications, education, and training infrastructure in each participating area, 4) cooperate with participating states and tribes to encourage the expansion of geospatial imagery mapping courses taught at educational institutions, 5) encourage expansion of geospatial imagery research at such institutions, 6) encourage expansion of the knowledge and use of geospatial imagery products in the workforce through outreach programs, workshops, and other training opportunities, 7) encourage participating states and tribes to build partnerships with local governments to identify unique research and development needs and geospatial imagery application pilot programs, 8) promote cooperation and sharing of expertise regarding geospatial imagery applications among participating states and tribes, and 9) provide a mechanism to enable the states and tribes to transfer geospatial imagery and applications to USGS.

It also authorizes the secretary to provide grants to qualified educational institutions, to state, local, and tribal governments, or to consortia of these entities on a competitive basis to: 1) advance the interest of the federal government in promoting the use of imagery by educational institutions, states, localities, and tribes and 2) achieve specified program purposes. It limits the federal share to 75% of the cost of each program for which a grant is made and it directs the secretary to establish and maintain a committee to advise the director of USGS regarding the program.

Currently, the bill is in the House Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Its companion bill, S. 1078, already passed the Senate.

HIRE Act


On March 18, President Obama signed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE Act). Although the bill focuses on job creation, it funnels funding to transportation projects as well. The bill extends the Surface Transportation Program through December 31, 2010. It also authorizes appropriations out of the Highway Trust Fund (other than the Mass Transit Account) for FY2010 and the period of October 1 to December 31, 2010 (first quarter of FY2011) for the federal-aid highway, surface transportation research, and transportation planning programs.  It does so under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), with a limit on obligatory authority for the programs equal to the total authorized for such programs for FY2009 (although only one-quarter of such total for the first quarter of FY2011).

Department of Defense Alternative Energy Mapping Act


The Department of Defense Alternative Energy Mapping Act, H.R. 5507, requires the secretary of defense to: 1) prepare maps of military installations and eligible adjacent property that classify locations on the installations and property (as acceptable, unacceptable, or unassessed) regarding their suitability for placement of geothermal, wind, solar photovoltaic, or solar thermal trough systems, 2) enter into agreements with entities involved in the production or installation of alternative energy systems to use their expertise and to share the costs of preparing such maps, and 3) disseminate such maps to Congress, the states in which the installations are located, local governments having jurisdiction over adjacent land, and the owners of adjacent private property.

Small Business Lending Act


Although this legislation is not directly related to the surveying and mapping profession, I am including it here because so many surveying and mapping firms are small businesses. Congress recently passed this act, which did a lot to help small businesses by giving them tax breaks and incentives. But contained in the bill is a section that will dramatically increase the paperwork that small businesses must file with the IRS.

Section 9006 of the act mandates that every business, charity, and local and state government entity submit 1099 forms for business transactions totaling $600 or more in a given year. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that the mandate increases businesses’ reporting requirement by as much as 2,000%.  The increased use of 1099 reporting has been identified as a measure for increasing tax compliance.

A new Congress will take its seat in January, 2011. As I write this column, we don’t know whether it will be republican or democratic. Hopefully, any party that controls Congress will understand the importance of legislation relating to surveying and mapping.

About the Author

  • Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci is the chief executive manager and senior lobbyist of The CLA Group, LLC, a government consulting, lobbying, and advocacy firm in Washington, D.C., specializing in representing businesses and associations. He is also the government affairs consultant for the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM).

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