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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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Are labor unions trying to infiltrate the surveying and mapping market?

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Thursday, November 7, 2013

In recent months, we have seen evidence of increased activity on the part of a national labor union, and its locals, affecting the geospatial community generally and survey crews in particular.

The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) is attempting to influence survey firms/survey crews or labor policy affecting surveying and survey crews.  Earlier this year, the IUOE convinced the U.S. Department of Labor to reverse 50+ years of federal policy and define members of survey crews as "laborers and mechanics”, subjecting them to the "prevailing wage” provisions of the controversial Davis-Bacon Act.  Soon thereafter, the Department of Labor began to create a union-sponsored "apprenticeship” program occupation of rodman/chainman. The Operating Engineers then succeeded in getting a state department of transportation (DoT) to impose a statewide prevailing wage mandate for survey crews on all its projects.  Finally, there has been an attempt to impose "project labor agreements” (PLA) on firms employing survey crews on state transportation projects.

A Spatially Speaking Blog post earlier this year explained the issue. MAPPS filed a letter with Congress for a hearing on Davis-Bacon, opposing the Labor Department ruling.

We have been asked by the Committee on Education and Workforce of the U.S. House of Representatives to compile other instances of union activities in our field.  This will be helpful to the committee’s oversight and investigation of these activities.

Davis-Bacon and union organization of surveying and mapping firms is unnecessary.  As NSPS Executive Director Curtis W. Sumner, LS, said in his testimony before Congress, employees in the surveying and mapping field are well compensated and in high demand.  The administrative burden and recordkeeping that will be imposed on small businesses in the field will be exorbitant. There is no evidence that workers in the geospatial workforce need union representation. 

If you have had any recent experience with the IUOE or any other union making an inquiry, initiating an activity, or otherwise increasing its presence in the surveying, mapping and geospatial field, please provide details to John "JB” Byrd, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager or leave your experience below in our comments section.

Thank you in advance for your input.

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS.


Tags:  Congress  Davis-Bacon  Geospatial  Labor  Mapping  NSPS  Surveying  Unions 

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Voice of Geospatial Surveying and Mapping Firms Heard in Congress

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Thursday, October 31, 2013
On October 23, the House passed H.R. 3080, the "Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2013" by a 417-3 vote. MAPPS supported an amendment, sponsored by Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Tom Petri (R-WI), to increase the Corps of Engineers' reliance on the private sector in surveying and mapping. The Young-Petri Amendment would have authorized the Corps to rely on the private sector for surveying, mapping and geospatial services to the maximum extent practical. MAPPS members contacted their members of Congress and urged the U.S. House of Representatives to vote "Yes" on the Young-Petri Amendment.
 
During floor debate, Reps. Young, Petri, and John J. "Jimmy" Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), three senior members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, spoke passionately in favor of the amendment. Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-NY) and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) voiced their opposition. Shuster used the term "reluctant opposition". Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) voiced her opposition earlier in the day. Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) did not oppose. Based on opposition to the amendment by Chairman Shuster, a decision was made not to demand a roll call vote. Watch the 10 minute debate from C-SPAN - 4:27:25-4:36:30.

The good news for private sector geospatial firms is that your voice was heard by Congress! In addition, Reps. Young and Petri received letters and messages of support and endorsements for this amendment from MAPPS as well as the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Business Coalition for Fair Competition (BCFC), Construction Industry Round Table (CIRT), American Conservative Union (ACU), Heritage Action, and National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The House Republican Study Committee (RSC) also posted information on the Young-Petri Amendment. Opposing the amendment was the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the Transportation Trades Department (TTD), and the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE).
 
The amendment was necessary because MAPPS members have been concerned over the increasing duplication of and competition with the private sector by the Corps of Engineers. Traditionally, the Corps had been one of the leading agencies in the use of the private sector for surveying and mapping services. However, over the last few years, USACE has not lived up to that tradition. Our continuing concern is over the extent to which the Corps is increasingly (1) insourcing work traditionally performed by the private sector, (2) failing to utilize the private sector for a broad range of surveying and mapping activities, and (3) purchasing equipment, including hydro boats and a UAV to support in-house performance of services that are commercially available by contract from the private sector, including small business. MAPPS will continue to advocate the issue to help private sector geospatial surveying and mapping firms.

Tags:  Amendments  Congress  Contracting  Corps  Mapping  Sureveying  USACE  WRRDA 

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MAPPS Minute - Legislative Action Alert!

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MAPPS Legislative Alert - Contact Your Member of Congress and Urge a "Yes" Vote to the Young Amendment on "Surveying and Mapping" to H.R. 3080 the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2013

MAPPS members have been concerned over the increasing duplication of and competition with the private sector by the Corps of Engineers, particularly in the field of surveying, mapping and geospatial activities. Learn more.

MAPPS supports an amendment to H.R. 3080 to increase the Corps' reliance on the capable, qualified and efficient private sector in surveying and mapping. MAPPS is pleased to announce that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will offer an amendment to H.R. 3080 that would authorize USACE to rely on the private sector for surveying, mapping and geospatial services and activities to the maximum extent practical.
 
Debate and consideration for H.R. 3080 is scheduled to being Wednesday, October 23, contact your Representative today! This action is in the House not the Senate.

Tags:  Insourcing  Mapping  Surveying  USACE  Water Resources  WRRDA 

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Candidates Sought for FEMA’s “TMAC”

Posted By John Palatiello, Wednesday, September 11, 2013
In July of last year, Congress passed and President Obama signed the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”, commonly known as "MAP-21”.  Public Law 112-141 included the highway bill, student loan reform, and provisions reforming the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance and mapping program.  MAPPS was deeply involved in securing several mapping reform provisions, which we’ve discussed in a previous blog post.

One provision in that law re-established the Technical Mapping Advisory Council, or TMAC, to provide advice and recommendations to the FEMA Administrator on the flood mapping program.  This week, I received a letter (attached to this post) from FEMA seeking nominations of candidates to represent the mapping profession on the TMAC.

I must submit MAPPS nominations BY THIS FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13.  If you are interested in being a candidate for this advisory committee, please send me a C.V. immediately.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  Congress  FEMA  MAP-21  Mapping  President Obama  TMAC 

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Does QBS Save Money?

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, April 26, 2013

A colleague from the engineering profession asked me an interesting question, "Does the qualifications based selection (QBS) process for selecting firms for architecture, engineering (A/E) and related services (including surveying and mapping) save or cost taxpayers money?”

That is a frequently asked question. 

The federal law was codified in 1972 ("Brooks Act”, 40 U.S.C. 1101 et. seq. and implemented in part 36.6 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), 48 CFR 36.6) to protect the interest of taxpayers. It is federal law because over the life of a project, the engineering and related design services account for less than one-half of one percent of total costs. Yet, these important services play a major role in determining the other 99.5 percent of the project's "life cycle costs”, such as construction, operation, and maintenance.

While many services performed under the Brooks Act are not related to construction, such as surveying and mapping activities that support resource management, program administration, E-911 and a variety of other non-design or construction projects and applications, the savings are nonetheless realized.

The process has been so successful at the federal level that it is recommended by the American Bar Association in its model procurement code for state and local government. Some 47 states have enacted their own competence and qualifications based selection laws for architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping services. Others use it as standard procedure. No state has a specific law requiring bidding of these services.

The rationale for Congress codifying a practice that had been successful for more than 100 years before Congress passed, and President Nixon signed the Brooks Act on a bipartisan basis in 1972 was quality, public safety, and cost-effectiveness.

QBS was recognized as a competitive process in the landmark Competition in Contracting Act (P.L. 98-369) which Congress enacted in 1984 in response to the coffee pot and toilet seat scandal in the Pentagon. During an earlier Senate debate on the federal A/E selection law, Senator Gurney of Florida said, "any Federal procurement officer...will tell you that competition based on professional-technical qualifications is every bit as hot and demanding as competition based on price, perhaps more so.” 

Government contracting officers, who are accustomed to buying specific products, rather than professional services, gravitate to low bids. As Senator Henry "Scoop” Jackson of Washington State said on the floor of the U.S. Senate during debate on the federal QBS law, a "contracting officer faced with widely ranging price proposals or bids would be under pressure to accept the low price.”

Among the studies which have concluded that QBS in fact has saved tax dollars include An Analysis of Issues Pertaining to Qualifications Based Selection by Paul S. Chinowsky, PhD (University of Colorado) and Gordon A. Kinsley, PhD (Georgia Tech). It found that government agencies that use qualifications-based selection are better able to control construction costs and achieve a consistently high degree of project satisfaction than those using price based procurement methods.

The study drew from a database of approximately 200 public and private construction projects in 23 US states, included transportation, water, commercial, and industrial projects, ranging in size from relatively small projects to those costing hundreds of millions dollars. Its authors compared various procurement methods, including QBS, Best Value, and Low-Bid, with such factors as total project cost, projected life-cycle cost, construction schedule, and project quality outcome. Results showed that using QBS to procure the design component of a construction project "consistently meant lower overall construction costs, reduced change orders, better project results and more highly satisfied owners than in other procurement methods.”

The authors, both experts and noted researchers in the engineering and construction field, concluded that QBS should continue to be the procurement method of choice for public contracting officers seeking to acquire A/E services to meet increasingly challenging infrastructure needs.

A specific study comparing costs between agencies that use QBS and those that select on price also found that the QBS process saves money. Selecting Architects and Engineers for Public Building Projects: An Analysis and Comparison of the Maryland and Florida Systems compared projects in Florida, which used QBS, with those in Maryland, which for a period of time employed price competition. The comparative study found Maryland’s A/E selection process was significantly more time consuming and expensive than Florida’s. In Maryland, the necessity of preparing detailed programs on which A/Es can base price proposals results in added expense to the state in the form of administrative staff, time delays and consultant costs, and overall budget. The increased administrative costs in Maryland resulted from the necessity of preparing detailed programs on which A/Es can submit price proposals. These additional system costs were not evident in Florida. While A/E fees were lower in Maryland than in Florida, the added costs of the Maryland process far outweighed the savings in A/E fees that resulted from a process in which the state developed detailed programs and A/E selections were made with price as an initial factor.

Since Maryland’s law requiring selection based on price went into effect, there was an 11.6 percent increase in personnel and a 17.9 percent increase in the budget (in constant dollars) for construction projects.

Maryland’s A/E selection process took considerably longer to complete than Florida’s. The total delay relating to the A/E portion of the capital construction process in Maryland was almost 10 months. The delays occurred while detailed program descriptions were being prepared, during the actual selection process and during the design and approval phase. The Maryland Department of General Services completed the A/E portion of the capital construction process, from the point that funds are approved to the beginning of the actual construction cycle, in 31 months. The same steps are completed, on average, in 21 months in Florida agencies.

The study concluded that Maryland’s A/E selection process was significantly more time consuming and expensive than Florida’s. In Maryland, the necessity of preparing detailed programs on which A/Es can base price proposals results in added expense to the state in the form of administrative staff, time delays and consultant costs.

As a result, the Maryland legislature repealed its bidding law and enacted a state "mini-Brooks Act” or QBS statute.

The United States is fortunate that major building failures are rare. After incidents such as the collapse of the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City (MO) and the implosion of the roof of the Hartford (CT) Civic Center, Congress investigated these incidents and issued a report on "Structural Failures in Public Facilities” in 1984. It found, "procurement practices that lead to or promote the selection of architects and engineers on a low bid basis should be changed to require prequalification of bidders with greater consideration given to prior related experience and past performance.” The chairman of the subcommittee conducting the study and publishing the report was then Rep. Al Gore, Jr. (D-TN).

No study making an "apples to apples” comparison of bidding versus qualifications selection has ever been conducted on surveying, mapping or geospatial services. However, numerous agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report high satisfaction with the process.

The simple answer is yes, QBS saves money. The famous showman, P.T. Barnum is well known for saying, "There’s a sucker born every minute”. What is less known is that Barnum also observed, "The smartest way of deriving the greatest profit in the long run is to give people as much as possible for their money.”?

The Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services (COFPAES), of which MAPPS is a member, will host a workshop on successful implementation of the qualifications based selection (QBS) process for procurement of professional A-E and related services on Tuesday, May 14 in Washington, DC.

The workshop is designed for Federal, state and local government personnel responsible for contracting for professional A-E services, including surveying and mapping, as well as private practice professionals and firm personnel involved in marketing, business development, and contract administration. Click here to learn more.

Tags:  Architecture  Budget  COFPAES  Engineering  Mapping  Money  Procurement  QBS  Surveying 

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House Highway Bill Transforms Role of Government, Private Sector

Posted By John Palatiello, Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The U.S. House of Representatives is beginning debate on H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, commonly known as the "Highway Bill”.

There are numerous opportunities for greater private sector participation in the financing and delivery of infrastructure or public works. Dr. Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation summarized the need for increased utilization of the private sector in transportation when he told Congress in 2004, "the opportunities for private sector participation in transportation services runs a wide range. In many cases government agencies compete with private service providers or have forced private providers out of the market in order to maximize revenue for government services. In such instances the market would provide transportation services if government competition or regulation were removed.” He concluded, "Private sector participation in transportation services will either take the form of market provision or of provision under contract with a government agency in a public-private partnership. Government transportation services should not be allowed to compete with private services, nor should state or local governments ban or restrict private services to reduce competition with government services.”

The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, unveiled by Speaker John Boehner, Representatives John Mica and John J. Duncan, Jr. and other members of Congress, transforms the way the nation will design, build, own, operate and maintain these public works. For the first time in modern history, Congress is considering a bill that encourages, enables and empowers private companies to contribute to the nation’s infrastructure needs. Given the grade of "D” on the American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card, and the estimated $2.2 trillion price tag for bringing these facilities up to a passing grade, private products, services and investment are critically needed. Numerous provisions in the House bill do just that.

H.R. 7 provides for public-private partnerships for new toll highways, provisions to eliminate government competition in rest stops, buses, and other aspects of transportation and infrastructure. There are provisions encouraging use of the private sector for engineering and design services. And most important to MAPPS, the bill provides a long-overdue strengthening of current law regarding utilization of the private sector for surveying and mapping activities.

Since the original enactment of the federal-aid highway program in 1956, the law has provided that the private sector should be utilized for photogrammetric surveying and mapping activities. When Congress enacted the National Highway System Act in 1995, the provision (33 USC 306) was strengthened to require the Secretary to "issue guidance to encourage States to utilize, to the maximum extent practicable, private sector sources for surveying and mapping services for projects”.

Other than issuing a 1½ page guidance memorandum in 1998, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration have done little to implement, enforce or otherwise provide oversight of this provision. As a result, over the past 13 years, the opposite of the intent of Congress has occurred. In many state highway departments, scarce gas tax dollars are dedicated to operating in-house surveying and mapping functions that duplicate and compete with the private sector.

MAPPS members have long complained that a number of state DoT’s have used Federal highway money to build in-house capabilities in surveying and mapping. Numerous states have their own airplanes and cameras for mapping aerial photography, analytical stereoplotters (mapping computers), GPS satellite surveying receivers, LIDAR systems, photographic laboratories, and other expensive equipment to perform services already available from private firms. With the recent advent of mobile mapping systems, private firms are once again experiencing state DoTs purchasing equipment for in-house activities without regard for the availability of mobile mapping services from private firms that have already invested in such systems. Some state DOT's even market these services outside their own agency, performing work for other state agencies, city and county government, even non-government organizations, in direct competition with the private sector.

FHwA has not monitored State compliance with current Federal law and does not conduct audits or in any way perform oversight of State transportation agencies, which are expending Federal funds, to determine if these surveying and mapping programs are being operated in the most efficient and cost effective manner, to fully implement section 306, or to prevent government competition with the private sector.

Section 1707 of H.R. 7 strengthens the current law provision on utilization of the private sector for surveying and mapping by state DoTs. It makes the policy on private sector reliance mandatory rather than discretionary, and requires US DOT and FHwA to take more action on an ongoing basis to assure that states utilize, and do not duplicate or compete with, private mapping firms.

If the debate in the Presidential campaign has taught us one thing, it is that profit is not a dirty word. Harnessing the power of profit and the free enterprise system can advance the Nation’s Infrastructure needs.

Contact your Congressman TODAY and deliver a simple message: "Vote "YES” on H.R. 7”.

Tags:  Congress  DoT  Highway  mapping  Private Sector  surveying  Transportation 

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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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