Christopher L. Rissetto

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FY 2015 Ebola Federal Funding: Congressional Increases and Program Support

FY 15 Omnibus spending legislation sent to the President for signature. This past weekend, the Senate finished work on an omnibus spending bill, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (“Act”), which funds most of the federal government for the remainder of FY 15. The House of Representatives passed this legislation last week and it … Continue Reading

Small Businesses Will Bear a Large Burden of Proposed EPA Water Rules

The Public Policy & Infrastructure practice continues to monitor the rollout of the “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”). The comment period for this proposed rule closed November 14, 2014. The purpose for this rule – ostensibly – is to settle … Continue Reading

Will Congress or the DOT enact stricter safety regulations for drivers of commercial motor vehicles?

The recent accident on the New Jersey Turnpike that severely injured actor and comedian Tracy Morgan has focused attention – again – on issues of safety in the operations of commercial motor vehicles.  The driver in the accident which injured Morgan, killed comedian James McNair, and injured several others purportedly had not slept in 24 … Continue Reading

Show me the money: for water and transportation projects, the question is always how to pay.

Two recent important developments in Congress illustrate the opportunities, and limits, in financing infrastructure projects in today’s Washington.  First, the House of Representatives and the Senate, by overwhelming margins, agreed to a conference report ironing out the differences on H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (“WRRDA”), which pays for navigation, … Continue Reading

Department of Energy: $4 Billion for Renewable Energy

In April, the Department of Energy announced a draft loan guarantee solicitation that could make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees to help commercialize renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. The loan program seeks to promote “technologies that are on the edge of commercial-scale deployment today,” according to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. … Continue Reading

Proposed Rule from EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seeks To Expand Federal Jurisdiction of Water

After years of study, litigation, controversy – and mayhem – the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”), on April 21, 2014, jointly published, for comment, a new definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). 79 Fed. Reg. 22188-22275. It is not easy to overestimate the … Continue Reading

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission: The Political Parties Strike Back

The Supreme Court decided last week in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that aggregate donation limits, which capped the total on how much someone can contribute to candidates and political parties, per election, violated the free speech protections of the First Amendment, 572 U.S. ____(2014).  If this sounds familiar, it should:  the Court used similar reasoning … Continue Reading

TIGER roars again! $600 million in funding available for transportation projects

The Department of Transportation (“DOT”) is once again soliciting requests for surface transportation infrastructure projects. This began in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“Recovery Act”) under the Grants for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Program, commonly called “TIGER.” The popularity of this program has endured through the years, even though the total … Continue Reading

Prepare for Agency Rulemaking – OMB Super Circular Overhauls Federal Grant and Funding Award Guidance

In December 2013, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) released its long-awaited final guidance for grants and other Federal non-procurement awards, entitled “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.” See 78 Fed. Reg. 78589. Also referred to as “the Super Circular,” this final guidance is “a key component of a … Continue Reading

Secret Science Reform Act of 2014

After years of alleging that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) relied on undisclosed and unverifiable data upon which to base its regulations, at least some Members of the U.S. House of Representative have decided to intervene.  On February 6, 2014, David Schweikert (R-AZ-6), Chair of the Subcommittee on Environment, in the House Committee on … Continue Reading

President Obama’s threat to use the Executive Order: A sign of things to come?

President Obama stated in his State of the Union address to the nation: “wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” He has already signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for workers under new federal contracts to $10.10 an … Continue Reading

The passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act. What it means and what it does not mean

Overview:  Just in time for the holiday season: a truce in the ongoing budget battle between Republicans and Democrats.  As we have noted, this battle began during the debate and passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which mandated $1.2 trillion in domestic and defense spending cuts from fiscal years (“FY”) 2012 through 2021, … Continue Reading

A new model for infrastructure funding or a high water mark? Progress on WRDA continues as House and Senate conferees meet

Chances remain high that legislation authorizing funding for navigation, dredging, hurricane risk reduction, and environmental restoration projects around the country will make it to the President’s desk for expected signature. Separate versions of this legislation passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives this year by overwhelming, bipartisan votes. A House-Senate conference committee is … Continue Reading

The shutdown is over, for now.

The 16 day partial federal shutdown is over. Over half a million furloughed federal employees have returned to work; national parks are again welcoming visitors; and the threat of our nation defaulting on its debts has been averted. But what began as a fight over funding of the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a “Obamacare”) has turned … Continue Reading

The threat of government shutdowns and the ‘New Normal’

Sounds familiar? The clock ticks towards another fiscal deadline while federal agencies and employees face the threat of another government shutdown. Since the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-25) and the subsequent sequestration process, Congress and the White House have been locked in an ongoing battle over tax and spending … Continue Reading

Obama Administration Responds to West, Texas Tragedy with Executive Order on Chemical Safety

This post was also written by Peter Cassidy. Following the April fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, both Congress and the Executive Branch discussed a number of legislative and regulatory responses to this tragic event. The Obama administration has taken the first step by issuing an Executive Order on chemical safety and security issues for … Continue Reading

Roberts’ Court Strikes Down Cornerstone of Voting Rights Act on Federalism Grounds

On the second-to-last day of the 2013 summer term, a 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act (the “Act”) in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013). Congress enacted the landmark civil rights law in 1965 to remedy discriminatory voting practices that disenfranchised … Continue Reading

U.S. Attorney complaint shows the perils of not complying with the Lobbying Disclosure Act

“Focus on Fundamentals.” This often-used athletic admonition also applies well in executing an effective lobbying strategy. So right alongside decisions about which lobbying activities should be undertaken, and which candidates should be supported financially, should be the understanding that reporting those activities and donations is required under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”)2 U.S.C. § 1605. … Continue Reading

Trying to Put a Cap on It – Yet Again: Another Attempt to Limit Government Reimbursement of Contractor Executive Compensation

Back in February 2012, the Obama Administration asked Congress to reform the current reimbursement formula for federal government contractor executives. Specifically, President Obama sought to cap the executive reimbursement at the same level as what the government pays its own executives – $200,000 per executive. Although last year’s request may have fallen on deaf ears, … Continue Reading

Whither WRDA? With U.S. Senate passage of a new Water Resources Development Act, the question is whether its “no earmarks” approach will hold.

On May 15th, the Senate gave final approval, by a vote of 83-14, to S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. As we indicated previously, any legislation authorizing additional funds for water infrastructure projects is remarkable in these times of sequestration. In this case, credit the difference, in large part, to two factors: … Continue Reading

Federal Controls For Chemical Plant Safety: Controversy Continues After Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

This post was also written by Peter Cassidy. The April 17, 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, has sharpened the ongoing debate over the adequacy of present federal safety requirements for chemical facilities. With over 14 persons killed and some 200 injured, controversy exists over the cause of the explosion. Congress and … Continue Reading

More than 4 years after its enactment, oversight of energy spending under the ‘Recovery Act’ continues

It’s been more than four years since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“Recovery Act”) into law February 17, 2009 (Public Law 111-5). Yet questions and issues regarding the spending of energy-related Recovery Act funding continue. The latest includes an audit from the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General … Continue Reading

A River Runs Through It: Congress finds a potential way to fund water infrastructure projects despite sequestration

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (“EPW”) marked up legislation Wednesday that provides millions for dredging, hurricane risk reduction and environmental restoration projects. Normally, Congress providing funds for water infrastructure projects would not seem that remarkable. However, with sequestration cuts impacting defense to domestic spending, as well as a ban in place on earmarking … Continue Reading

So the sequestration cuts have begun. Now what?

The March 1st sequester deadline has passed with no alternative in place. That means $85 billion in sequestration cuts are underway, as mandated by Congress in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-240). Even though the cuts to defense and domestic discretionary spending have not fully taken effect, Congress and the White House … Continue Reading