The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today approved several measures seeking to cut red tape and reduce regulatory burdens on farmers and small businesses. The Committee also approved federal lease resolutions that will save taxpayers about $180 million.
General Services Administration Capital Investment and Leasing Program Resolutions: The Committee approved 12 General Services Administration (GSA) lease resolutions and one acquisition resolution that shrink the amount of office space the federal government leases and put more employees in less space. The resolutions were approved by voice vote.
"We are continuing to hold GSA's feet to the fire, holding hearings in vacant buildings sitting on prime real estate, investigating outrageous agency abuses of the taxpayers' money, and insisting that leases submitted to this committee cut, reduce, and economize," said Full Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL). "On these leases today, we had to push GSA to cut space and reduce costs to get real savings. As a result, approving these resolutions will save the taxpayer more than $180 million. This Congress we will have cut GSA's leases by half a billion dollars."
"In the face of a $15 trillion debt, it's time we get serious about eliminating waste and increasing efficiency in our government," said Economic Development, Public Housing and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA). "We have worked hard to change the way government does business, and will continue shrinking the size of federal real estate holdings to save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on lease payments in the process. Since the beginning of this Congress we have saved $30 million dollars in annual lease payments and $500 million dollars over the life of the leases.
"Unfortunately, waste at GSA and in federal properties continues. While this agency has been wasting millions of dollars on out-of-control conferences, exorbitant bonuses, grab-bags of gifts and awards, and more, billions more are being wasted on underutilized and vacant federal properties. In fiscal year 2009, the federal government wasted more than $1.7 billion in operating under-used buildings. It's obvious the system is broken and we need a new process to sell or redevelop these properties. My bill, Civilian Property Realignment Act, takes politics out of the process and cuts through the bureaucratic red tape to ensure the sale or consolidation of these properties, saving billions of taxpayer dollars."
H.R. 5797, Mille Lacs Lake Freedom To Fish Act of 2012: This legislation, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), was approved by voice vote. The bill reduces federal regulatory burdens on small businesses by returning regulation of fishing vessels on Mille Lacs Lake to the state of Minnesota. Prior to March, 2010, the Coast Guard claimed no jurisdiction over fishing vessels operating on the lake.
"In March of 2010, the Coast Guard began requiring fishing guides on Lake Mille Lacs to acquire a federal "six-pack" boating license to continue to do their jobs" said Cravaack. "This certification is difficult to obtain and can cost individual fishing guides up to $2000 in fees, training, and travel costs. In fact, the two closest testing locations are located in Toledo, OH and St. Louis, MO. Citing historical interstate commerce, this policy change was based on a 1981 Army Corps of Engineers determination that the lake had been used in the 1800s for logging. Ironically, this decision was made despite the fact that the Rum River, which formerly connected the lake to the Mississippi River, had been dammed for decades. H.R. 5797 would remove the burdensome, administrative overreach by the U.S. Coast Guard and restore the state's authority to permit and inspect the vessels on the lake."
H.R. 3158, Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act: This bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), was approved by voice vote. This measure eases unnecessary restrictions on farmers related to fuel storage tanks and their related inspection requirements. H.R. 3158 allows farmers who have no history of spills to self-certify their storage tanks and spill containment plan if they store an aggregate total of less than 42,000 gallons of fuel.
"The FUELS Act is simple" said Crawford. It revises the SPCC regulations to be reflective of a producer's spill risk and financial resources. The exemption level would be adjusted upward from an unworkable 1,320 gallons of oil storage to an amount that would protect small farms: 10,000 gallons. The proposal would also place a greater degree of responsibility on farmers and ranchers to self-certify compliance if their oil storage facilities exceed the exemption level. To add another layer of protection, the producer must be able to demonstrate that he or she has no history of oil spills, or must fully comply with the SPCC regulations. By nature of occupation, family farmers are already careful stewards of the land and water. No one has more at stake than those who work on the ground from which they derive their livelihood."