February 9, 2012
The Senate agreed by a vote of 85–11 to begin considering its transportation reauthorization bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (S. 1813). The bipartisan effort is a striking contrast to the House's American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 7), which is also expected to hit the floor next week but has garnered no Democratic support and has come under fire from conservative factions within the GOP. With the current transportation funding extension set to expire on March 31, Congress must move quickly—but partisan rancor and election-year politics have raised doubts that Congress will be able to pass a long-term bill before November. A ninth short-term extension of current funding levels may be more likely. NSPE believes that appropriately funded infrastructure systems directly benefit the public's health, safety, and welfare.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved by a vote of 4–1 the first licenses to build reactors in more than 30 years. The reactors will be built from a standardized design that promises to speed construction and reduce costs. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was the sole dissenter, objecting on the grounds that the NRC has yet to finalize post-Fukushima safety enhancements. Nuclear energy currently provides about 20% of the United States' electricity. NSPE believes that the United States should lead the world in the advancement and use of nuclear power. Green, clean, renewable nuclear power systems will provide an important component in our nation's efforts to reduce reliance on foreign oil and to reduce the releases of harmful pollutants.
January 25, 2012
NSPE joined more than 1,000 professional, trade, and non-profit organizations; businesses; and labor groups in sending a letter to Congress urging expedient passage of a long-term transportation reauthorization bill. The current law expires on March 31. The letter, part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's campaign "Make Transportation Job #1," acknowledged the funding challenges Congress faces but stressed the benefits of infrastructure investment to the U.S. economy.
January 10, 2012
NSPE Senior Manager of Government Relations Sarah Ogden participated in a Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services meeting. NSPE is a founding member of COFPAES, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the Brooks Act (PL 92-582) and the use of qualifications-based selection.
December 23, 2011
NSPE submitted comments on the 2013 federal locality pay program at the request of the Office of Personnel Management. OPM solicits comments from NSPE annually, when the agency must prepare a congressionally mandated report to the president that compares pay rates for federal employees with rates paid to non-federal workers in each locality. The locality pay program provides federal employees with pay adjustments in areas where surveys have shown that the pay disparity between federal and non-federal workers is greater than 5%. The program's goal is to narrow the pay gap between federal and non-federal workers. NSPE believes that federally employed engineers must be compensated in a way that is comparable to the private sector to enable federal agencies to recruit and retain the most qualified engineers.
December 9, 2011
The Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Portfolio, a White House report cataloging all federal investments in STEM education, found that federal agencies are investing $3.4 billion in 252 STEM education programs, with only modest overlap in investments and no duplication in programs. The investments represent less than 1% of the $1 trillion the U.S. spends annually on education. The report, mandated by the America COMPETES Act, is a first step in formulating a five-year strategic plan to improve federal STEM education efforts.
December 7, 2011
NSPE signed on to a joint letter with the American Institute of Architects, American Council of Engineering Companies, Associated General Contractors of America, American Subcontractors Association, and other industry organizations asking Congress and the president to enact legislation that would help create jobs in the design and construction industry. The industry accounts for 5.7% of the Gross Domestic Product and employs more than seven million Americans who design, construct, and maintain the infrastructure on which the U.S. economy depends. Reviving demand for construction, particularly in the private sector, is essential to sustaining broader economic growth.
November 21, 2011
The president signed H.R. 674 into law, finalizing the repeal of a requirement that federal, state, and certain local governments withhold as tax 3% of all payments made to government contractors. Since the withholding requirement's passage in 2006, NSPE has been working with the Government Withholding Relief Coalition and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to repeal the mandate. NSPE also sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) in support of the repeal. In addition to NSPE's advocacy of H.R.
November 16, 2011
After a five-year battle, NSPE helped overturn an onerous tax-withholding mandate that would have placed significant financial and administrative burdens on engineering firms and other businesses that contract with the government. H.R. 674, which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, repeals a requirement that federal, state, and certain local governments withhold as tax 3% of all payments made to government contractors. The tax would have taken effect on January 1, 2013. The tax would have been an interest-free loan to the government while causing cash flow problems for engineering firms and other businesses, costing them the vital funds they needed to conduct day-to-day business (including paying subcontractors).
November 15, 2011
Senior Manager of Government Relations Sarah Ogden represented NSPE at a Coalition for National Science Funding meeting, where NSF Assistant Director for the Engineering Directorate Thomas Peterson discussed NSF programs that focus on innovation in engineering. NSPE is a member of CNSF, an alliance of more than 125 organizations united by a concern for the future of the national science, mathematics, and engineering professions. CNSF supports increasing national investment in the National Science Foundation's research and education programs.