Robert Helland

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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 now heads to the President’s desk for his promised signature. This legislation contains billions in new spending to fight the…
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 40 years of debate as to what constitutes waters of the United States under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act,…
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 hours.  There are a number of regulations in place to help reduce driver fatigue which, in the aftermath of this…
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, dredging, and flood protection projects throughout the country.  The legislation heads to the President’s desk for his expected signature.  Second,…
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 scope and reach of this proposed rule. While it is purportedly aimed at clarifying which wetlands and streams qualify for…
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 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, to hold that restrictions on corporate spending in political campaigns also violated the
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 funding amount has decreased and the name is, technically, no longer TIGER. This year the DOT is providing $600 million…
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 hour. He also announced a plan for new government-sponsored savings accounts where employers do not offer 401(k) accounts. This has…
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, with only certain programs such as Social Security and Medicaid exempted (Public Law 112-35).  A number of budget standoffs have…
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 meeting now to iron out the differences between the House- and Senate-passed bills, which would be one of the last…