FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR GREEN GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

Pennsylvania Seeks Private Partner to Build CNG Stations

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said Monday it is seeking a private partner to build compressed natural gas fueling stations at public transit agencies statewide, promising a new technology that would replace conventional fuel with an alternative considered safer and less polluting.

The proposal, approved by the state’s recently formed public-private partnership board, calls for building stations at 37 public transit facilities, which would also provide public access to privately owned CNG-compatible cars. The partner would design, build, finance and operate the stations.

Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch chairs the public-private partnership board.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the estimated cost of the project hasn’t been determined, saying the state is seeking bids to get a better handle on how much the private sector is willing to invest. The vendor would also choose the locations, though Kirkpatrick said the state wants the stations to be as dispersed as possible.

PennDOT plans to release a request for qualifications to solicit interested parties and expects to invite proposals in early 2015. The state said a project partner could be selected in next summer.

CNG is an alternative to conventional gasoline, consisting mostly of methane drawn from natural gas wells. It emits fewer gases than other fuels and is considered safer in the event of a spill, though it also requires more room for storage compared with ordinary vehicles.

There are about 1,200 public and private CNG stations in the U.S., compared to 120,000 retail gasoline stations, according to an industry group Natural Gas Alliance. The number is expected to increase as more cars convert to natural gas technology.

As part of the public-private partnership, PennDOT will enter into a CNG supply contract with the partner and purchase agreements with each of its transit agencies. PennDOT said it would receive a portion of the fuel sales revenue and return the money to transit agencies to aid capital projects.

Pennsylvania’s seven-member public-private partnership board was created in 2012 under legislation signed by Gov. Tom Corbett designed to seek private partners on transportation projects. If the board determines a state operation would be more efficiently performed by a private business, the department can advertise a request for proposals and contract with a company to partly or fully deliver the project.

Employed as senior director of Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC, based in Trenton, New Jersey, Martin Milita advises clients on private public partnerships and all forms of government procurement. Prior to joining Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC, in 2012, he served as managing partner of Holman Public Affairs, LLC, which he cofounded in 2001.

 

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9 tips to help your small business find government contract opportunities that make sense.

As a Senior Director with Duane Morris Government Strategies I am often asked by SBE, DBE and MBE/WBE clients how to find government contract opportunities that make sense.

Despite recent budget cuts, the U.S. federal marketplace remains a lucrative opportunity for small businesses. The federal government typically spends approximately a half a billion plus in contracts every year and the law requires that 23 percent of these dollars be awarded to small businesses.

Here are 9 tips if you are a SBE, DBE or MBE/WBE to help you find government contract opportunities that make sense.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the rules

Even before a contract opportunity comes you must be prepared. Familiarize yourself with what’s involved with selling to the federal government. It’s quite different than the private sector with much longer lead times and strict bidding and product requirements.

These resources can help:

  • Learn How the Federal Government Buys from Small Businesses
  • SBA’s guide to Getting Started in Government Contracting
  • Government Contracting 101 – These three on-demand, self-paced courses are part of SBA’s Government Contracting Classroom and are a quick way to get to know the landscape.
  1. Understand what the government is buying

Every agency and department has unique goals. Identifying these can help you target a niche or opportunity for your products or services. The government offers potential contractors something that no other sector does – an insight into its budgetary priorities- what the government intends to buy and how much it has to spend is all in the public domain. These budgets offer sufficient context for savvy small businesses to identify opportunities and focus their contracting sales and marketing strategy. Each federal agency or department budget is listed on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website.

  1. Zero in on agencies that aren’t meeting their small business goals

Each year the SBA negotiates formal goals with individual agencies to ensure that small businesses get their fair share of federal contracts. Frankly, for several consecutive years, most agencies have fallen short of their targets. Could there be an opportunity here for your business to lend its services and goods to help these agencies hit their targets next year? The Federal Procurement Data System posts scorecards for each agency that can help you make that determination.

  1. Research existing and upcoming opportunities

Once you identify agency initiatives that align with your business offerings, start tracking contract opportunities and solicitations that align with these on sites such as USAspending.gov and FedBizOpps.gov. Market intelligence firms like ONVIA (link is external) or Immix Group (link is external) also have useful blogs (link is external) that highlight upcoming opportunities as well as contracting tips).

  1. Show up

Make a point of attending agency- or industry-specific government events. These are hosted by the private sector but attract the procurement community, influencers and industry experts. Useful sites to explore for upcoming events include GovWin((link is external), GovEvents, and if you’re interested in the lucrative IT government market Digital Government Institute (link is external), ACT-IAC (link is external) and GovMark Council. All are worth checking out.

  1. Find a partner and advocate in the Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (“OSDBU”)

Another excellent way of getting in front of government buyers is to take advantage of the Office of the OSDBU outreach events and expos. These serve to connect business owners to government buyers. These events also offer guidance on how small businesses can break into the contracting market and take advantage of programs like the 8(a) Business Development Program—a business development tool, which helps thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs gain a foothold in contracting with financial assistance and teaming opportunities.

  1. Get help from SBA procurement reps

Another vital government resource is SBA’s local Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs). PCRs provide services that include training, counseling and business matchmaking events. Find the PCR in your area.

  1. Don’t go it alone – partner with a government mentor

Anyone embarking on new ventures can benefit from a mentor. The government operates two notable mentor programs that can help you get access to contracts. First is the GSA Mentor-Protégé Program. Open to qualified small businesses, this program helps connect small firms with more experienced ones. The program’s objective is motivating larger companies to lend their knowledge to smaller, less experienced businesses.

Another option is the SBA Mentor-Protégé Program. Open to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses that qualify for SBA’s 8(a) program, this program pairs you with a mentor who has had success in federal contracting.

  1. Additional Resources

For more tips and insights on breaking into and growing your business in the government contracting marketplace, check out these resources:

  • SBA Contracting Guide – A deep dive into getting started, available resources and more.
  • Contracting Blogs – Learn about the latest resources and programs, and get tips on how to succeed.
  • SBA Government Contracting Classroom – Self-paced online courses on all aspects of the contracting process.

SBA Audit Finds Agencies Exaggerating Success of Small Business Contracts

The Small Business Administration’s inspector general’s office released a report this week in which it said that its review of federal agencies identified $400 million in contracts given to ineligible firms that the agencies nevertheless counted when measuring their success at working with small businesses facing socio-economic disadvantages. The report’s findings mean that flawed numbers were reported to Congress and the White House, the latter of which claimed for the first time last year that the government had met its small-business contracting goals. The federal government is required under law to attempt to award 23 percent of its contracts to small businesses, three percent of which is intended for business in economically struggling areas referred to as Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Zones and five percent of which is intended for businesses facing social and economic disadvantages. The audit identified $208 million in contracts that federal agencies incorrectly claimed was awarded to business in HUB Zones and $219 million in contracts that federal agencies incorrectly claimed was awarded to disadvantaged businesses.

Martin Milita is a Senior Director with Duane Morris Government Strategies were he advocates on behalf of SBE, DBE AND MBE/WBE clients for the procurement of public contracts and offers assistance when clients deal with the complex issues that can arise when working with the  Federal or New Jersey legislature and other national and state offices and agencies.

Lobbying 101

This is more about how to work with lobbyists than it is about the lobbying industry itself, or the lobbying activities that tend to end up in the news.  The main goal is to offer practical, usable advice for people who need a lobbyist – or think they might.

Much has been said and written about lobbyists (not much of it good, unfortunately). Lobbying was a hot button topic during much of the last Presidential campaign, and President Obama  promised to reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests in his administration, and has received some criticism for selecting lobbyists for a few of the positions in his cabinet.

But despite all the talk about lobbyists, I haven’t found much in the way of practical, unbiased information about them. I found that the information in the media is shallow at best (this is true of many subjects, but seems especially so with lobbying), and most people don’t know enough about lobbyists to make informed decisions.

Many lobbyists are people who used to work in the government, either as elected officials, political appointees, staff for elected officials, or career civil servants. Their experience in their previous position(s) gives them a great deal of knowledge of how the government works, and a long list of personal contacts – especially in the area of government they used to work in.  Former elected officials and political appointees also often carry a reputation that helps them open a lot of doors.

There are more than 50 versions of lobbying laws in states and territories. Yet, all states share a basic definition of lobbying as an attempt to influence government action. Written and oral communications are both recognized as lobbying. Three states (Delaware, Kansas, and Texas) include in their definitions of lobbying providing entertainment, gifts, recreational events, food and beverages to legislators. The remaining states regulate the disclosure of and the amounts spent on such activities.

The definition of who is a lobbyist usually revolves around compensation. Most states define a lobbyist as someone who receives any amount of compensation or reimbursement to lobby. Among the exceptions are Hawaii, Minnesota and New York. These states stipulate threshold amounts of money and time spent on lobbying, and, if these thresholds are reached, an individual becomes a lobbyist.

Beyond their background, many lobbyists also share social and family lives with people that still work in the government. They often live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same churches, send their kids to the same schools, take classes at the same gyms, and eat at the same restaurants.  So lobbyists often know a lot of people in government in social circles as well.  Lobbyists are often good friends with a lot of the people they lobby, and those personal relationships are things that people who come from outside the beltway simply can’t duplicate.

Although lobbyists can open doors for you, a good lobbyist will do a lot more than that. Lobbyists can offer a whole range of services, including:

  • Set Goals ◦You really should already know what your goals are before you talk to any lobbyists. But lobbyists can help translate your goals (which may be business-oriented or end-results-oriented) into goals that make sense in the context of the government.

 

  • Strategy, Timing, & Focus ◦Help you develop a strategy and focus your efforts where they’ll be most successful at the proper time.

 

  • Education ◦Educate you on government processes, regulations, & potential traps (like numerous conflict-of-interest laws).

 

  • Representation ◦Represent you and your interests to the government, so you don’t have to be there in person doing it yourself most of the time.

 

  • Relationships ◦Help you develop relationships with people in government that can help you achieve your goals.

 

  • Champions ◦Find and support “champions” within the government who are willing to push for your objectives from within.

 

  • Marketing ◦Advertise you and/or your project in appropriate places and appropriate ways. For example, if you’re trying to sell an IT solution to the DoD, a lobbying firm with marketing focus might get articles published about your technology in magazines that DoD project managers read.

 

  • Prospecting ◦Identify potential customers within the many, many agencies, organizations, and offices in the government.

 

  • Legislation ◦Support your legal and political interests in new laws considered and enacted by Congress or State Legislatures.

◦Note that lobbyists do alot of work writing actual legislation. They often propose text for new laws and give it to elected officials staffers (who are more than happy to have someone else do the work for them).  So a good lobbyist can help get laws written with specific language that meets your objectives.

 

  • Appropriations ◦Seek government or private foundation funding for specific projects or interests.

 

  • Delivery ◦Navigate the processes, politics, and regulations to successfully deliver a project after you’ve succeeded in getting it.

In my experience, the 3 most important of these are (in order):

1.Strategy, Timing and Focus

2.Representation

3.Relationships

 

Introduction to Administrative Law

Today’s legislative issues are becoming more and more complicated and, in most cases, will require implementation through the rule making process. That is why more and more companies and associations are retaining a Regulatory Affairs group.  Similar to a legislative affairs specialist or lobbyist, a regulatory lobbyist specializes in regulatory agencies within the federal, state or city agencies. The regulatory specialist also appears for clients before Administrative courts.

Administrative law forms an important part of most modern judicial systems. In broadest terms, administrative law consists of the legal frameworks surrounding government agencies and regulatory bodies. Within this branch of law, the most important feature is defining the extent of the powers of various government bodies.

Administrative agencies are created by government legislators in order to protect the public interest. Examples of such interests include food safety standards, construction codes, pharmaceutical industry regulations, Medicaid proscriptions and municipal waste disposal standards. Within the outlines of the law, administrative bodies have the power to create regulations, issue licenses, investigate suspected abuses, and enforce compliance.

An attorney specializing in administrative law might work either with an agency or with a company whose interests conflict with the agency. When working with the agency, the attorney provides a legal opinion on the validity of proposed regulations and rules, deals with complaints, and prosecutes violations of the agency’s statutes.

Companies working in highly regulated industries, such as health care or waste disposal, may also hire regulatory affairs specialists versed in administrative law to defend their positions. For instance, a regulator might rule that a particular company had not complied with the state’s waste disposal statutes. The company’s administrative attorney would then try to demonstrate either that the business did in fact meet the requirements of the statute, or that the particular regulation exceeds the authority of the agency.

The federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA) as well as similar state statutes govern the limits of their respective agencies in passing rules and regulations. APAs arose in response to the establishment of powerful federal and state agencies as a part of the New Deal. Both the federal APA and state counterparts ensure transparency and uniformity in the activities of government agencies.

Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC (DMGS) is comprised of 19 experienced professionals representing clients at the federal, state and local levels. The firm operates in eight offices including Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, D.C.; Albany, NY; and Columbus, OH. DMGS commenced operations as an ancillary business of international law firm Duane Morris LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms with more than 700 attorneys in 20 offices in the U.S. as well as in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Asia.

About Martin Milita: Beginning his career as a Legislative aid to US Congressman Edward George Biester, Jr. Martin Milita has a broad range of experience from both the public and private sectors. As a Senior Director with Duane Morris Government Strategies, Martin Milita brings a background in administrative law to his position, first as the New Jersey State Deputy Attorney General and then as an attorney for Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. and Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP. This expertise informs his activities with current clients, which include public and private entities ranging from the local level to Fortune 500 corporations.

 

Corporate Inversions: Much Ado About Nothing?

Last Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew stated that the Obama administration is close to reaching a final decision on what action can be taken to discourage U.S. companies from moving their legal address abroad to avoid domestic tax rates, a process known as “corporate inversions”. Lew said that the administration’s decision would come “in the very near future.” “Any action we take will have a strong legal and policy basis but will not be a substitute for meaningful legislation — it can only address part of the economics,” said Lew. “Only a change in the law can shut the door, and only tax reform can solve the problems in our tax code that leads to inversions.”

Tax inversions are to some unpatriotic and unethical; they speak to the need for more loophole-thwarting regulations and tax reform. To others, the real threat to the U.S. corporate tax base is our corporate tax code itself, with the third-highest overall rate in the world and a worldwide system that requires American companies to pay a toll charge to bring their profits back home. Thus, the solution to the inversion “problem” is to dramatically cut the corporate rate and to move to a territorial tax system, not add even more unnecessary rules to an already complicated tax code.

However, only targeted legislation that reduces the incentives and ability of firms to invert can truly protect the corporate tax base. Possible responses include allowing U.S. corporations to invert only if they truly become a foreign firm. This means current shareholders of the U.S. firm would have to own less than 50 percent of the new merged foreign firm, compared with the currently legislated 80 percent threshold. Additional measures that would likely be required to prevent inversions from further eroding the corporate tax base include preventing the practice known as “earnings stripping” and preventing corporations from using tax-deferred offshore cash in ways that benefit U.S. shareholders without paying U.S. taxes.

Despite the often vitriolic debate, when it comes down to the hard numbers, corporate inversions don’t appear to currently create a significant drain on U.S. tax revenue. The Joint Committee on Taxation projects that the U.S. would lose about $19.5 billion in tax revenue from 2015 to 2024 because of corporate inversions. Although that’s a considerable amount, that’s only 0.4% of the $4.5 trillion U.S. budget over the same time period, as the Tax Foundation notes. So is this “much ado about nothing”-at least not much?

Martin Milita is currently a Senior Director with Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC, a full-service government affairs firm in DC, PA., NJ and Ohio. Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC ., deals regularly with a myriad of complicated federal and state tax law matters, such as federal unrelated business income and compensation issues in the exempt organization realm, and state law sales and property tax exemption questions, which have gained national attention during the past few years.  The Duane Morris Government Strategies team is well-equipped to lead  clients through the maze of tax regulations and find solutions that add value, whether as part of routine tax planning or in connection with a change in public policy.