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District Of Columbia Council Contract Review Reform Act Of 1997

Rep. Thomas M. Davis

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Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 513) to exempt certain contracts entered into by the government of the District of Columbia from review by the Council of the District of Columbia.

The Clerk read as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``District of Columbia Council Contract Review Reform Act of 1997''.

(a) In General.--Section 451 of the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act (sec. 1- 1130, D.C. Code) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(d) Exemption for Certain Contracts.--The requirements of this section shall not apply with respect to any of the following contracts: ``(1) Any contract entered into by the Washington Convention Center Authority for preconstruction activities, project management, design, or construction. ``(2) Any contract entered into by the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority established pursuant to the Water and Sewer authority Establishment and Department of Public Works Reorganization Act of 1996, other than contracts for the sale or lease of the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant. ``(3) At the option of the Council, any contract for a highway improvement project carried out under title 23, United States Code.''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply with respect to contracts entered into on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.

Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Davis] and the gentleman from Maine [Mr. Allen] each will control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Davis].

Rep. Thomas M. Davis

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Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

(Mr. DAVIS of Virginia asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks and include extraneous material.)

Rep. Thomas M. Davis

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Mr. Speaker, this bill is a very small matter for us, but it is urgently needed for the District of Columbia Council and two of its independent agencies charged with the important issue of water and sewer service and construction of a new convention center.

This legislation was introduced late in the 104th Congress and fell through the cracks in our rush to adjournment. I appreciate the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Burton], the chairman, and the gentleman from California [Mr. Waxman], the ranking member, being willing to allow this measure to come before the House outside the regular process. Mr. Speaker, my thanks to Chairman Burton for permitting expeditious consideration of this bill.

H.R. 513, the District of Columbia Council Review Reform Act, is an important bill for the city's recovery. It enables two independent agencies, the Washington Convention Center Authority, and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, to carry out their mission in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. Timely passage of this bill is of the essence in particular for the Convention Center Authority so as to avoid delays by taking full advantage of the construction season.

For many years the council has sought authority to review city contracts in excess of $1 million. The council had numerous times passed legislation to accomplish this objective but had been unable to override executive vetoes. Congress was eventually asked to resolve this dispute, and we did so with the passage of the 1995 District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, Public Law 104-8. This legislation, establishing the control board, requires in section 304 that no contract involving expenditures in excess of $1 million during a 12-month period may be made unless the mayor submits the contract to the council for its approval and the council approves the contract.

The District of Columbia Convention Center Authority and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority were created as independent entities in order to remove them to the fullest extent possible from the political process. They are both key elements in our continuing efforts to reform essential city services and help restore confidence of the private sector.

The Convention Center Authority was created by the D.C. City Council in 1994, and the Water and Sewer Authority in 1996. In 1995, Congress passed legislation to permit the Convention Center Authority to expend certain revenues for its operation and maintenance. And in 1996 Congress passed legislation facilitating as well the operation of the new Water and Sewer Authority.

A consequence of the Convention Center Authority legislation became apparent when it sought to contract for a project manager. The law was interpreted as prohibiting discretion on the part of the council, and requiring review. At that point the losing bidders commenced lobbying the council to overturn the decision of the Convention Center Authority, which had already been endorsed by the control board. While the contract was eventually approved, precious time and effort were needlessly expended. The same consequence would apply to Water and Sewer Authority contracts.

When the inadvertent application of the control board legislation to both the Convention Center Authority and the Water and Sewer Authority was realized, efforts were made to rectify the situation. H.R. 3664, the District of Columbia Government Improvement and Efficiency Act of 1996, included a section exempting all contracts entered into by the Washington Convention Center Authority and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority from review by the city council. This section also authorized the city council to exempt highway projects carried out under title 23 of the United States Code. But H.R. 3664, though it was marked up by both my subcommittee and the full Government Reform and Oversight Committee, was unable to move forward due to a disagreement which arose on a completely different section of the bill.

This bill is necessary in order to avoid unnecessary delays in the very important work of the Convention Center Authority and the Water and Sewer Authority and to allow the council to eliminate delays in awarding highway contracts for bids already approved by the Federal Highway Administration. H.R. 513 removes the potential for Convention Center Authority and Water and Sewer Authority contracts to be handled in a way opposite the one that clearly is intended by the creation of these independent entities.

After consultation with the city council, the bill authorizes the council to change the way it handles Federal highway projects so as to conform local practice to the practice that exists in most States. The city council has indicated that it would like to establish such a process. This is presently prohibited because the control board legislation requiring council review of contracts is a Federal law and the council cannot change it.

All of the contracts referred to in this legislation are still subject to review by the control board. The Congressional Budget Office has certified that this bill would not affect the Federal budget.

Mr. Speaker, I urge passage of H.R. 513.

Mr. Speaker, I include the following for the Record:

Committee on Government Reform and Oversight--Briefing Memo

On Thursday, March 6, 1997, at 10:00 a.m., H.R. 513, is scheduled for floor action on the Suspension Calendar. This bill, the District of Columbia Council Contract Review Reform Act of 1997, is sponsored by Subcommittee Chairman Tom Davis and Ranking Member Eleanor Holmes Norton of the House District of Columbia Oversight Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. The purpose of the bill is to exempt certain contracts entered into by the District of Columbia government from review by the District Council. H.R. 513 was introduced on February 4, 1997, and referred to the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Chairman Dan Burton agreed to expeditious consideration of the bill on the Suspension Calendar. There is no known opposition to the bill. The Congressional Budget Office has certified in writing that the bill does not effect the federal budget. H.R. 513 is necessary at this time in order to facilitate the clear intention of Congress in its passage of legislation establishing the control board (P.L. 104-8), and the legislation creating the Washington Convention Center Authority and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority. Timely passage of this bill is particularly essential for the Convention Center Authority so as to avoid delays by taking full advantage of the construction season. For many years the District of Columbia Council had sought authority to review City contracts in excess of $1 million. Legislation to accomplish this objective was repeatedly vetoed by the Mayor. The Council was unable to override these vetoes. Congress was asked to resolve the matter and sought to do so with passage of P.L. 104-8 in 1995, the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority. This landmark legislation, establishing the control board, requires in Section 304 that no contract involving expenditures in excess of $1 million during a 12 month period may be made unless the Mayor submits the contract to the Council for its approval and the Council approves the contract. Section 304 is mandatory, not discretionary. It soon became apparent that the mandatory, all-inclusive nature of Section 304 of P.L. 104-8 created serious problems in particular for the Convention Center Authority. The Washington Convention Center Authority, and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority were created as independent entities in order to remove them to the fullest extent possible from the political process. They are both key elements in continuing efforts by Congress to reform essential City services and help restore confidence in the private sector. The Convention Center Authority was created by the D.C. Council in 1994, and the Water and Sewer Authority in 1996. In 1995 Congress passed the District of Columbia Convention Center and Sports Arena Authorization Act of 1995 to permit the Convention Center Authority to expend certain revenues for its operation and maintenance. And in 1996 Congress passed the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority Act of 1996 to authorize the issuance of bonds with respect to water and sewer facilities. When the Convention Center Authority proceeded to contract for a Project Manager the adverse consequences of requiring Council review became apparent. Though the contract had been approved by the control board the losing bidders appealed to the Council to overturn the decision. The contract was eventually approved, but precious time and energy were wasted. When the inadvertent application of the control board legislation to both the Convention Center Authority and the Water and Sewer Authority was realized last year steps were taken to rectify the situation. H.R. 3664, the District of Columbia Government Improvement and Efficiency Act of 1996 included a section exempting all contracts entered into by the Convention Center Authority and the Water and Sewer Authority from review by the City Council. This section of H.R. 3664 also authorized the City Council to exempt highway projects carried out under Title 23 of the U.S. Code. But H.R. 3664, though it was marked-up by both the House District Oversight Subcommittee and the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, was unable to move forward due to a disagreement which arose on a completely different section of the bill. H.R. 513 also authorizes the District of Columbia City Council to change the way it handles Federal highway projects so as to conform local practice to the practice that exists in most states. After consultation with the City Council it was concluded that they would favor establishing such a process. They are prohibited from doing so now because the control board legislation requiring Council review of contracts is a federal law and the Council cannot change it. All of the contracts referred to in this legislation are still subject to review by the control board.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Rep. Thomas H. Allen

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Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

(Mr. ALLEN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. ALLEN. Mr. Speaker, H.R. 513 is a bipartisan bill authored by the District of Columbia Subcommittee's chairman, the gentleman from Virginia [(Mr. Davis], and the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia [Ms. Norton], its ranking member. It would simply exempt contracts over $1 million entered into by the District's Water and Sewer Authority and Convention Center Authority from review and approval by the city council. These two authorities were established by the Council during the last 2 years as corporate bodies with a legal existence apart from the District government. Each authority has its own board of directors, financial system, and revenue sources. Their independence was an essential element of their design, and it is critical to the realization of their respective missions.

Two years ago, Congress approved legislation developed by the D.C. Subcommittee establishing the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, Public Law 104-8. This bill contained a provision amending the District's home rule charter to require council review of all contracts over $1 million. This was done in order to inject greater control and accountability into the District's procurement process.

It has since been learned through consultation with various financial advisers that we could lower the risk associated with any borrowing by the two authorities and thereby reduce their borrowing costs if we insulated the larger contracts of the two authorities from the review process and the politics which sometimes affect it.

Finally, the bill would permit the city council at its option to exempt from its review any Federal aid highway program contract over $1 million. The council has indicated that it would prefer to annually approve a schedule of projects to be undertaken under this program rather than consider project contracts on an individual basis. This approach will expedite the procurement process and ensure work can get started during the construction season.

I should point out that all of the contracts which this bill will exempt from council review will still be subject to review and approval by the District's Financial Authority, the Control Board. The authority will ensure that they have been executed appropriately and are consistent with the District's budget and financial plan.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that this bill does nothing more than streamline an administrative review process of the council. It enjoys the support of the District's local officials. Accordingly, I urge its approval by this body.

Rep. Thomas H. Allen

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Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis

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Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Davis] that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 513.

The question was taken.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis

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Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.

Pursuant to clause 5 of rule I and the Chair's prior announcement, further proceedings on this motion will be postponed.