Okay. To dispel talk about earmarks being in any “stimu-less” bill of the past, present, and future: There aren’t…technically. Wait, technically? That’s right, technically there aren’t, but technically there are. Huh? Through the magic of political semantics and word smithery, earmarks are and are not in H.R. 1 and H.R. 1105. Now before you start shaking your head, stay with me on this one. An example from H.R. 1:
17 FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION
18 CAPITAL ASSISTANCE FOR HIGH SPEED RAIL CORRIDORS
19 AND INTERCITY PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE
20 For an additional amount for section 501 of Public
21 Law 110-432 and discretionary grants to States to pay
22 for the cost of projects described in paragraphs (2)(A) and
23 (2)(B) of section 24401 of title 49, United States Code,
24 subsection (b) of section 24105 of such title,
25 $8,000,000,000, to remain available through September
U: 2010REPT 14REPTJANSTIMCONF T12CONF.12 SEN. APPROP.
1 30, 2012: Provided, That the Secretary of Transportation
2 shall give priority to projects that support the development
3 of intercity high speed rail service: Provided further, That
4 within 60 days of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary
5 shall submit to the House and Senate Committees on Ap-
6 propriations a strategic plan that describes how the Sec-
7 retary will use the funding provided under this heading
8 to improve and deploy high speed passenger rail systems:
9 Provided further, That within 120 days of enactment of
10 this Act, the Secretary shall issue interim guidance to ap-
11 plicants covering grant terms, conditions, and procedures
12 until final regulations are issued: Provided further, That
13 such interim guidance shall provide separate instructions
14 for the high speed rail corridor program, capital assistance
15 for intercity passenger rail service grants, and congestion
16 grants: Provided further, That the Secretary shall waive
17 the requirement that a project conducted using funds pro-
18 vided under this heading be in a State rail plan developed
19 under chapter 227 of title 49, United States Code: Pro-
20 vided further, That the Federal share payable of the costs
21 for which a grant is made under this heading shall be,
22 at the option of the recipient, up to 100 percent: Provided
23 further, That projects conducted using funds provided
24 under this heading must comply with the requirements of
25 subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40, United States
U: 2010REPT 14REPTJANSTIMCONF T12CONF .12 SEN. APPROP.
1 Code: Provided further, That section 24405 of title 49,
2 United States Code, shall apply to funds provided under
3 this heading: Provided further, That the Administrator of
4 the Federal Railroad Administration may retain up to one-
5 quarter of 1 percent of the funds provided under this
6 heading to fund the award and oversight by the Adminis-
7 trator of grants made under this heading, and funds re-
8 tained for said purposes shall remain available through
9 September 30,2014.
To the untrained eye, this bit of information from the bill looks to provide funds in the amount of $8,000,000,000 for “projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service” and that the Secretary of Transportation shall provide a strategic plan “that describes how the Secretary will use the funding provided under this heading to improve and deploy high speed passenger rail systems”. Now it is generally the practice to have companies and/or organizations compete for a government contract in regards to impact studies, construction, engineering, logistics, etc. States also employ the common practice of granting “no-bid” contracts in order to fast-track a project or when a project requires highly-skilled professional workers (e.g., engineers, architects, attorneys, scientific researchers, etc.) that are difficult to fit into a low-bid requirement. The “no-bid” contract has been the object of contention in many states, since each state has its own contract laws, some of them shrouded in ambiguity. Due to ambiguous laws, it is not clear what the stipulations are in regards to “no-bid” contracts, making it easy for abuse to occur…and it has occurred and continues to occur [Articles - 1. State-contracts bill has backing of administration 2. No-bid contracts thriving in S.D. 3. Federal No-Bid Contracts On Rise 4. US: No-Bid Contracts Win Katrina Work 5. BPU handed out 21 no-bid contracts 6. HANO contractor denies Jackson got him job 7. No-bid contract criticism spreads 8. Jury Finds Tony Rezko Guilty On 16 of 24 Charges].
The loopholes in state laws make it possible for cunning and/or unscrupulous politicians, both Democrat and Republican, to grant contracts without competitive bidding. This should and does raise concerns for folks who see the special interest groups, opportunists, and palm-greasers standing in line waiting for their piece of the “stimu-less” pie.
In reference to the previous excerpt from H.R. 1, we shall see if the California-Nevada Interstate Maglev Project gains any impetus now that there are funds available for it. Yeah, the CNIMP is not mentioned in any of the “stimu-less” bills, but the fact that it is not mentioned is evidence of political sleight of hand. If you think a pet project of Commissar Harry Reid’s (D-NV), the U.S. Senate majority leader, is not going to get some “stimu-less” funds, you might as well take up residence in Disneyland…at least you’ll have high-speed rail transportation to get you to Vegas and gamble [Articles - 1. High-speed rail optimistic about more funding 2. Obama Levitates 3. Republicans cry foul over $8 billion for high-speed rail 4. This town's full of sin, it'll swallow us in].