House Passes H.R. 1734, the Civilian Property Realignment Act - “Civilian BRAC” Bill Moves to Senate
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1734, the Civilian Property Realignment Act (CPRA), which was first introduced on May 4th, 2011 by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. CPRA passed by a vote of 259 to 164.
This legislation, also known as “Civilian BRAC,” would establish the Civilian Property Realignment Commission to identify and dispose of excess federal properties.
CPRA, modeled after the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program, would establish the Civilian Property Realignment Commission, tasked with recommending excess federal properties to the president for consolidation, sale, redevelopment or exchange. After approval by the president, the Commission’s recommendations would be sent to Congress which could disapprove of the properties only with an up or down vote without amendments. In addition, within 180 days of the bill becoming law, the bill requires the commission to identify a minimum of five properties with a total value of at least $500 million for sale. The White House already has identified approximately 14,000 excess properties owned by the federal government, which could be considered by the Commission.
Although the White House (which first proposed a Civilian BRAC Commission on May 4th, 2011) and Democrats and Republicans in Congress all regard the potential sale of excess federal properties as a way to raise revenue and reduce the federal deficit, House Democrats, including Public Buildings Subcommittee Ranking Member Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), do not support the bill in its current form because of a dispute regarding the inclusion of adequate protections for homeless care providers and for the environment. Republicans, including Chairman Denham, support the bill as a way to streamline the property disposal process and derive potential significant savings for the government. The Office of Management and Budget has opined that the disposal of excess property could yield $15 billion.
Included in the final bill were the following three amendments:
- An amendment offered by Rep. Denham (R-CA) which provided for a limited review of properties for use by the homeless and homeless care providers;
- An amendment offered by Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX) which would provide assistance to small and minority-owned businesses who seek to acquire excess federal property from the government;
- An amendment offered by Rep. Carnahan (D-MO) which would require life-cycle cost analysis in the design or lease of federal building receiving at least 50% federal funding and which construction costs over $1 million, or the space to be leased is of 25,000 square feet.
Ranking Member Norton withdrew her two amendments, one of which would have required federal agencies to compile environmental information about excess properties and would allow for a limited review of properties by homeless service providers; and the other would have required the GSA to notify Indian tribes about excess properties. An amendment by Rep. Connolly (D-VA), which would have allowed federal property to be used by local governments for open space, failed by a vote of 191 to 230.
The future of CPRA now lies in the hands of the United States Senate. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee held hearings on the issue in 2011, and a similar bill (S. 1503) was introduced by Sen. Scott Brown (MA) in August of 2011. It is unlikely that the Democratically controlled Senate will approve CPRA in its current form, but instead will seek to address concerns raised by Democratic lawmakers in the House.