Construction Law Blog
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On March 25, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) published its final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica (the “Silica Rule”). Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other materials. Silica exposure is classified as a human lung carcinogen and can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. Approximately two million construction workers nationwide are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplace as a result of drilling, cutting, crushing, or grinding silica-containing material, such as concrete and stone.
Since 2009, the City of Seattle Department of Constructions & Inspections (formerly part of the Department of Planning (the “Department”) has been considering requiring retrofits for buildings with unreinforced masonry (“URM”) bearing walls. URM buildings are the brick buildings built without steel reinforcements and ties and connections required by modern building codes. They were built throughout the city, but many can be seen in neighborhoods such as Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, Columbia City, Capitol Hill, and Ballard. URM buildings are the most likely type to be damaged during earthquakes, and retrofits will make these buildings less vulnerable to damage.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) has jurisdiction to hear bid protests from government contractors seeking review of a federal agency’s contract procurement and awards. The GAO receives thousands of bid protests every year. On April 15, 2016, the GAO published notice of potential changes to its protest procedures, which would significantly change the manner in which protests get filed and decided.
Many of our veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are interested in starting or buying their own business. To support our soldiers, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) implemented the Veteran and Small Business program, which creates set-asides for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business and Veteran-Owned Small Business (“VOSB”). However, the far more lucrative set-asides with the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) are governed by the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) program. For DOT set-asides, only women-owned and minority-owned small businesses qualify as DBEs.
More than 100 new industries are now eligible for the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Woman-Owned Small Business (“WOSB”) contract program. The SBA implemented the WOSB program in order to expand the number of industries where woman-owned small buisnesses could compete. The program allows set-asides for Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (“EDWOSBs”) in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented and set-asides for WOSBs where they are substantially underrepresented.
This article follows up on an article from earlier this year about proposed legislation in Olympia that addressed venue for lawsuits against counties.
That legislation, House Bill 1601, was drafted to address a common problem in public works contracting with Washington State counties. Washington State counties have been including provisions in their construction contracts that require all disputes between the contractor and the county to be resolved in the home county that issued the contract. These venue clauses present a problem for contractors because of the appearance of impropriety and associated challenges of litigating with counties in their home court.
Recently, the largest changes in more than 30 years were made in federal mortgage disclosure requirements. On August 1, 2015, the forms that have become second nature for generations of loan originators, attorneys, and borrowers—including the Good Faith Estimate (GFE), HUD-1, and Truth-in-Lending—are no longer used for new real estate transactions. In their place are two completely new forms and a new set of requirements for how and when they are provided to borrowers.
Readers of this blog are aware that we have been tracking and ranting about the poor condition of our national infrastructure since the blog’s inception. In May 2013, a truck carrying an oversize load collided with the “fracture/critical” I-5 bridge over the Skagit River near Mount Vernon and brought home to everyone the dismal condition of bridges, highways, power, water, and sewer infrastructure.
In federal government contracting, as in most public works contracts, contractors are required to comply with Contracting Officers' decisions. Contract clauses mandate that pending resolution of disputes, the contractor must proceed with the performance of the contract, the dispute notwithstanding.[i] Thus, even if a contractor suspects that the Contracting Officer directing the extra work does not have appropriate funds to pay for the changed work, the contractor has little choice but to perform the extra work. This is a trap for unwary contractors that expend their own funds only to find out that there is no appropriation to pay for the extra work. The Federal Anti-Deficiency Act was passed to prevent this very issue from occurring, but as contractors have learned, this Act has not precluded government employees from directing extra work for which they have no funds.[ii]
In the 2007 legislative session, the Washington State Legislature significantly expanded the definition of what constitutes a “Contractor” in Washington State, such that for the past 8 years a broad reading of the contractor’s registration statute, RCW Ch. 18.27, would require just about any person or entity, other than a residential homeowner, who is involved at any level in improving real property to be registered as a “Contractor,” irrespective if that person or entity hired a licensed contractor to perform work on real property that they own. This has imposed a burden to register as a contractor on persons or entities not performing any actual construction work, such as “house flippers” or developers, who retain general contractors to perform work for them, and do not so much as lift a shovel of dirt to improve the property that they own.