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  • 01/19/2021 1:06 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team


    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    For a few days every four years, Capitol Hill takes on a new look. A giant stage and scaffolding appear on the Capitol’s west front. Giant U.S. flags are draped from the building’s colonnade. And Jumbotrons fill the National Mall in anticipation of a huge throng of Americans witnessing the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.

    This year, that scene is dramatically different. The Mall is barricaded and closed. More than 25,000 National Guardsmen patrol the Capitol grounds. And the scaffolding bears the scars of the first violent invasion of the Capitol since the War of 1812.

    As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take the oath of office as the nation’s 46th President Wednesday, the nation’s capital and the country it represents are still reeling from the horrific events of January 6th and worried about what’s to come. This inauguration was already going to be unusual, as the coronavirus pandemic forced planners to scale down the event. Now, with Washington looking like a city under siege and the outgoing president facing an unprecedented second Senate impeachment trial, Joe Biden will begin his presidency at a dark and troubling moment for our nation.

    What should we expect from the early days of the Biden administration? The President-elect has vowed to move aggressively to counter the pandemic, speed up distribution of vaccines and push Congress to enact a massive economic stimulus package. He also has called for action on climate, infrastructure, health care and a host of other complex issues, all the while promising to heal the nation and turn down the rhetorical volume.

    Whether he can succeed depends on a number of factors that will guide the early days of his White House term:

    1. Can the Senate walk and chew gum at the same time? In normal times, the Senate spends the start of a new administration confirming Cabinet appointees. This year, the Senate will need to address the article of impeachment against President Trump that the House sent them last week. Senate impeachment trials focus on whether a president should be removed from office. Since current Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has said a trial will not start until the day before inauguration at the earliest, any conviction would be symbolic. The Senate also may debate whether to bar Trump from holding office in the future; while removal from office requires a 2/3ds majority vote, past precedent suggests only a simple majority of the Senate could block Trump from serving in office again. With the Senate a 50-50 tie and at least some Senate GOPers ready to cut ties with the 45th President, such an outcome is not out of the question.

      But a Senate impeachment trial will undoubtedly divert attention from other business, like confirming Cabinet nominees. Normally, Senate committees will hold confirmation hearings for many nominees prior to inauguration; to date, none have taken place. Of particular interest to the CRM industry is Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland, who is currently a member of Congress from New Mexico and would be the first Native American cabinet secretary. Without a Cabinet in place, it will be more difficult for Biden to enact his agenda and ensure smooth operations at federal agencies.

      Biden has reportedly spoken to McConnell about an arrangement whereby the Senate will spend half of each day on impeachment and half on other business, but it’s not clear Republicans will go along or force an impeachment trial to take priority. Of course, Republicans won’t have the only say; thanks to the Georgia Senate runoff elections, Senate Democrats have more power to set the agenda than before. Either way, the Senate will likely be somewhat distracted from its normal business for some time to come.

    2. Who will run the Senate anyway? The two Georgia Senate runoffs went to the Democrats, creating a 50-50 tie in the Senate. Functionally, Democrats will have the majority once Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn in and can break tie votes. But does that mean that Democrats will call all the shots?

      The last time the Senate was tied 50-50, in 2001, the parties reached a power-sharing agreement, whereby each committee had equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans and party leaders worked together to schedule legislation so that neither party had full control of the agenda. The process worked fairly well back then, but 2021 is different. Partisanship is much worse, and while early 2001 was a fairly peaceful moment in time, today the country faces multiple urgent crises. The extent to which Democrats allow for power sharing – and Republicans accept whatever arrangement is made – will help determine how quickly the Senate can act on legislation and nominations.

    3. Does Congress have the appetite for big legislation? Late last week, President-elect Biden announced a $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan. The plan includes, among other things, an additional $1400 in stimulus checks to most individuals, added small business support, emergency funding for states and localities, expanded unemployment insurance, and significant funding for COVID testing and vaccine distribution. A number of Republicans expressed strong reservations to the package’s size and cost (and some progressive Democrats criticized it for not being big enough).

      Can a President Biden get such a plan through the Senate? Under regular procedures, Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to overcome a filibuster on the bill. But Democrats also could use a budget procedure called reconciliation, which would require just 50 votes (plus a tie-breaker by VP Harris). Alternatively, Democrats could eliminate the filibuster altogether, a move that a number of them have supported (and Biden himself has hinted at). Even so, there are a handful of moderate-to-conservative Democrats in the Senate whose support for the package is not assured.

      Even if Democrats are able to muscle such a plan through, the political capital needed to pass it could make it harder for Biden to advance other big policy items on climate change, infrastructure and more down the road. If he has to twist a bunch of arms to pass the COVID relief package, he might not be able to convince reticent Democrats to take tough votes for him a second or third time this year.

    4. How will Biden deal with Trump rules and orders? When the White House changes parties, one of the top items on a new president’s to-do list is to freeze or overturn rules and regulations issued by their predecessor. President-elect Biden is no different. We expect him to overturn a raft of Trump-era executive orders almost immediately. Overturning regulations will take longer, as they will need to go through the official process that allows for public comment. This includes the Trump administration’s 2020 revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which weakened the cornerstone federal environmental statute. However, Congress could conceivably bypass the process by invoking the Congressional Review Act, which enables the legislative branch to overturn regulations issued in the previous six months on a simple majority vote.

    5. Last but not least, will lawmakers be able to work together? The Jan. 6th insurrection didn’t create the longstanding rifts between the parties, but it made them far worse. A number of Democratic House lawmakers have openly accused some of their Republican counterparts of actively abetting the rioters. A headline on NBC News’ website said it all: "Some Democrats in Congress are worried their colleagues might kill them.”

      Meanwhile, the parties both face internal schisms: a number of Republican House members have called for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third-ranking GOPer in the chamber, to lose her post because she was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach the President. And despite Biden’s election win, big policy differences remain between progressive and centrist Democrats; these divides will certainly re-emerge. In a highly charged environment, nobody knows for certain whether members of Congress will be able to find a way to trust one another to work towards the common good,

    What does all this mean for the CRM industry? It’s too early to say for certain how things will play out in Washington. But one way or the other, Congress and the White House will get back to work on matters that directly impact CRM firms and professionals. It is essential that CRM professionals keep advocating for their policy priorities.

    To that end, please join ACRA on February 4 at 2:00pm EST for Legislation & Policy: What CRM Can Expect in 2021. This webinar will brief participants on the policy outlook for the year, ACRA's 2021 government relations priorities, and how you can make a direct impact on the issues you care about the most. We hope to see you there.


  • 01/15/2021 2:26 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation is asking for help in surveying the current state of the larger historic preservation field. Before January 31, please respond—and encourage your colleagues to respond—to this survey which seeks to better understand the changing community around historic preservation, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current field and probe ideas about changes that could be pursued in the future.

    Dr. Randy Mason, Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s PennPraxis, will post the results publicly and is sharing his analysis to help facilitate the new National Impact Agenda.

    Once you have taken the survey, please feel free to share with others in the field!


  • 01/14/2021 4:33 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    ACRA is celebrating the work of its member firms through this new series highlighting 2020 projects. To be featured, submit your project here.

    Archival Collection Support Services for USACE CEHO
    Greater Washington, D.C. Area
    SEARCH, Inc.


    SEARCH conserved, arranged, and digitized collections from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Office of History (CEHO). The Norfolk District album was an amazing collection of carefully captioned photographs documenting civil works completed in the 1930s. SEARCH delivered high resolution scans with metadata to CEHO for incorporation into their publicly accessible Digital Library.


    Some of the photographs in the album are featured on the USACE exhibit page on the project. From the exhibit page:

    The album provides a snapshot of a brief three-year period in the history of Norfolk District. It illustrates the work the district undertook, as well as the equipment, the tools, and the methods used to do so. It also provides a glimpse of people involved with the district’s civil works—employees, hired hands, and contractors. Finally, the photos frequently reveal the landscape of the time, both the natural environment of land and water but also the built environment, including locks, dams, and weirs; bridges, piers, and docks; and offices, houses, and other facilities.

    Of the twenty or so large civil works projects listed in the Norfolk District section of the Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers for fiscal year 1932, most are represented here pictorially. Listed first in the report and foremost in the district’s workload is Norfolk Harbor itself. Maintaining a navigable harbor through dredging and deepening of several channels and inlets in the area occupies many pages in the report and a multiplicity of the photos in the album. The album also features river work, such as dredging and straightening, from the large James River in Virginia to the smaller Scuppernong and Knobbs Creek in North Carolina.


    The album features large and small projects alike, and also includes many images of the various boats owned and employed by USACE (great for boat enthusiasts!). The photos are available to browse, search, and download on the USACE digital library. You can learn more about the projects and people featured in the album on the exhibit page.


  • 01/12/2021 4:32 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    With the administration change in the White House and the switch of party control in the Senate, what can you expect for the issues important to CRM in DC?

    Find out on Thursday, February 4 at 2:00 pm EST for Legislation & Policy: What CRM Can Expect in 2021. This webinar will brief participants on the take a deep dive into the current legislative environment, the outlook for the year, and ACRA's 2021 government relations priorities.

    You will also learn how to make a direct impact on the issues you care about the most. From engaging policymakers to communicating your message effectively, you will come away with the skills you need for advocating for your business, your family, and your community.

    This webinar is FREE for ACRA members and available to non-members for $15. Spaces are limited - register NOW to reserve your spot!

    Register for Legislation & Policy:
    What CRM Can Expect in 2021

  • 01/11/2021 5:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    ACRA is celebrating the work of its member firms through this new series highlighting 2020 projects. To be featured, submit your project here.

    ACRA member firm Davis-King & Associates (DKA) has been working on two California hydroelectric projects: the Phoenix Hydroelectric Project in Tuolumne County and the Kerckhoff Hydroelectric Projects in Fresno and Madera Counties.

    DKA was responsible for identifying all resources of value to tribal entities. This included not only traditional and other cultural resources, but also various environmental resources like water, animals, plants, and rocks. Although detailed ethnobotanical and ethnozoological analyses were performed and interviews with tribal elders were conducted, each project ended with two major radiational cultural landscapes evaluated as districts eligible under criterion A.

    Contributing resources included archaeological sites, constructed elements, gathering locales, medicine gardens, Indian allotments and more. The California State Historic Preservation Office concurred on the evaluations, resulting in four new traditional cultural landscapes in the region, and hope provided to tribes that their resources, beyond the archaeological, may have support and recognition in the future.

  • 01/07/2021 4:38 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team


    A, B, C, easy as 1, 2, 3: Evaluating Archaeological and Tribal Resources Under the “Other” National Register Criteria

    January 28, 2021 | 2:00 - 3:30 PM (EST) | Register Now

    Although all resources should be evaluated under all four criteria of the National Register of Historic Places (NHRP), archaeologists generally focus on information values (Criterion d). As our society changes and awareness increases of broader cultural values, CRM practitioners are increasingly asked to consider whether cultural resources might possess other values and thus be eligible for listing in the NRHP under criteria a, b, and/or c - which can be very challenging in a regulatory context.

    Join us on Thursday, January 28 at 2:00 pm EST for A, B, C, easy as 1, 2, 3: Evaluating Archaeological and Tribal Resources Under the “Other” National Register Criteria. This webinar will focus on how to document what makes a place important to descendant communities or how a place might fit into the identity a group shares about a location.

    Attendees will hear about guidelines and ideas on how to capture the information, and put it in writing so an agency reviewer can understand the case for significance. Using case studies and examples, the presenters will explain ways to document what may seem like nebulous values to an outsider as well as “dos” and “don’ts” that will help with managing properties in a regulatory setting.

    Participants are encouraged to have a working knowledge of NHPA and NRHP vocabulary as this is not an introductory workshop and the content and presentation will assume familiarity. As a reminder, ACRA members benefit from a firm-wide registration fee - once one person from a member firm registers, others can register for free. Contact us for information on subsequent registrations.

    Register Now


  • 01/06/2021 2:02 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    As mentioned in the latest Your Congress in Action earlier this week, the new COVID relief package was signed into law at the very end of 2020. We wanted to break down the provisions most important to CRM in greater detail. Read on for more information on how the relief package benefits your firm!

    • If you did not receive Paycheck Protection Program funds in the spring, now is your chance! The package included $325 billion in new funding for Paycheck Protection Program loans. However, even if you received a PPP loan last spring, you may be eligible to receive a “second draw” PPP loan if your firm has been particularly hit hard during the pandemic.

      To receive a second draw PPP loan, businesses must:
    • Employ not more than 300 employees (as opposed to 500 employees in the first round of PPP). Unless subject to an exemption, e.g., hospitality (NAICS code 72), the SBA affiliation rules apply in determining the number of employees;
    • Have used or will use the full amount of their first PPP loan; and
    • Demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts in the first, second, or third quarter of 2020 relative to the same quarter in 2019.

    Second draw loans can receive a loan amount of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs in the one year prior to the loan or the calendar year, although no loan can be greater than $2 million. Eligible expenses for forgiveness for a second draw loan equal to the sum of their payroll costs, as well as covered mortgage, rent, and utility payments, covered operations expenditures, covered property damage costs, covered supplier costs, and covered worker protection expenditures incurred during the covered period. To receive full forgiveness, borrowers are still required to use at least 60% of the loan proceeds on payroll costs.

    The National Law Review has a comprehensive summary of the new PPP changes and second draw loans here.

    • When the PPP was first created, the IRS released guidance stating that expenses covered by a loan in the program were not deductible. While this was meant to prevent “double-dipping,” in practicality this created a significant tax increase (as much as 37%). Many small businesses would be forced to lay off employees or close their doors as a result – exactly the opposite of what the PPP was trying to achieve. ACRA and the SAA sent a letter to Congress in December addressing this issue.

      The latest relief package confirmed the intent of the program by blocking this inadvertent tax increase, and today (January 6) the IRS issued new guidance stating that “no deduction shall be denied, no tax attribute shall be reduced, and no basis increase shall be denied.” This a huge win and relief for CRM firms across the country.
    • The new stimulus bill also enhances a previously overlooked clause in the original CARES Act: now up to eight months of principal and interest payments on Section 7(a) and 504 Microloans can be forgiven. This portion of the bill was championed by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and is aimed at allowing small businesses to not just recover from the pandemic, but also hire and grow.

      Businesses that have existing types of these loans get three months of forgiveness plus an additional five months for hard-hit industries, capped at $9,000 per month. CRM firms would be more likely to receive three months as this industry has been classified as essential in most states.

      Businesses that receive new Section 7(a) or 504 Microloans by September 20, 2021 will have their first six months of principal and interest forgiven (also up to $9.000 per month). PPP recipients are eligible to apply, and you even do not need to prove that your business has been impacted by COVID.

      A great summary of this program and its expected impact is available in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
    • Lastly, unfortunately the bill did not include funding for state and local governments. ACRA has been advocating for this in its (virtual) meetings on Capitol Hill in recent months in the hope that SHPOs and THPOs would receive part of such funding. With reduced tax revenue in 2020, we are anticipating cuts to state budgets across the country, and we want to ensure that critical projects are able to continue and SHPOs are able to operate at full capacity. ACRA will continue to work on this issue as the new Congress gets underway.

    ACRA will continue to bring you pandemic-related news and updates important to CRM firms. Stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for as more information unfolds!


  • 01/05/2021 4:20 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    ACRA is celebrating the work of its member firms through this new series highlighting 2020 projects. To be featured, submit your project here.

    Sea Level Consulting has been working on the Katlian Bay Road construction, the first new road construction in Sitka, Alaska in over 50 years. This ongoing project involves the development of 9 miles of new road through a dense temperate rainforest with very steep terrain, and challenging coastal Alaska weather. The firm is contracting with construction firm K&E, Alaska to monitor for cultural resources, and is reporting to the State of Alaska Department of Transportation, the Alaska State Historic Preservation Office, and Sitka Tribe of Alaska. Sea Level Consulting has recovered artifacts relating to a homestead in the 1930s, historic logging, and cataloged nearly 30 culturally modified trees.

    According to Alaska State Senator Bert Stedman, who was integral to the project's development and funding, "the project provides access to Katlian Bay with opportunities for recreation, timber, subsistence, and remediation of the Katlian watershed and salmon runs. Access is provided to Shee Atika and Sealaska lands as well as state lands." The project has the added benefit of providing "good-paying jobs" in the region.

    More information on the groundbreaking ceremony is available on the Shee Atika website.

  • 01/04/2021 5:25 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team


    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    The new year brings to Washington a few lingering battles from 2020 and a host of new challenges that policymakers will soon need to confront.

    At the end of the year, and after a few days of expressing his opposition on Twitter, President Trump signed into law a massive $908 billion COVID relief package combined with a $1.4 trillion budget for the current fiscal year. The bill includes $325 billion in small business relief with a new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, $600 stimulus checks to many individuals and children and a $300 weekly unemployment insurance boost. The bill blocks an inadvertent tax increase on small business that took PPP loans that were – or will be – forgiven (this provision was the subject of a letter ACRA and the Society of American Archaeology sent to lawmakers in December) and provides the highest-ever appropriations level for the Historic Preservation Fund.

    The stimulus checks were one of the reasons Trump objected to the bill he ultimately signed, calling for Congress to increase the amount from $600 to $2000 per individual. Paradoxically, it was Democrats who agreed with the President, as the Democratic-led House passed a bill to increase the payouts, while Senate Republicans blocked it.

    Meanwhile, the election-that-will-never-end appears to be reaching its conclusion this week. First, voters in Georgia will decide Tuesday who will represent them in the Senate in a pair of runoff elections. The incumbents are Republicans; if their Democratic challengers both win, Democrats will seize control of the Senate by nature of a 50-50 tie (with VP-elect Kamala Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote). Polls show the races are too close to call.

    The next day, both chambers of Congress will meet in a joint session to count the electoral votes cast in each state. The normally perfunctory session will be contentious, as a number of Republicans in both chambers plan to object to the electoral votes from some states that certified President-elect Joe Biden as the winner. Although these protests will prolong the process, the outcome is not in doubt, as the Democratic-led House is sure to reject any challenges, meaning that by the end of the day Wednesday, Biden will be declared the winner of the 2020 race by a 306-232 electoral vote margin.

    Once the election is settled, Congress can get back to business. Sunday saw the convening of the 117th Congress, which runs until the 2022 midterm elections. Although control of the Senate awaits the Georgia runoffs, House Democrats remain in the majority albeit in lower numbers following the 2020 election. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was re-elected Speaker for what likely will be her last two years in the role.

    The usual pomp-and-circumstance of Congress’ first day was muted by the reality that the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us. Members came to the House floor to vote in groups to promote social distancing. Two members who had tested positive for the coronavirus did not vote, and three who had been exposed to the virus voted from a plexiglass booth in the balcony.

    The virus and the havoc it has wrought also were present in the Speaker’s remarks after her election. While praising enactment pf the COVID relief package, she urged her colleagues to do more to help Americans cope with the crisis: “The House will continue our work to save lives and livelihoods, to build back better in a way that advances justice in America.” She also announced the formation of a Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. She said that the Select Committee will make legislative recommendations to “to combat the disparities of income and wealth that undermine faith in America’s promise for a better future for our children.”

    While the opening session was filled with calls for bipartisanship, nobody expects that to last long. Not only are there major divisions between the two parties over virtually every major issue, but the parties themselves face significant infighting. Republicans are in the midst of a schism over the extent to which they should defend President Trump’s efforts to protest the outcome of the election, while Democrats are torn between their progressive and centrist wings on a host of policy questions. Even if Democrats win a functional majority in the Senate following the Georgia races, giving them control of the three policy-making arms of the federal government once President-elect Biden is sworn in, major ideological divisions within the Party mean that progress on major issues will not be easy. And if Republicans keep control of the Senate, divided government will remain the reality for at least the next two years.

    Either way, action on climate, infrastructure, economic recovery and a host of other simmering issues will be contentious and drawn-out. To be fair, slow progress is what the Founders had in mind when they drafted the Constitution, preferring careful debate over rash action. And the division of power between – and even within – the three branches of government was intended to prevent any one faction from gaining too much influence over policymaking. But it is understandable that in a time of multiple crises, the public expects Washington to act.

    The good news is that crises have a way of busting through the gridlock. Few would have predicted that House Democrats would embrace President Trump’s call to increase stimulus checks, which is exactly what happened. And there are a number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who, tired of the fighting, are working behind the scenes to develop policy ideas that can garner majority support.

    From the standpoint of the CRM industry, the ability to find bipartisan support will enable it to advocate for progress in the coming year. Just as the industry secured provisions in the COVID relief package to prevent a tax increase on small businesses and to increase the Historic Preservation Fund, 2021 brings hope that, with engaged advocacy, the industry can advance policies that help preserve the past while building for the future.


  • 01/03/2021 6:17 PM | Emma Altman

    ACRA Community- 

    The use of scientific techniques like portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRFis becoming more common in historical archaeology. Research focusing on how and why archaeologists use these techniques is important to ensuring the future effective and appropriate use of them. I’m currently an anthropology master’s student at the University of Idaho (under the advisement of Mark Warner), and my thesis research is focused on the appropriateness of the use of pXRF in historical archaeology.

    As part of this research, I’m interested in looking at grey literature (site reports and other documents) for historic sites that include the use of pXRF so I might understand the contexts that pXRF is currently being used inAny shared materials would not be reproduced in the thesis; all data would be analyzed in non-identifiable aggregate. In the unlikely scenario that I would like to include specific details, I will directly request permission from your firm.  

    If you or your firm have any documents or reports that you would be willing to share with me for this research project, please contact me at ealtman@uidaho.edu. 

    Best, 

    Emma Altman
    ACRA Student Member
     

     


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