Maria Elvira Salazar Gets Bills on Small Business Contracts, Using Retired Navy Ships as Reefs in NDAA

U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., advanced two of her bills which were rolled into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which cleared the U.S. House last week.

“Securing these policy priorities in the NDAA will boost Florida’s economy and enhance our marine environment,” said Salazar. “Without question, passing a robust National Defense Authorization Act each is year is one of our most critical responsibilities in Congress. The NDAA provides necessary funding for our troops and veterans, and ensures that we have the capabilities to remain strong on the world stage and protect our country from existing and emerging threats.”

From her perch on the U.S. House Small Business Committee, back in May, Salazar brought out the “Expanding Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses Act.”

U.S. Reps. Marie Newman, D-Ill., Amata Radewagen, R-AS, Dwight Evans, D-Penn. and Pete Stauber, R-Minn., co-sponsored the bill.

Salazar’s office offered some of the details of the bill when she introduced it.

“This is a critical measure that will help our small businesses, particularly disadvantaged contractors who have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes will level the playing field and encourage more small contractors to participate in government programs leading to a quicker rebuilding of the US economy,” her office noted. “Specifically, this bill raises caps on sole-source contracting for small businesses through the NDAA (SBA) from $5 million to $8 million for general contracts and from $7 million to $10 million for manufacturing contracts. This contracting program directly benefits veteran-owned, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses, as well as those operating in economically disadvantaged areas. It will also help boost U.S. small manufacturing capabilities. Prior to COVID-19, SBA’s caps for sole source contracting have been stagnant for decades.”

“I am so excited to introduce the Expanding Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses Act, which will help the hardest-hit areas of our economy to recover from COVID-19 and continue to grow into the future,” said Salazar. “This bill will directly benefit our small, minority, and veteran-owned businesses in Florida’s 27th District who want to participate in the federal contracting process and boost economic growth at a time when it is needed most.”

Newman was the main co-sponsor of the proposal.

“By increasing the sole-source thresholds for SBA contracting programs, we’re expanding contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses who historically are at a competitive disadvantage. On top of that, under this legislation, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, 8(A) disadvantaged businesses and rural businesses will have greater access to capital,” said Newman. “As we continue our road to economic recovery, let’s pass this legislation so we can provide our small businesses and workers with more opportunities to work, grow and succeed.”

The bill was included in the NDAA last week and she weighed it after it made it through the chamber.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and providing opportunities for success for everyone. Sadly, entrepreneurs faced many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and they need support to recover,” said Salazar. “Increasing sole source contracting caps will level the playing field and provide expanded opportunities for our small business contractors. Since coming to Congress, I’ve made it my mission to secure new opportunities for small businesses to contract with the federal government and it it an honor to be able to deliver on this promise.”

Salazar also got her proposal that “incentivizes retired Navy ships to be repurposed into artificial reefs, boosting marine environments and creating recreational and economic opportunities in the process” included in the NDAA.

“In my home state of Florida, we say that the environment is the economy, and the economy is the environment. The REEF Act is a boon for both,” said Salazar. “Artificial reefs create recreational opportunities, which produce millions in revenue for local coastal economies. Perhaps most notably, the REEF Act allows our veterans to see their former ships laid to rest at sea, rather than sold for scrap. As a fierce supporter of our men and women in uniform, I am proud to introduce legislation that ensures the legacy of our retired military vessels will live on.”

Salazar introduced the “Reusing Equipment for Environmental Fortification (REEF) Act” earlier this month with U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Hi., as the main co-sponsor.

“As a representative from a coastal district, I know first-hand that we must do more to support our marine ecosystems,” said Salazar. “I’m proud to introduce a bill that gives us the opportunity to accomplish that by giving our retired navy ships a new purpose, all while creating new recreational opportunities for fishermen and divers that boost local economies.”

“Creating artificial reefs using excess naval vessels can help restore and preserve our fragile ocean ecosystem and create opportunities for those who want to explore the biodiversity that would surround a sunken structure,” said Case. “There are a number of structures, including small boats and planes, in waters off my home state of Hawaii that both restore our threatened marine ecosystem and draw those who want to experience our marine life up-close and understand how it must be preserved. Our bill will expand on these opportunities in Hawai‘i and elsewhere.”

Members of the Florida delegation–including Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Matt Gaetz, Carlos Gimenez, Brian Mast, John Rutherford, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz and Dan Webster and Democrats U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy–lined up behind the proposal. So did the Florida Wildlife Commission, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, the National Association of Charter Boat Operators, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Center for Sport Fishing Policy, the Panama City Boatman Association, the American Sportfishing Association and the International Game Fish Association.

KEVIN DERBY
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