Contracts in fed enclaves
- By Carl Peckinpaugh
- May 29, 2000
Many contracts with the federal government require that some or all of the
work must take place on government property. Companies holding those contracts
may be confused as to the applicability of state and local regulations to
their efforts. There is good reason to be confused.
Property owned by the federal government may be held under any of three
different types of legislative jurisdiction, depending on how the government
obtained the land. Exclusive legislative jurisdiction applies to land over
which the federal government has all of the legislative power. Traditionally,
state laws have almost no application in those areas.
Lands under exclusive legislative jurisdiction are called federal enclaves.
Most military posts are in federal enclaves. However, when the issue might
be important, the type of jurisdiction should be confirmed by research and
not just assumed.
Concurrent legislative jurisdiction applies to land over which a state
has reserved or over which a state has obtained legislative authority concurrent
with the federal government. State and federal laws apply in these areas.
Partial legislative jurisdiction applies to land over which a state has
granted the federal government some legislative authority but has reserved
for itself most of the legislative power.
In Miller v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court ruled that a state cannot require
licensing of construction contractors where the work is to be done exclusively
within a federal enclave. Similarly, in Koren v. Martin Marietta Services
Inc., a court found that Puerto Rico's wage and hour laws were inapplicable
to work performed within federal enclaves.
However, in North Dakota v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld
a state law requiring special labeling on liquor bottles sold in military
clubs and package stores within federal enclaves. According to the court,
the law was acceptable because it did not regulate the government directly
but operated only against companies supplying the liquor, and the language
of the federal procurement statutes did not clearly evince a congressional
intent to preempt state liquor laws.
In some cases, courts have determined that state and local laws must
give way even though the land on which the work is conducted is not within
a federal enclave.
Because the U.S. Criminal Code does not deal with crimes of a local
nature, Congress passed the Assimilative Crimes Act to adopt state criminal
laws as federal law for crimes committed in federal enclaves. However, sometimes
it is hard to tell if a state law falls under the act. For example, in King
v. Gemini Food Services Inc., a court rejected arguments that the Virginia
Right to Work Law was assimilated into federal law.
The jurisdictional issue can be very important in some cases. Contractors
should be paying more attention.
— Peckinpaugh is corporate counsel for DynCorp, Reston, Va., and formerly
a member of the government contracts section for Winston and Strawn, Washington,