Applicability of State and Local Licensing Regulations to Military Installations

Date: February 3, 2010

On December 16, 2009, Congressman James R. Langevin (D-RI) proposed a bill, H.R. 4379, that would require contractors and subcontractors working on military construction projects to comply with state and local licensing requirements for employees working at the project location. Currently, it is unclear whether state and local licensing regulations are applicable to a contractor bidding or hired to work on a military construction project because military construction projects usually take place on land ceded by the state to the federal government for military installations such as Ft. Meade. The cases deciding these issues are inconsistent, and whether state and local licensing requirements apply to work on a given installation may turn on the timing of the state's cession of the land and on any conditions the state placed in consenting to federal jurisdiction over the land. States do not always use the full extent of any jurisdiction they retain as to federal installations, and so otherwise valid licensing requirements may go unenforced.

The one principle that is clear under current law is that state and local licensing laws that would interfere with express federal contracting policies cannot be applied to those working on federal contracts. Even so, military agencies have the discretion to mandate that their contractors obtain such licenses, but do not always place such a requirement in the contracts they let. H.R. 4379 would only permit one federal policy interest to trump state and local law - national security.

The impact of H.R. 4379 would be that an out-of-state contractor bidding or performing electrical work on a project at, for example, Ft. Meade, would have to conform with the state's licensing scheme and could only use electricians that comply with the licensing requirements for electricians set down by Maryland and by Anne Arundel County (in Maryland, the county governments issue electrician's licenses). Those failing to obtain such licenses would be subject to termination by the government and citation by the licensing entity. Moreover, many states do not permit contractors that fail to comply with licensing requirement to file suit for non-payment, so subcontractors on federal projects who ignore the licensing requirements could go unpaid without recourse.

H.R. 4379 has been referred to the House Committee on Armed Services where it awaits further action.