Negotiations Continue on Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill

Posted on: May 21st, 2012 by NADO Admin

NOTE TO NADO MEMBERS:  Negotiations are well under way at the staff level.  If you are concerned about the Regional Transportation Planning Organization issue or the MPO population issue, now is the time to contact your members of Congress that have been named as conferees (see below for link to conferee list).

SPECIFIC ACTION NEEDED: Urge your Senators and Representatives to support language for state DOT “cooperation” with non-metropolitan local officials in the statewide transportation planning process (including the establishment of Regional Transportation Planning Organizations for areas outside of MPOs), as part of the pending House-Senate conference committee on the federal surface transportation reauthorization bills (H.R. 4348 / S. 1813).

As reported in last week’s edition of NADO News, on May 8, the House-Senate conference committee on the surface transportation reauthorization bill kicked off its first official meeting with all 47 House and Senate conferees (33 Representatives and 14 Senators) gathering for the first time in one room. During the meeting, conferees were allowed time for opening statements, including five minutes for all committee chairs and three minutes for all other members.  The only official business conducted was the formality of naming Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) as the chairman of the conference committee and naming House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John Mica (R-FL) as vice chairman.

  • To view a list of Senators and Representatives that have been named to the conference committee, click here.
  • A video of the May 8 conference committee meeting is available here. (http://www NULL.c-span NULL.org/Events/Highway-Bill-Moves-to-Conference-Committee/10737430497/)
  • To view the NADO action alert on the surface transportation reauthorization bill, click here.

Over the next several weeks, the Congressional schedule will present a challenge to passing a final bill. The current extension (H.R. 4348) is set to expire on June 30, leaving only three weeks in which both the House and Senate are in session simultaneously. Although no second official meeting of the conferees has been announced, the earliest that a second meeting could occur would be the week of June 4.

At the staff level, lengthy meetings have already begun with “walk throughs,” where each chamber’s staff reviews and discusses provisions in their bill with the other chamber and explains what the provisions are intended to do. Although the first staff meetings were simply introductory and set the organizational framework for negotiations, more substantive meetings began this week and will continue next week.

On May 16, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent the conferees a letter giving the Obama Administration’s detailed views on the policy issues to be addressed in the surface transportation conference report. The four-page letter can be read here (http://goo NULL.gl/9GawS). The letter restates the earlier White House veto threat on the House-passed Keystone XL regulatory approval provision and expresses strong disapproval of the House-passed environmental streamlining provisions. The letter also notes that “S. 1813 and H.R. 4348 are the only bills passed by their respective chambers and therefore determine the scope of the conference,” although the letter does include Administration views on some elements of H.R. 7.

BACKGROUND ON THE HOUSE-SENATE CONFERENCE: Since the House Republican leadership was not able to secure the floor votes needed to pass the five-year, $260 billion package (H.R. 7) assembled by the Transportation and Infrastructure, Ways and Means, and other related committees, the House is technically using its three-month extension bill (H.R. 4348) as the conference vehicle with the Senate’s two-year, $109 billion measure (S. 1813). The House extension bill includes provisions that would accelerate approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and steer penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to Gulf Coast states, as well as some environmental streamlining provisions and other bill language that were part of the multi-year bill (H.R. 7).  However, the House-Senate negotiators may use some of the provisions included in the House’s multi-year bill (H.R. 7) as part of the House-Senate conference deliberations.

Since the 2005 SAFETEA-LU surface transportation law (P.L. 109-59) expired on September 30, 2009, most federal highway, transit, safety, and other related programs are now operating under the 9th short-term extension which expires on June 30, 2012.

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