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 Legislative Updates

March 29, 2012

Congress Approves 90-Day Surface Transportation Extension

Democrats in both chambers had voiced strong opposition to another extension and urged the House to take up and pass H.R. 14, the House version of S. 1813 (MAP-21), the Senate-passed bill that modifies and extends transit and highway programs through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. House Republican leaders have opposed the Senate’s two-year bill and pushed for a 90-day extension that gives them time to redraft and build support for passage of their own five-year bill.

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Republican staff have stated that a revised five-year House bill will differ from the earlier version in that it will preserve current law under which a specific portion of motor fuels tax revenues are deposited into the Mass Transit Account (MTA) of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and dedicated to programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Staff has also said that the revised House bill will preserve the existing MTA, which funds FTA programs, and return the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program and other current Federal Highway Administration programs to the Highway Account of the HTF.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has stated that the House will produce a revised version of its multi-year bill upon return from the forthcoming district work period.


March 23, 2012

House to Consider Three-Month Surface Transportation Extension Next Week; Will Also Consider Budget Resolution

On Thursday March 22, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) introduced a three-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, the current surface transportation law. The House is expected to take up the legislation the week of March 26.

The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, H.R. 4239, is considered a “clean” extension of Highway Trust Fund (including Mass Transit Account) expenditure authority, taxes, and highway and transit funding authorizations through June 30, 2012. The legislation provides for distribution of funds at the same rate as under the existing 2012 Department of Transportation (DOT) Appropriations Act and the current short-term extension (Public Law 112-30), which expires March 31. Please click here for the text of the bill.

If passed, it will be the ninth extension of authorization since SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009. Failure to pass an extension of existing law or enact new authorizing legislation before the current extension expires would lead to a shutdown of the programs and cease tax deposits into the Highway Trust Fund.

Earlier this week, House Democrats attempted to force consideration of a House version of S. 1813, the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (MAP-21), the bipartisan two-year bill that passed the Senate on March 7 by a vote of 74-22. Representative Timothy Bishop (D-NY) had introduced H.R. 14, an identical version of MAP-21, and during consideration of an unrelated health care bill, House Democrats attempted to force a vote on the Senate-passed legislation. The move failed on a procedural vote.

It is unclear how or when the House three-month extension bill will be considered in the House next week.  The House Rules Committee indicates that the bill may be taken up under a procedure known as “Suspension of the Rules,” which means that two-thirds of the House must vote in favor of the measure in order for it to pass – requiring a bi-partisan majority.   As of Friday, it remained unclear whether this would be the procedure followed in the House, and whether House Democrats would support the measure.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has called for passage of the Senate bill, but has also suggested that if an extension must be passed, that it should be for a 45 day term to encourage swift action on a longer-term bill.

House Budget Resolution to Be Considered in House; Senate Democrats File Resolution “Deeming” Fiscal Year 2013 Spending Levels

Next week, the House will also take up the Budget Resolution passed by the House Budget Committee this week by a vote of 19-18. The Resolution would cut discretionary spending in 2013 another $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion level included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was signed into law as part of the debt ceiling and deficit control agreement reached last year.

The Budget Resolution includes projections of deep cuts to budget authority for transportation programs in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 and beyond. Additionally, the budget envisions specific cuts to current and planned high-speed and intercity rail projects, but policy of that nature would have to be legislated by the authorization and appropriations committees. In a departure from last year’s budget resolution, the House Budget includes provisions allowing for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to work with the Ways and Means Committee and other committees to find additional revenues or offsets to pay for the pending surface transportation authorization bill. The House Budget also proposes to reprioritize the spending cuts planned to take place under the sequestration process set forth under the Budget Control Act.

In the Senate, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad was taking a substantially different approach from the House Budget Committee, arguing that spending levels for FY 2013 had already been set through the Budget Control Act as part of last year’s debt agreement. Chairman Conrad announced Tuesday that he had filed a “deeming” resolution (as statutorily required under the Budget Control Act) adhering to the levels established in last year’s agreement, which will enable the Appropriations Committee to move forward in writing the twelve appropriations bills that fund the Federal government in FY 2013. Conrad’s statement also indicated that the deeming resolution sets budget enforcement levels for the five-year window through 2017, and the 10-year window through 2022.

The Budget Resolution is a required part of the congressional budget process set forth in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Although it also does not have the force of law, the budget resolution is a central part of the budget process in Congress, as it represents an agreement between the House and Senate that establishes budget priorities, and defines the parameters for all subsequent budgetary actions. The spending, revenue, and public debt legislation necessary to implement decisions agreed to in the budget resolution are subsequently enacted separately.

For questions on these issues, please contact Brian Tynan of APTA’s Government Affairs Department at (202) 496-4897, or btynan@apta.com.


March 14, 2012

U.S. Senate Approves Surface Transportation Authorization Bill with Strong Bipartisan Vote

This afternoon, the United States Senate passed S.1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) - the Senate’s two-year, $109 billion surface transportation authorization by a vote of 74 – 22. Over the past few days, APTA members present at this year’s legislative conference discussed the legislation and pending amendments, including an expected manager’s amendment.

The text of the manager’s amendment was finalized late last night. However, while most of the language does not greatly alter the bill there were a few components of the manager’s amendment of which APTA members need to be aware:

  • The amendment includes a change to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) definition under the capital investment grants (New Starts/Small Starts) program.  This change includes eligibility for BRT projects that have a "substantial" portion of operations within a dedicated right-of-way during peak hours, so long as the right-of-way is semi-dedicated for transit usage and physical elements are in place that reduce vehicle travel time and increase reliability.  The new definition applies to future projects, and according to the committee staff, the change does not affect formulas;
  • It provides for a new bus discretionary program, authorizing $75 million in general funds to serve as another source of assistance for bus capital needs beyond the new formula funds the bill makes available;
  • The amendment adjusts language providing small bus system operators in urbanized areas with flexibility to use 5307 formula funds for operating assistance in a tiered system, with systems operating under 75 buses able to use up to 75 percent of their capital assistance towards operating costs, and operators of 76-100 buses able to use up to 50 percent.

As APTA expressed in letters to the Senate and House earlier this week, we are eager to see both chambers move forward on surface transportation authorization bills. The strong bipartisan vote in favor of passage of the Senate bill provides continued momentum behind efforts to see a bill enacted this year.

Action in the House awaits decisions by the House Leadership on the direction they choose to proceed – whether they will continue to proceed with their five-year proposal, or revert to a shorter term bill, more closely patterned after the Senate bill. The House returns to Washington next week and APTA will continue to monitor that situation as it develops.

 

Action Alert

APTA Members should contact their U.S. Senators who voted for S.1813, the MAP-21 legislation and thank them for advancing the surface transportation authorization bill and for their support for investment in public transportation.


March 2, 2012

Action on House-Senate Transportation Bills Progresses Slowly

Little action occurred this week on transportation authorization bills in the House and Senate. 

In the Senate, Democrat and Republican leaders agreed to a vote on issues related to administration rules on contraception and the vote was defeated.  Senate leaders had also accepted a package of 37 amendments to the bill, which will be voted on at noon on Tuesday, March 6, but after that vote, there is no agreement on limiting debate on additional extraneous amendments, including potential amendments on U.S. aid to Egypt, the Keystone XL pipeline, and other issues.  Senate leaders from both parties are still trying to work out an agreement on these votes so that they can move back to consideration of the underlying transportation authorization bill and germane amendments to that bill. 

In the House, Speaker John Boehner pulled the bill from the House Floor after Republican members balked at moving the bill forward for a variety of reasons.  A number of members opposed the proposal to eliminate dedicated revenues for the federal transit program, while others objected to the new spending in the bill.  Still others had concerns about proposals to offset funding with expanded oil drilling or increased federal employee contributions to pensions.  Earlier this week, there was discussion about shortening the length of the House bill from a five-year bill to either a three-year or two-year bill.  However, reports today indicate that there is no clear consensus on what length bill should be brought back to the House.  At this point, House leaders are trying to reach agreement on the length of a bill and to move that bill back through the Rules committee and on to the House Floor as soon as possible.


February 17, 2012

House-Senate Consideration of Transportation Bills Remain Stalled

The U.S. House of Representatives completed debate and approved the Energy title of the surface transportation authorization last night. As amended on the House Floor, the title would permit expanded oil exploration and use revenues from that exploration to offset spending in the highway title of the bill.  An amendment was also adopted that permits the XL pipeline to be advanced.  The House did not return to the transportation bill, but did approve the conference agreement that extends the payroll tax holiday, extends unemployment insurance under certain circumstances, and addresses Medicare doctor payments.

In the Senate, Democrat and Republican leaders continue to negotiate on what amendments that are not related to the transportation authorization bill will be made in order, and the terms under which they will be considered.  A cloture motion is expected when the Senate returns after the President’s Day district work period that would limit debate and prevent a filibuster on the bill.  The Senate also approved the payroll tax bill today.   

APTA Members need to contact House Members while they are in their districts next week and urge them to support the Nadler-LaTourette amendment to preserve the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund and the motor fuel tax revenues that are deposited into the Mass Transit Account.  Please urge Senators to advance the transportation authorization bill and avoid delays caused by amendments that are unrelated to the transportation bill. 


February 16, 2012

House Delays Consideration of Transportation Bill; Vote on Dedicated Funding for Transit Remains in Question

As announced yesterday, leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have decided to delay consideration of the transportation and tax titles of the surface transportation authorization bill until Congress returns from the President’s Day district work period on February 27.  In delaying consideration of these parts of the bill, the leadership also cancelled the Rules Committee meeting previously scheduled for yesterday, where the Rules Committee planned to make decisions on which amendments – including those on dedicated funding for transit and other transit issues – would be considered on the House Floor.  The House is currently debating parts of the bill that would raise revenues through expanded oil exploration and it could also debate parts of the bill related to changing federal pensions to offset transportation spending authorized in the bill. 

Separately, the House is also expected to vote on the conference agreement to extend the payroll tax holiday, extend unemployment insurance, and address payments under Medicaid. 

APTA members need to continue to urge their Representatives to support a rule that allows consideration of the Nadler-LaTourette-Blumenauer-Gibson-Crowley-Turner-Rangle-Grimm-Lewis-Fitzpatrick-Norton-Hayworth-Lipinski-Dold on the House Floor and to support the amendment to restore dedicated transit funding when it is offered. 

Senate Transportation Bill Also Stalled over Non-Transportation Issues

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, leaders are trying to begin consideration of its version of the surface transportation authorization, which is being blocked by Senators who want an opportunity to offer amendments on issues such as cutting off U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, the Keystone XL pipeline, and several other issues unrelated to transportation.  Debate and amendments on the transportation portions of the bill is not expected to occur in the Senate until after Congress returns from its recess on February 27.  Like the House, the Senate is expected to act on conference agreement on the Payroll Tax bill before it leaves for the week.


February 15, 2012

Speaker Boehner Delays Completion of Transportation Bill Until After President’s Day Recess;  House of Representatives to Proceed with Floor Consideration of Energy Provisions; House Rules Committee Will Still Meet Today at 2 p.m.

Today, Speaker Boehner announced the U.S. House of Representatives would not complete the consideration of H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 until after Congress returns from the President’s Day district work period.  The House Rules Committee produced a rule for consideration of the energy and pension provisions of the legislative package last night.  The energy related provisions will continue to be considered on the House floor today.  The Rules Committee also plans to meet at 2 pm today to discuss the rule for consideration of the underlying transportation and revenue (Ways and Means) sections of the bill and the amendments that will be allowed.

APTA needs you to urge your Members of Congress to support the opportunity for the Nadler-LaTourette-Blumenauer-Gibson-Crowley-Turner-Rangel-Grimm-Lewis-Fitzpatrick-Norton-Hayworth-Lipinski-Dold amendment to receive a vote on the House floor. APTA also asks that you urge your Members of Congress to support the amendment when it is considered.

U.S. Senate Ready to Debate Bipartisan Surface Transportation Authorization Bill

Late last week the U.S. Senate, by a vote of 85 to 11, agreed to a motion to begin consideration of S.1813, ''Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act'' (MAP-21) – the Senate’s surface transportation authorization bill. As the Senate moves one step closer to passing this long-awaited legislation, APTA applauds the bipartisan consensus, especially with regard to the Senate Banking Committee’s public transportation title.

The Senate’s legislation maintains dedicated financing for public transportation initiatives at Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 levels for the length of the bill. With the current extension of federal surface transportation programs set to expire, APTA asks that you contact your Senators and urge them to move forward with the bill and avoid delays caused by issues unrelated to transportation. 


February 14, 2012

The House of Representatives’ Rules Committee is scheduled to meet today (2/14) at 5 p.m. to determine which amendments will be considered when the bill goes to the House floor.  There are nearly 300 amendments including the industry’s key issue, an amendment by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and other Members of Congress that would restore motor fuels taxes going to the Mass Transit Account.    The Rules Committee will determine whether this amendment gets to the floor for a vote.  It is critical for APTA members to call their Congress Members and encourage them to push for the Rules Committee to vote to allow this amendment. 

The Banking Committee’s public transit title is currently the pending amendment in the Senate.  Titles from the Senate Finance Committee and Senate, Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee may also be considered during the course of the week. 

President Obama released his FY2013 budget proposal yesterday, which includes a six-year $476 billion surface transportation authorization bill. The budget proposes to fund public transit at $10.8 billion in FY 2013, an increase of $233 million over current levels. The proposal also includes $47 billion over six years for high-speed and intercity passenger rail. APTA President Michael Melaniphy participated, on behalf of APTA members, in calls with DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff as they outlined the President’s proposal.


February 13, 2012

No action is expected today by either the House or Senate on the surface transportation legislation.

President Obama unveiled his FY2013 budget today.  The budget proposes to fund public transit at $10.8 billion, an increase of  $233 million over current levels.  The administration also unveiled its six-year authorization proposal that would increase federal funding for public transit, for a total of $107 billion over the six years through FY2018.  The proposal also includes $47 billion over six years for high-speed and intercity passenger rail.

All amendments for the House bill (HR 7) are due by today at 11 a.m. and Rules Committee is scheduled to meet late Tuesday (2/14) to debate how many and which amendments (Rules Committee Consideration of HR7) can come up when the bill goes to House Floor, which could be as early as Wednesday (2/15).

In the Senate, there will also be lots of action of its 2-year bill this week.  The Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee’s public transit title needs to be added to the bill this week, as do titles from the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.  Amendments are expected to be offered throughout the week.

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