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American Public Transportation Association

 House Passes Long-Term Authorization, Votes to Conference with Senate

11/5/2015

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed its version of the multi-year surface transportation authorization bill, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015. The House amended the Senate-passed version of H.R. 22, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, to pass their own authorization, substituting the text of the bill passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for the transportation portion of the bill, while retaining the majority of the Senate’s revenue provisions to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. Over 300 amendments were filed for this bill, and more than 100 were considered on the House floor. The final vote on the $340 billion bill was a widely bipartisan 363 – 64. Of the passage, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said, “Today the House voted to give our infrastructure and our economy a much needed shot in the arm.”

During consideration of the bill, the House overwhelmingly approved an amendment by Representatives Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) and Bill Huizenga (R-MI) which would strip two of the Senate financing provisions and replace it with a drawdown of the Federal Reserve’s capital surplus account. The amendment not only pays for the two provisions it cuts out, but adds billions in additional funding, potentially providing enough to fully fund the six years of authorizations.

Immediately after passage, the House voted to go to a Conference Committee with the Senate by a vote of 371 – 54. It is during this process that they will reconcile the differences between the separate bills passed by the House and Senate. The current authorization goes through November 20, however, the House is only in session for one week between now and the deadline, making another short-term extension possible.

The following amendments were offered and adopted on the House floor:

  • Herrera-Beutler (R-WA), Schrader (D-OR), Larsen, Rick (D-WA), Loebsack (D-IA), Turner (R-OH) - Amendment No. 57 - Eliminates the High Density State Apportionments under Sec. 5340 and redirects those funds to support an increase in Sec. 5339 Bus and Bus Facilities Discretionary grants. Adopted by voice vote.
  • Lipinski (D-IL), Nadler (D-NY), Dold (R-IL) - Amendment No. 42- Restores some flexibility for New Starts project funding. The amendment would restore the 80 percent Federal share for Capital Investment Grants, although it would leave in place a restriction in the bill that would limit Full Funding Grant Agreements for New Starts to 50 percent of the net capital cost of the project. It also includes language intended to ensure that Federal funds such as CMAQ, TIFIA and others could be used in conjunction with New Starts funds to support up to 80 percent of the net capital cost of a fixed-guideway capital investment project. It would also ensure that STP, CMAQ, TIFIA and other funds can continue to be used in conjunction with capital investment grant funds to support core capacity and small start projects, as allowed under current law. However, the bill continues to prohibit the use of STP funds for New Start projects. Adopted by voice vote.
  • Cohen (D-TN), LoBiondo (R-NJ), Langevin (D-RI) - Amendment No. 40 - Allows local transit agencies that have demonstrated ADA improvement activities the flexibility to use up to 20 percent of their Section 5307 funds for ADA costs, including operating costs. Adopted by voice vote.
  • Larsen, Rick (D-WA) - Amendment No. 13 - Creates an expedited process for smaller TIFIA loans backed by local revenue sources, so they can be accessible to smaller cities and counties. Adopted by voice vote.
  • Veasey (D-TX) - Amendment No. 41 - Clarifies that public demand response transit providers include services for seniors and persons with disabilities. Adopted by voice vote.
  • Lawrence (D-MI) - Amendment No. 45 - Requires the Interagency Coordination Council on Access and Mobility to submit a report to House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation containing the final recommendations of the Council. Adopted by voice vote.
  • Moore, Gwen (D-WI) - Amendment No. 46 - Requires a GAO study on the impact of the changes made by MAP-21 to the Jobs Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program on the ability of low-income individuals served by JARC to use public transportation to get to work. Adopted by voice vote.
  • Cummings (D-MD) - Amendment No. 55 - Requires submission of a report on technologies for identifying track defects to improve rail safety. Adopted by voice vote.
The following amendments were offered and defeated:

  • DeSaulnier (D-CA) – Amendment No. 5 –Directs states and metropolitan planning organizations to develop publicly available criteria to prioritize transportation projects. Amendment was defeated 171-252.
  • Culberson (R-TX) – Amendment No. 14 – Described as requiring a local transit entity to have a debt to equity ratio of at least 1:1 in order to be eligible for federal funds under the Capital Investment Grant Program. However, the amendment, as drafted, cited current operating ratio, “as such ratio is set forth by the Federal Transit Administration using the ratio of current assets to current liabilities.” Amendment was defeated 116 – 313.
  • Russell (R-OK) - Amendment No. 17 - Prohibits Federal financial assistance to establish, maintain, operate, or otherwise support a streetcar service. This prohibition does not apply to contracts entered into before the date of enactment of this Act. Rejected by voice vote.
  • DeSantis (R-FL) – Amendment No. 29 – Expressing the Sense of the Congress that Federal transportation programs should be limited and devolved to the states. Empowers States with authority for most taxing and spending for highway programs and mass transit programs, and for other purposes. Amendment was defeated 118 – 310.
The following amendments were filed, but not offered:

  • Comstock (R-VA), Babin (R-TX), Beyer (D-VA), Connolly (D-VA) - Amendment No. 15 - Amends 49 USC 5337(d)(1) to include those public transportation vehicles that operate on high-occupancy toll lanes that were converted from high-occupancy vehicle lanes during peak hours.
  • ​Lipinski (D-IL), Quigley (D-IL), Dold (R-IL), Davis, Rodney (R-IL) - Amendment No. 28 - Expresses the Sense of Congress that Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is an eligible activity under the RRIF program.
After votes, the following Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee were named to the conference committee: Bill Shuster (R-PA), John Duncan (R-TN), Sam Graves (R-MO), Candace Miller (R-MI), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Scott Perry (R-PA), Rob Woodall (R-GA), John Katko (R-NY), Brian Babin (R-TX), Cresent Hardy (R-NV), Garrett Graves(R-LA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Albio Sires (D-NJ). Other committees will be allowed to name conferees as well, which will happen at a later date.

APTA will produce further information on the House passed bill at a later date.
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