Reauthorization Bill Passes Senate
By a vote of 76-21, the Senate has passed a $318 billion Surface Transportation bill that includes reauthorization of highway and motor carrier safety programs. The motor carrier safety provisions were extensively reported in CVSA’s January 13 Legislative Update. However, just before the bill was passed, it was amended to include a provision addressing the shortage of long-term parking for commercial motor vehicle drivers on the National Highway System. This issue has been of concern to CVSA and we worked with the American Trucking Associations, the Truckload Carriers Association, and the National Association of Truck Stop Operators to get the measure included in the bill.
The Senate bill’s funding level is $62 billion above the $256 billion level in the Bush Administration’s proposal. The President has said he will veto any bill with a funding level above that amount. However, the 76-21 Senate vote would seem to indicate enough support to override a veto.
The reauthorization picture in the House is still uncertain. The proposed bill has a funding level that’s even higher than the $318 billion in the Senate bill. While the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has not yet formally taken up the House bill, there are reports that, at the request of the House Leadership, the Committee will work to scale back its total authorized amount closer to what is in the Senate-passed bill.
The process and timing for Committee action and House passage are not yet known. Since the House obviously won’t make the February 29 deadline (when the 5-month extension of TEA-21 expires), it passed another 4-month extension of REA-21 to June 30. However, the Senate may not agree with the 4-month period, preferring a shorter extension in order to put more pressure on the House to act on a long-term bill. We will keep you informed on the progress of the House effort.
As indicated in our January 13 Legislative Update, CVSA’s basic reauthorization goals are met in both the Senate-passed bill and the House-proposed bill. However, efforts will be ongoing to keep utility and agricultural industry hours-of-service exemptions out of the House bill.