House and Senate Prepare for Conference
Last week, the House and Senate agreed to go to conference on their respective transportation bills – S 1813, which passed the Senate in March, and HR 4348, a 90-day extension of the current program, along with a handful of other policy provisions, including the Keystone pipeline language as well as environmental streamlining language, which passed in April.
House leaders are using the extension as a ‘shell’ bill in order to have something germane to conference with S 1813. The path forward here is unclear, however. Typically, the House and Senate pass bills that are similar in length and scope. This time however, the House bill addresses practically none of the policy included in the Senate bill. This leaves the House in a much weaker negotiating position than the Senate and raises questions on what will happen to House proposals in HR 7 (the dead House bill) that do not have some version of a counterpart in the Senate bill. Conferees were named and the first meeting is scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, May 8th.
It certainly is possible that a bill could be passed before the election; however, many still believe the odds are slim. The inclusion of the environmental policy and the Keystone Pipeline, both of which drew veto threats from the White House, indicate that conference could be particularly difficult. Further, it’s hard to see the conferees coming up with something that will get the necessary votes in the House, unless those votes come from the Democrats, but it is unlikely that House leadership will want to move a bill that will only pass with Democrat support.
On Thursday of this week, CVSA sent a letter to conferees, expressing the Alliance’s position on a number of issues that will be discussed during the conference. That letter is attached.
Senate T-HUD Committee Moves Forward on 2013 Appropriations
Two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its FY 2013 transportation appropriations bill. The bill contains a slight increase in FMCSA grant funding, up from $307,000,000, to $308,624,000:
- MCSAP – $213,624,000
- General MCSAP – $168,000,000
- New Entrant – $29,000,000
- High Priority – $16,624,000
- CDL – $30,000,000
- Border – $32,000,000
- PRISM – $5,000,000
- CVISN – $25,000,000
- Safety Data – $3,000,000
In addition to the $308 million, the committee provides $16,000,000 for “border facility improvements and information technology modernization efforts for FMCSA operations and programs.”
The bill also contains a vehicle weight exemption for a portion of Highway 41 in Wisconsin, which will soon be re-designated as interstate lane miles. The exemption grandfathers in any vehicles currently operating over the federal limit when the change takes place. As a compromise to the exemption, which saw opposition, the Committee agreed to include the Size & Weight study language from S.1813 in the appropriation measure.