Yesterday, House Speaker Boehner announced that the House would pass the long-delayed surface transportation authorization before the end of 2011. Funding for the bill will come, according to the Speaker, from new oil and gas exploration revenues. He and T&I Committee Chairman Mica have been hinting at this approach for the past few weeks, however, further details on the revenue source were not provided. House T&I Committee staff have confirmed that they are working to move the legislation quickly. Meanwhile, the Senate EPW committee has scheduled a markup of their reauthorization proposal for next Wednesday, November 9th. Should the EPW Committee move forward with their markup, the Senate Commerce Committee would most likely follow suit in December. A couple of notes, however. First, there’s a lot of ground for the Speaker to cover between now and passing a bill and this is far from a guarantee that it will be done. Further, even if it moves in the House, the Senate is another beast entirely. And speaking of the Senate, while Senator Boxer has scheduled a markup, until it happens, it’s not a sure thing. She has scheduled and cancelled markups in the past and as of last week no definitive ‘pay for’ had been found to make up the $12 billion funding hole. She has called finding that funding crucial to moving forward with her bill. It’s certainly positive news that everyone is now talking about completing a bill – but actually doing so is easier said than done.

Final Senate DOT Appropriations Bill Further Clarifies CVISN Relief Provision

Earlier this week, the Senate voted on and passed the a ‘minibus’ appropriations bill that included the transportation spending bill. In the bill, Senator Thune of South Dakota won passage of his amendment to further clarify the CVISN hold harmless provision as originally approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in its markup.

Original Language:

“Sec. 131. Notwhithstanding any other provision of law, States receiving funds for core or expanded deployment for core or expanded deployment activities under the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks program pursuant to sections 4101 (c)(4) and 4126 of Public Law 109-59 that did not meet award eligibility requirements set forth in section 4126; received grant amounts in excess of the maximum amounts specified in sections 4126 (c)(2) or 4126 (d)(3); or were awarded grants either prior to or after the expiration of the period of performance specified in a grant agreement, need not repay such funds.

The Thune amendment strikes: “need not repay such funds” and substitutes the following language:

“shall not be required to repay grant amounts received in error under such sections and, in addition, shall be reimbursed for core or expanded deployment expenditures such States made before the date of the enactment of this Act in reliance on a grant awarded in error under such sections.”

This will be an issue for House/Senate Conference to consider since the House bill does not contain such a provision.