TEA-21 Extended for Another Eight Months
On September 30, the Congress passed, and the President signed into law, an eight month extension of the TEA-21 Highway Act. As reported in our News Update of October 1, this extended the current hours-of-service rules until FMCSA develops a new set of rules, or September 30, 2005, whichever comes first.
The extension bill became necessary because House-Senate conferees were unable to resolve an impasse over the total amount of funding for highways, transit, and highway and motor carrier safety programs over the next 6 years. The Senate passed bill provided for $318 billion in overall contract authority (from the Highway Trust Fund) and $301 billion in guaranteed funding. The House bill provided for $299 billion in overall contract authority and $284 billion in guaranteed funding.
Reauthorization Action Possible in Lame-duck Session, but More Likely Next Year
There still is a possibility that work on the Reauthorization bill could be completed in a post-election lame-duck session of Congress that is scheduled for the week of November 15. The outcome of the Presidential election and which party controls the House and Senate will be determining factors. If President Bush is re-elected and the Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, the chances of completing a reauthorization bill in the lame-duck session of Congress are increased. However, if Kerry wins or Democrats win control of the Senate, then it is almost certain that the reauthorization bill will be held over until next year when the new Congress convenes. Historically, the Congress generally does not complete work on major legislation unless it is under the pressure of a deadline which, under the eight-month extension, is Memorial Day, 2005.
If Reauthorization is carried over to the new Congress, the existing bills will be re-introduced in the Senate and House (the $318 billion bill in the Senate and the $299 billion bill in the House) early next year. Neither the Senate nor the House plan on redrafting their respective bills before they are re-introduced. However, once the bills are re-introduced, they again will have to be cleared by the respective authorizing Committees in both the Senate and House and be subject to a vote on the floor of both Chambers. Then the Conference process must begin again to produce a final “deal”.
Even though the existing bills will be re-introduced, they will again have to go through the Committee process, which always opens the door for both policy and funding changes. This means that CVSA will need to monitor this process closely to make sure our motor carrier safety recommendations are retained.
II. Fiscal Year 2005 Appropriations Legislation
The 2005 Transportation Appropriations bill has passed the House, but in the Senate, the bill is still awaiting floor action. Therefore, funding for FMCSA and state MCSAP and other state grant programs will be continued at 2004 levels under a Continuing Resolution at least through November 20 of this year. As mentioned earlier, the Congress is returning for a lame-duck session the week of November 15 to hopefully complete work on the DOT and other government departments and agency funding bills for 2005. All pending appropriations bills will very likely be rolled into one omnibus spending bill for final passage. The Conference process, at least at the staff level, to reconcile differences between the House and Senate transportation appropriations bills, if it is not already underway, will occur between now and the lame-duck session.
New Motor Carrier Safety Grant Programs Continue to Be Funded
Even though the Congress has not yet passed a Reauthorization bill and TEA-21 remains in effect, both the House and Senate Appropriations bills continue to fund several new important motor carrier safety programs as was the case in the 2004 Appropriations bill. They are the CDL, border, and the new entrant state grant programs. The lack of a Reauthorization bill does keep a ceiling on the core state inspections grants however. Both the House and Senate 2005 Appropriations Committee Reports are attached and you are encouraged to read them. Due to the lack of Reauthorization, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees fund some of the state grant programs in different ways. For example, the Senate funds the new entrant program through FMCSA’s Administrative Account. The House funds the CDL grant program through FMCSA’s Administrative Account, while the Senate funds it as a MCSAP line item. But no matter how the programs are funded, the money appropriated can only be spent in the form of state grants. A summary of the major state grant programs important to CVSA members are as follows.
|Grants||2004 Enhanced||2005 House||2005 Senate|
|State Core Grants||$129,560,000||$134,500,000||$133,350,000|
|High Priority Grants||8,450,000||9,400,000||8,450,000|
|Training … Administration||2,051,000||2,100,000||2,100,000|
|CDL State Grants||21,000,000||23,000,000||18,000,000|
|State Border Grants||32,000,000||33,000,000||33,000,000|
Both the House and Senate look upon the new entrant program as one to be implemented by the states and limit federal responsibility to oversight and managing third party auditors in those states that do not fully participate in the activity. The funding for state new entrant programs is consistent with needs outlined by the states in a CVSA survey conducted by CVSA in 2002.
With respect to the CDL program, specific reference to CVSA can be found on page 50 in the House Report. It recommends that FMCSA should continue working with AAMVA, CVSA, lead MCSAP agencies and state licensing agencies to improve all aspects of the CDL program. It also recommends that FMCSA should consider sponsoring another pilot project involving law enforcement and driver licensing agencies to explore new and innovative ways to make sure drivers who have been convicted of a disqualifying offense do not operate commercial vehicles during the period of suspension or revocation.
Specific reference to CVSA can be found in the Senate Report on page 69 with respect to the Outreach and Education Program. The Committee provided $2 million to support a public outreach and evaluation program targeted to reduce the number and severity of commercial/passenger vehicle crashes. It recommends that FMCSA work closely CVSA and NHTSA on a program to develop and test improved outreach and enforcement countermeasures to reduce truck and passenger car interactions in the car/truck zone.
A. Utility Hours-of-Service Exemptions
1. With Respect to Reauthorization
As reported in earlier Legislative Updates, the utility industry managed to get language in the original drafts of both the House and Senate reauthorization bills when they were being considered in the respective Committees last year that would totally preclude FMCSA from regulating the utility industry with respect to driver hours-of-service. As mentioned early in this update, the House-Senate Conference has been largely concentrating on overall funding issues and did not get down to the level of negotiating issues such as the utility provision. We have had indications from some Conference staff members that this issue would be discussed even though the exemption language is in both bills and therefore is technically not an issue for the Conference.
With Reauthorization very likely on hold until the new Congress convenes next year, the total h-o-s relief sought by the utility industry continues to be deferred. In addition, it may be somewhat easier to fight this provision in the next Congress after the elections. One promising sign along these lines emerged last week in connection with the eight month extension legislation. We understand the utility industry tried to get the language that is now in the reauthorization bills (total exemption) included in the extension bill, however, objections were raised and the effort failed. We will continue to work this issue as the Reauthorization process continues either in the lame-duck session of the Congress in November or in the new Congress next year.
2. With Respect to the Apropriations Bills and the Use of Federal Funds to Enforce the Current H-O-S Rules
The 2004 Appropriations bill prohibited the use of federal funds to enforce the current hos rules against utility companies.
During the House Committee consideration of the 2005 Appropriations bill, the Committee reinstated the 2004 exemption from the current rules, and, under pressure from the utility industry, added a provision that would prohibit the use of federal funds to enforce any h-o-s rule against the utility companies meaning the old rules (if the Congress had not overridden the Circuit Court in the eight month extension bill) and any new rule that FMCSA might issue pursuant to the July 16 Court decision.
However, this additional provision was stricken from the bill when it was being debated on the floor of the House. Congressman Blumenauer (D-Oregon) raised a point of order objecting to this provision on the grounds that it impeded safety and the point of order was sustained. And the Senate Appropriations Committee included only the 2004 language prohibiting the use of federal funds to enforce the current rules and rejected efforts by the utility industry to extend the provision to “any” h-o-s rules. The result is that technically, the provision extending the exemption to “any” h-o-s rules should not be an issue for the House-Senate Conference on the bill since it is not now in either bill. So far, our efforts have resulted in a setback for the utility industry. However, we still anticipate efforts by the utility companies to try and get it restored in Conference. We are monitoring the situation closely.
If this exemption is not restored in Conference, then the only exemption remaining is the one from the current rules. Therefore, if sometime during FY 2005, FMCSA issues a new rule pursuant to the July 16 Court decision, the utility companies would not be exempt from it and federal funds could be used to enforce the rule against them.
When the House Appropriations bill was being considered on the floor of the House, it was amended by a sizeable vote to include a provision removing the two-year grace period for requiring carriers (Mexican and Canadian) to prove their trucks were manufactured to United States’ FMVSS standards when they cross the border into the United States. All newly registered carriers, or carriers seeking to add new trucks to their fleets, will have to show the FMVSS certification, and would not have a grace period. This provision is almost sure to end up in the final 2005 Transportation Appropriations bill.