SAFETEA-LU Extended to March 31, 2012

SAFETEA-LU Extended to March 31, 2012

Late yesterday, Congress passed legislation extending SAFETEA-LU six months until March 31, 2012.  It was essentially a “clean” bill, but it does redistribute funding in the state motor carrier safety grant programs by cutting the CDLIS Modernization program, which had been funded at $8 million annually, and redistributing $5 million to the CDL grant program and $3 million to the basic MCSAP grant program.  The Appropriations Committee had actually made this change in the 2010 FY Appropriations bill.

This extension merely sets the authorizing limits, or contract authority, for the next six months.  Actual funding obligation limits will be determined by the 2012 Appropriations bill that has not yet cleared the Congress.  As previously reported, the House Appropriations DOT/THUD Subcommittee passed their version of the 2012 funding bill last week.  However, a final 2012 Appropriations bill will not be completed by September 30, 2012 in either the House or Senate, necessitating a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will likely expire sometime in mid-November.

As reported last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee completed its work on the FY2012 Appropriations bill that funded motor carrier safety grant programs at the maximum authorized levels of SAFETEA-LU except for the $8 million a year CDLIS Modernization program which was cut. However, unlike the six-month Extension bill, the Subcommittee bill did not redistribute the $8 million to the CDL grant program and the MCSAP program.

In the meantime, Congress is expected to take action on an Appropriations CR next week.  Indications are that it will basically be a “clean” CR.  There will no cuts in programs funded out the Highway Trust Fund. Motor carrier safety grant programs will continue to be funded at current levels through at least November. However a 1.5% across the board recission is expected for all DOT discretionary programs which are not funded out the Highway Trust Fund.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee May Provide CVISN Relief

The Senate Appropriations DOT/THUD Subcommittee has tentatively scheduled their markup session for the 2012 Appropriations bill for next Wednesday.  Their bill would then be conferenced with the House bill  in time for inclusion in the Omnibus Appropriations bill, which presumably will be taken up Congress before the expiration of the CR in November.  There are indications that the Senate Subcommittee bill will contain language holding those states harmless with respect to CVISN grant money that has been either obligated or spent under an FMCSA allocation program that has been called into question by a recent GAO report.

We will report on the Subcommittee’s action as well as the CR later next week.

Senate Commerce Committee Motor Carrier Safety Bill on Hold

Sen. Lautenberg, Chairman of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, had been expected to introduce his final version of a motor carrier safety bill this month to be followed by a full Commerce Committee markup.  This action has temporarily been put on hold in view of the passage of the 6-month SAFETEA-LU extension.  CVSA has provided extensive input to the Committee as it worked on the final draft.  Lautenberg’s bill is a very comprehensive bill that will likely deal with issues of importance to CVSA such as Maintenance-of-Effort (MOE), roadside bus inspections, motor carrier safety grant flexibility, motor and passenger carrier registration, new entrants and EOBR requirements.