In June, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, a six-year reauthorization of surface transportation programs. The bill would fund surface transportation programs at $278 billion, boosting overall funding by an average of 3% annually over current levels. It includes $2 billion in annual funding for a new federal freight program and creates a new discretionary program entitled the Assistance for Major Projects Program.
Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee approved on a party line vote their title of surface transportation legislation, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015. The Senate Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over reauthorization of highway safety, consumer protection, and freight transportation. The bill includes new vehicle safety regulations under the jurisdiction of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an extension of the deadline for implementation of railroad positive train control, and authorization of freight investment grants.
This afternoon, the Senate was scheduled to vote on a motion to proceed to begin consideration of the DRIVE Act. That procedural vote failed to pass but could be considered again in the coming days. Full details of the two key remaining components of the legislation, the transit title (under the jurisdiction of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee) and the financing title (under the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee) have not yet been made public. However, it appears that the duration of the bill will be shortened from the originally proposed length of six years to three years. A six-year bill would have required approximately $90 billion in new revenue. Senate leadership, it appears, was not able to come to agreement on a revenue source of that size and so the bill’s duration has been scaled back.
Today’s vote, which requires 60 votes to pass, will allow the Senate to begin debate on the DRIVE Act. A number of amendments, both related and unrelated to surface transportation, are expected to be offered over the next week (or perhaps even longer).
It is important to note that the current extension of MAP-21 and funding for the Highway Trust Fund expire on July 31. The House of Representatives voted last week to extend funding for the Highway Trust Fund through December 18 by transferring $8 billion from the general fund offset with a patchwork of tax compliance and revenue measures. The extension is designed to keep the trust fund solvent for the next several months in hopes that in the interim, Congress will be able to pull together a comprehensive tax overhaul package that would provide revenue for a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill.
NADO legislative staff will be tracking developments on consideration of the DRIVE Act closely and providing periodic updates to members.
If you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact Susan Howard at [email protected] or 202.624.8590.