Highway bill delays could extend into 2005
Jul 30, 2004 8:26 AM
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) predicts another highway bill extension could delay approval into 2005. The reauthorization bill was extended by the House and Senate in July for the fifth time to September 24 for highway programs and September 30 for motor carrier safety programs.
If no agreement is reached in September, the bill is likely to be set aside again until after the November elections, which means it will be debated in a lame-duck session of Congress, CVSA points out.
"The next extension of TEA-21 is likely to be for 12 months to avoid the uncertain month-to-month apportionment of funds to the states that has been the case for fiscal year 2004--and an accounting nightmare at both the state and federal level," according to CVSA information. "Accounting problems have most certainly delayed highway projects and safety programs."
The latest House proposal on the table for the six-year transportation bill provides $284 billion in guaranteed funding and $299 billion in highway trust fund contract authority, according to the update from CVSA.
CVSA said the most recent offer from the Senate is for $289 billion and $301 billion, respectively. The Senate has given considerable ground from its original bill that provided for $301 billion in guaranteed funding and $318 billion in trust fund. Some Senate members of the conference are saying that a bill providing anything less than the numbers in its original bill would not pass the Senate.
Because of the stalemate on the overall funding levels, House and Senate staffs have been largely unable to begin serious negotiations on most of the policy and program issues that need resolving between the two bills that include motor carrier safety issues of concern to CVSA. So far, the only significant issues voted on that affect CVSA members relate to intrastate operations of interstate motor carriers, jurisdiction of the commercial vehicle information systems and networks (CVISN), and background checks for drivers transporting hazardous materials:
•If a motor carrier is deemed unfit to operate in the state of its principal business, it will be deemed unfit to operate in interstate commerce.
•CVISN deployment programs will be transferred from the Federal Highway Administration to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The funding levels are yet to be determined.
•The Secretary will issue standards governing the background checks of drivers hauling hazardous materials and similar standards will apply to Mexican and Canadian drivers hauling hazardous materials and operating in the United States.
For more information, click here for the CVSA Web site and its contacts list at cvsa.org, or telephone CVSA at 202-775-1623.
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