Last week Congress passed and the President signed legislation (a continuing resolution) to continue funding USDOT and other federal agencies and programs through December 18th. Momentum seems to be building to pass an omnibus bill that would fund USDOT and the federal government through the rest of FY 2011 (Sept 30 2011). The draft earmarks would almost certainly be included. However the situation is fluid and it's entirely possible another continuing resolution lasting into February or March could be passed.

No action was been taken on SAFETEA-LU, which is scheduled to expire on 12/31. The House passed a 3-month extension of the FAA authorization bill thorough March 31st, 2011. It's likely the Senate will do the same.

Congress will continue to work on legislation addressing expiring tax cuts, expiring extended unemployment benefits, immigration, a Medicare payment issue, a New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, some energy and climate issues, and a couple of other tax issues.

Status reports: (Appropriations and Aviation updated):

Surface Transportation Authorization:
SAFETEA-LU is extended through December 31, 2010, through the H.I.R.E. Act (HR 2847). The legislation restores funding rescissions enacted at the end of FY 2009, and provides the authorized funding level for 2010. The Senate EPW staff are drafting their version of an authorization bill, while the House released its draft bill in 2009. USDOT intends to release its authorization proposal in February, though there have been rumors of a later release. President Obama announced a $50B "front loaded" proposal for infrastructure improvements.

Rep. John Mica, the republican who will chair the House Transportation Committee, says folks who think Congress will increase the gas tax are "smoking some kind of funny weed." He made similar comments last spring, noting that there will be only a three to five month window in 2011 to pass a transportation bill. "Gas-Tax Revamp Pushed to Fund Transportation Projects," WSJ

The current continuing resolution funds USDOT and other federal agencies through December 18th. House and Senate appropriators are working on bills that would extend funding into next spring, or through the end of the fiscal year (9/30/11). The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved a FY 2011 spending bill in July, and the full House approved a FY 2011 spending bill in July. The House bill contained significantly fewer earmarks that past approps bills, including the fewest number for WA state in over a decade.

The two combined bills designate $231,404 for 58 projects in WA state.

Aviation Authorization:
The FAA authorization is extended through December 31st. The House has passed a three-month extension through March 31st, 2001. Both chambers have passed legislation; House and Senate negotiators have been unable to reach a final agreement. The FAA has been operating under a series of short-term extensions since the authorization bill expired at the end of fiscal 2007.

Climate Change:
Some environmental groups are adjusting their tactics for the incoming Congress. The House will have a different approach to climate change and energy issues. Testimony is now available from The Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee recently hearing titled "A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response"

Last October, prominent liberal & conservative think tanks joined to release a new climate change proposal. President Obama announced he intends to put the full weight of the Presidency behind climate change legislation in 2011. He'll pursue legislation in "chunks" instead of one big bill as was pursued in 2010. The House passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill in June 2009. Similar legislation remains stalled in the Senate over opposition from Republicans and a handful of Democrats. Prospects for passage this year are slim. Congress may again vote on delaying the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for two years. Previous votes to delay the authority have failed.

Posted On 12/06/2010 08:48:00 AM by Larry Ehl |

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