House Passes Highway Funding Patch

Lawmakers continued their push for an extension to highway funding law the week of July 13 as the clock continues to tick down to its July 31 expiration.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 312-119 to extend Highway Trust Fund financing through Dec. 18.

H.R. 3038, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, would transfer $8 billion from the general fund into the Highway Trust Fund, offset by $5 billion in heightened tax code compliance and by applying $3 billion of savings from Transportation Security Administration fees.

Of importance to truckstops and travel plazas, the measure contained a provision introduced by Congressman Todd Young (R-Ind.) that would ensure that excise taxes on liquefied natural gas, compresssed natural gas and propane for highway use are levied at a rate consistent with their energy output relative to diesel and gasoline.

In the Senate, lawmakers have yet to settle on plan to extend current law by the July 31 expiration. Senate Republican leaders have favored a longer-term extension through the next presidential election. Details of their plans are expected in the coming days. 

While details of an extension get worked out, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation forged ahead on the overarching goal of a long-term bill. The Committee voted 13-11 to advance the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015 (S. 1732) to the full Senate. S. 1732 would authorize transportation funding for six years and contains a number of changes to trucking industry oversight.

The measure takes several steps aimed at improving the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability data quality, including requiring FMCSA to conduct a comprehensive study of the CSA program as well as its data and scoring. It also would remove public scores until a corrective action plan has been published and implemented.

Additionally, the bill would allow hair testing as a method of satisfying drug testing requirements and directs FMCSA to establish a six-year pilot program to allow states to “enter into interstate compacts to allow for appropriately licensed drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 to travel in interstate commerce.”

The Senate Commerce bill is now a companion piece to the DRIVE Act, the six-year, $275 billion highway bill approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in June.



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