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Legislative Affairs: Understanding the Legislative Process

Both the Texas Legislature and the United States Congress address many important transportation issues that affect the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Transportation and air quality in the North Central Texas region are impacted by legislative decisions at the State and federal levels.

NCTCOG staff regularly update policy and technical committee members, transportation partners and others interested in monitoring legislative initiatives related to the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) legislative priorities.

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Legislative Updates

Summary of Recent Legislative News and Action
February 16, 2018




The President released his proposed FY19 budget this week, along with his Infrastructure Plan. While the President’s budget calls a 10 percent overall increase in spending over FY 2017, the additional funding is largely allocated to defense, while making a 19 percent cut to the Department of Transportation. The Administration is promoting the Infrastructure Plan to make up the difference. Similar to last year, the proposed budget would eliminate the TIGER program and transit’s Capital Investment Program (New Starts). Amtrak would also see its federal support cut in half. Additionally, the budget would spin off air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration to a new nonprofit entity.



While the President’s proposed FY19 budget was going to print, Congress approved both a two-year budget deal on February 9 that sets higher spending levels and a six-week stopgap funding bill that keeps funding for most programs at 2017 levels through March 23. The extension gives lawmakers time to write a detailed appropriations measure in coming weeks. The budget allocates an extra 20 billion to transportation and infrastructure projects but does not detail specific categories for the funding. The deal also suspends the debt limit through March 1, 2019, includes disaster relief funding, and extends some tax breaks.

  • $295.6 billion in increased spending caps on discretionary appropriations over the two-year 2018-2019 biennium, $164.9 billion for defense and $130.7 billion for non-defense.
    • Total non-defense discretionary funding would get an 11.6 percent increase in 2018 over the 2017 enacted level, and would then get an additional 3.2 percent increase in 2019.
  • $20 billion for Infrastructure – $10 billion for FY18 and $10 billion for FY19 – to invest in infrastructure, including programs related to rural water and wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband, energy, innovative capital projects, and surface transportation.



The White House on Monday officially released a 55-page proposal for the Infrastructure Plan. The plan is an outline for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that would focus on public-private partnerships and funding from state and local governments. A breakdown of the funding and infrastructure principles can be found below. The Plan also includes a more efficient permitting process for environmental review by creating new review structures, delegating more decision making power to the states, and authorizing pilot programs for innovative review processes. In addition, the Plan presents provisions to aid in access to education and workforce development programs.




of $200B

I. Infrastructure Incentives Initiative



II. Transformative Projects Program



III. Rural Infrastructure Program



IV. Federal Credit Programs (TIFIA/WIFIA/RRIF/RUS)



VII. Federal Capital Financing Fund










I. Infrastructure Incentives Initiative. (50% of funding) This program will provide up to 20 percent of the total project cost for many types of infrastructure projects. The program is discretionary at the federal level, not formula-based. Project sponsors must apply and federal agencies would evaluate applications. Open to: surface transportation, airports, passenger rail, maritime and inland waterway ports, flood control, water supply, hydropower, water resources, drinking water facilities, storm water facilities, and brownfield and Superfund sites.


II. Transformative Projects Program. (10%) The Commerce Department would pick innovative and transformative infrastructure projects on a competitive basis. Applicable projects must be exploratory and ground-breaking ideas. Includes: transportation, clean water, drinking water, energy, commercial space, and telecommunications.


III. Rural Infrastructure Program. (25%) For infrastructure projects in rural areas across transportation, broadband, water, electric, and water resources classes. The program would have a formula component (80 percent of the total) and performance component (20 percent). States that publish a comprehensive rural investment plan could apply for discretionary grants.


IV. Federal Credit Programs. (7.05%) Funding for the existing TIFIA, RRIF, WIFIA and Rural Utilities Service, USDA, responsible for rural electrification, broadband and telephone infrastructure loans. The plan will expand the TIFIA program to airports, port, and inland waterways projects and expand RRIF eligibility to short-line and passenger railroads.


V. Public Lands Infrastructure Fund. This would take funding for infrastructure on public lands

out of the annual discretionary appropriations process by creating a new trust fund to hold federal revenues from mineral and energy leases on federal lands and waters, setting those revenues aside for public lands infrastructure.


VI. Disposition of Federal Real Property. Would establish through executive order the authority to allow for the disposal of Federal assets to improve the overall allocation of economic resources in infrastructure investment.


VII. Federal Capital Financing Fund. (5%) A one-time capital infusion for a new federal revolving fund that would allow the Appropriations Committees to finance large real estate deals over 15 years instead of paying for any individual deal in one annual appropriation.


VIII. Private Activity Bonds. The plan proposes various expansions of the use of private activity bonds, including the elimination of the transportation and state volume caps and expansion of eligible uses to more port and airport projects.


Principles for Infrastructure Improvements

A. Financing

  • Allow states flexibility to toll on interstates and reinvest toll revenues in infrastructure
  • Reconcile the grandfathered restrictions on use of highway toll revenues with current law
  • Extend streamlined passenger facility charge process for small hub sized airports
  • Expand TIFIA program eligibility for airport and non-federal maritime and inland water way ports
  • Subsidize railroad rehabilitation and improvement financing for short-line and passenger rail
  • Provide states flexibility to commercialize interstate rest areas
  • Remove application of federal requirements for projects with minimal Federal share
  • Expand qualified credit assistance and other capabilities for state infrastructure banks

B. Highways

  • Authorize federal land management agencies to use contracting methods available to states
  • Raise the cost threshold for major project requirements to $1 billion
  • Authorize utility relocation to take place prior to NEPA completion
  • Refund of federal investment to eliminate perpetual application of federal requirements
  • Provide small highway projects with relief from the same Federal requirements as major projects

C. Transit

  • Require value capture financing for receipt of transit funds for major capital projects
  • Eliminate constraints on use of public-private and public-public partnerships in transit
  • Codify expedited project delivery for Capital Investment Grants pilot program

D. Rail

  • Apply Fast Act streamlining provisions to rail projects and shorten the statute of limitations

E. Airports

  • Create more efficient FAA oversight of non-aviation development activities at airports
  • Reduce barriers to alternative project delivery for airports
  • Clarify authority for incentive payments under the Airport Improvement program
  • Move oversight of AIP funds to post-expenditure audits



In other Federal matters, the White House announced Tuesday night that President Trump intends to nominate former Virginia Congresswoman Thelma Drake to be Federal Transit Administrator. Drake was the director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). She mentioned in an interview, “my goals are, of course, to make sure that the public has all the confidence in the world in their transit system, to increase our ridership, to provide services that people want: are we taking them where they want to go when they want to go? How do we do that in the most cost effective manner?". Drake will need a hearing and senate confirmation to be appointed.



The Texas Department of Transportation is proposing amendments to §§27.50 -27.55 and 27.58, concerning Financial Assistance for Toll Facilities – this is related to Senate Bill 20, the TxDOT Sunset Bill.  The amendments will not require toll project entities to repay: (1) funds held in a subaccount created under Transportation Code, §228.012; or (2) funds contributed by the department for a project if the toll project entity commenced the environmental review process for the project on or before January 1, 2014. Comments will be accepted until March 12, 2018.


hilighted Bills


Introduced bill - H.R. 4934 - This bill has only been introduced. No action at this time.

To prohibit assistance to the Government of Pakistan, and to require the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development to transfer amounts to the Highway Trust Fund equivalent to historic levels of assistance to Pakistan. The bill requires transfers to the highway trust fund totaling:

(a) Department of State.—Upon receipt of appropriations for the balance of fiscal year 2018, the Secretary of State shall transfer $1,280,000,000 to the Highway Trust Fund.

(b) United States Agency for International Development.—Upon receipt of appropriations for the balance of fiscal year 2018, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development shall transfer $852,000,000 to the Highway Trust Fund.


Recent Committee hearings


The Texas Senate Finance Committee met January 30, 2018 to discuss the TERP Program and future funding efforts. The committee heard testimony from members of the Senate Budget Committee and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The funding that comes from fees, which goes into the General Revenue Funding continues to grow and is aimed to be reduced. The state comptroller also presented and emphasized the oil and gas tax revenues are higher than anticipated however, a tight budget is expected. This is because the oil and gas tax revenues will go toward the Rainy Day Fund and the State Highway Fund/Proposition 1, and not the General Revenue Fund.


The Texas Senate Veteran Affairs & Border Security Committee met February 7, 2017 to hear invited and public testimony on the following interim charges:


1) Military Installation: Identify opportunities to promote the strategic importance of military installations in Texas. Study the impact of the Aviation, Aerospace, & Defense manufacturing industry on the economic vitality of military installations and communities. Identify potential strategic partnerships between this industry and military communities which would enhance key strategic assets. The link for meeting audio is provided here.


The Texas House Transportation Committee met February 08, 2018 to hear testimony on the following interim charges:


2) Study emerging issues in transportation related to technology and evaluate the state's preparedness for addressing challenges and opportunities posed by technological advances. Review the implementation of state and federal programs and legislation related to intelligent transportation systems, autonomous vehicles (AV), unmanned aircraft systems (i.e. drones), and other technological changes.


The Committee discussed AV technology and connectivity on roadway related to bicycle-pedestrian, public transportation and safety. Unmanned aircraft systems are being tested and used for railroads, package delivery, agriculture and other areas. The State of Texas submitted an application with other states and organization under the name T.A.L.O.N. The committee heard testimony on the types of drone users, commercial vs. hobbyists and the regulations that they must follow. Speakers stressed the importance of continued state legislation that allows for AV testing and deployment. The speakers were asked about future actions and instructed to come back with partnerships and pilot program plans for AV technology.


The Texas Defense and Veterans’ Affairs House Committee met February 13, 2018, to examine best practices related to use of the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant (DEAAG) program to maximize support for military installations, and how the state can better serve military installations in Texas. Also, evaluate changes that would increase utilization of the Texas Military Revolving Loan Fund.


The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure met February 14, 2018, to vote on the priorities and FY 2019 budget views and estimates. The estimates include intentions to act in this session of the 115th Congress on legislation to reauthorize the FAA and ensure America’s aviation system remains the world’s finest for years to come. The committee also looks forward to working with the current Administration to invest in infrastructure and advance and infrastructure bill.


UPCOMING Committee hearings


The Texas Senate Transportation Committee will meet February 21, 2018 to review the state’s policy related to the naming of state highways for individuals and make recommendations to limit and reform the criteria of such designations.



To view Committee Hearings for the Texas Senate click here:

To view Committee Hearings for the Texas House click here:


Texas Legislature Online







US Congress

In 2005 Congress passed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) . This legislation guided surface transportation policy and funding through 2009. Nine short-term extensions passed since SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009. The final short-term extension of SAFETEA-LU extended surface transportation authorization through June 30, 2012.

On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law a two-year $105 billion surface transportation authorization, titled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). MAP-21 reauthorized the federal-aid highway, highway safety and transit programs that were last authorized by SAFETEA-LU. New programs and funding levels began on October 1, 2012, and continued through September 30, 2014. The final short-term extension of MAP-21 expired on December 4, 2015.  

On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act into law, which authorizes Federal highway, transit, safety and rail programs for five years at $305 billion. The FAST Act is effective October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2020.







2/16/2018  RH %Trans

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