December Federal Legislative Update
FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
FY 2020 Appropriations
Nearly a year after last year’s government shutdown drama, Congress has canceled plans for a sequel, with the House and Senate reaching agreement on two FY 2020 spending bills totaling $2.9 trillion. President Trump is widely expected to sign both bills today.
The final budget allocation for the Transportation-HUD bill is $74.2 billion. Although this is almost $3.2 billion more than last year, it is still less than either the House or Senate version. The net amount for USDOT that is counted towards the discretionary spending limitation is $24.7 billion—$1.7 billion below last year.
The bill provides a total of $48.5 billion in discretionary budgetary resources for the Federal Highway Administration in 2020, up $12.6 million from last year. Included in this amount is $1.0 billion for BUILD grants, an increase of $100 million from 2019. BUILD’s maximum grant size remains set at $25 million.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s funding designates $17.9 million for researching emerging technologies, including autonomous vehicles.
Notably, several alternative fuel tax incentives that expired at the end of 2017 are extended:
- a tax credit for biodiesel and biodiesel mixtures, retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and prospectively through 2022;
- the alternative fuel excise credit retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020;
- the alternative fuel infrastructure credit retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020; and
- the credit for qualified fuel cell vehicles retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emission Reduction Grants received $87 million, and the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program received $40 million. Finally, FHWA will be required to approve all clean vehicle projects submitted prior to April 17, 2018 and is directed to respond to requests for Buy America waivers with 60 days.
S. 1790 National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 (Inhofe, R-OK)
The annual defense authorization bill bans mass transit agencies from using federal funds from purchasing rail cars or buses from Chinese-owned or -domiciled companies and penalizes transit agencies that use non-federal funds. The Department of Defense is also prohibited from procuring unmanned aircraft systems manufactured in foreign countries or by foreign entities. The bill has passed Congress and awaits the President’s signature.
Bill related to federal opportunity zones: H.R. 4999 (Johnson, D-GA), H.R. 5011 (Kind, D-WI), H.R. 5042 (Clyburn, D-SC), H.R. 5252 (Tlaib, D-MI), S. 2787 (Wyden, D-OR), S. 2994 (Scott, R-SC)
These bills call for reform to federal opportunity zones, a tax incentive encouraging investment in low-income neighborhoods. Lawmakers have filed several bills following media investigations this summer. Most bills require reporting procedures and other measures to increase transparency. H.R. 5252 repeals the incentive entirely. These bills have been introduced and referred to committee.
Monitored Bills List
The Texas Legislature is currently not in session. The US Congress bill list shows only bills with action since the last legislative update. If you need information on the bills being tracked, please contact Rebekah Hernandez.
Recent Committee Hearings
Nov. 20: The US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee met to discuss “Highly Automated Vehicles: Federal Perspectives on the Deployment of Safety Technology.” The hearing focused on determining steps the federal government can take to facilitate safe testing and implementation of automated vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended making voluntary safety self-assessments mandatory for developers of automated vehicles. Some committee members expressed frustration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. James Owen, Acting Administrator for NHTSA, said NHTSA will establish new vehicle safety standards after automated driving technologies have been proven and tested. Senators agreed legislation is needed to establish a regulatory framework.
Dec. 5: The US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing titled “Where’s My Stuff? Examining the Economic Environmental, and Societal Impacts of Freight Transportation.” The hearing explored the benefits of freight rail and electric trucks over long haul diesel trucking in the age of same-day shipping. Jim Tymon, Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, asked Congress to 1) grant states greater flexibility to select freight projects for federal funding and 2) increase FAST Act funding caps for multimodal projects. He also recommended reserving the 5.9 GHz spectrum of bandwidth transportation safety uses. Witnesses also spoke of the benefits of public-private partnerships in freight rail projects and efforts to electrify trucking fleets.
Upcoming Committee Hearings
Congress is in recess until the second week of January. No committees of interest are currently scheduled to meet.
To view Committee Hearings for the Texas Senate click here:
To view Committee Hearings for the Texas House click here: