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.

In order to understand current legislative initiatives, the RTC directed the development of a Transportation Funding 101 primer so legislators and the general public can better understand funding sources for transportation as well as trends that impact the amount of funding available. A shortfall of funding has been identified and the primer also addresses potential solutions to increase funding options.

February Federal Legislative Update

FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.

Late last month House Democrats released an infrastructure plan with $760 billion in spending over the five-year FY2021-2025 period. The plan allocates $319 billion for highways and $105 billion for mass transit using the “baseline” spending levels enacted in FY 2020 and extrapolating them forward. The plan was light on details but cast vision for transportation projects that would provide climate change resiliency, reduce carbon emissions, and increase electric vehicle adoption.
 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did not indicate whether the infrastructure package would move through the House as one big bill or several different bills. The plan also did not state how much funding for surface transportation infrastructure would come from the Highway Trust Fund versus general revenues, although a statement from the Ways and Means Committee said they wanted to “address the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund through user-based mechanisms.” House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said he hoped to pay for surface transportation with some combination of user charges and bond issuance.
 
FEDERAL REGISTER
Current Comment Opportunities
Agency Title Action Comment Deadline
Federal Aviation Administration Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Notice of Proposed Rulemaking March 2, 2020
Federal Aviation Administration Type Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Notice of Policy; Request for Comments March 4, 2020
Federal Communications Commission Use of the 5.850–5.925 GHz Band Proposed Rule March 9, 2020
Council on Environmental Quality Update to the Regulations
Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking March 10, 2020
Environmental Protection Agency / US Air Force F-35A Operational Beddown - Air Force Reserve Command Environmental Impact Statement Comment March 30, 2020
 

FROM AUSTIN

 The state of Texas is less than a month away from primary elections. Early voting begins Feb. 18, and since Texas participates in Super Tuesday, election day is March 3. This year’s primaries will be quieter with fewer intraparty opponents. The November election is where we will see more action this cycle.
 
In the Jan. 28 special election for Texas House District 100, James Armstrong III was defeated by Lorraine Birabil (D). The seat was vacated when Eric Johnson became the mayor of Dallas. This district includes parts of West Dallas, southern Dallas, Oak Cliff, East Dallas and a small portion of Mesquite. Birabil will fill Johnson’s unexpired term and be a candidate in the March primary for the new term that begins in 2021.
 
Texas Transportation Commission
On Jan. 30, the Texas Transportation Commission met for their first meeting of 2020. After opening remarks, Peter Smith, TxDOT Planning and Transportation Director, testified before the commission and presented funding levels for each category of funding in the 2021 UTP. The proposed 2021 UTP draft showed a $3.5 billion decrease in funding compared to the 2020 UTP distribution. Part of the decrease is due to lower motor vehicle sales tax (Prop 7) and changes to TERP statute. Of this $3.5 billion, $2.2 billion would come from Categories 2 and 4, which impact metropolitan areas. Funding for Category 12, TTC Discretionary, will increase by $300 million. The 2021 UTP is in draft form and final recommendations will be made to the Commission in May with public comment in June. The TTC is expected to take action in August 2020.

 

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

US CONGRESS
 
The House Ways and Means Committee met on Jan. 29, 2020 for a hearing titled, “Paving the Way for Funding and Financing Infrastructure Investments.”
 
The committee received testimony from the Director of Policy and Government Relations for AASHTO, a municipal bond strategist, representatives from banks and finance companies, a Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation and a representative from an infrastructure delivery consulting firm. Remarks from witnesses centered around the following key points:
  • The federal government should look to build upon substantial state and local investment in transportation.
  • Underinvestment in our transportation system threatens the economy and quality of life in every community across the nation.
  • The federal Highway Trust Fund must once again be secured with a long-term and sustainable revenue solution.
  • Direct program funding is needed first and foremost that financing tools can supplement.
Overall, Congress was urged to address the projected annual shortfalls by boosting revenues, with any revenue tool they choose, and to identify solutions that will sustain the FAST Act-level of surface transportation investment.
 
 The House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce met on Feb. 11, 2020 for a hearing titled, “Autonomous Vehicles: Promises and the Challenges of Evolving Technologies.”
 
The committee met to discuss autonomous vehicles. Witnesses included safety advocates, advocates for the blind, the President of Alliance for Automotive Innovation, and those representing transportation and transit agencies. There was a sense of urgency that Congress needs to pass a bill to provide a regulatory path forward. The committee underscored the urgency by highlighting that this technology holds the promise of saving tens of thousands of lives each year and offers new mobility options to millions of senior citizens and people with disabilities. There was also discussion related to keeping carmakers accountable by ensuring that injured parties have the right to sue and that the federal government doesn't “bigfoot” the states on regulations. Many members spoke about finding a bipartisan path forward.
 
Other issues that were addressed included accessibility of AVs to people with disabilities, including those who are blind. There was also discussion about data and requiring companies to include event data recorders in AVs that preserve all information from sensors before a collision and to collect it in a national database. One witness suggested, by getting reports on how the exempted vehicles are performing NHTSA gets the data it needs to make "good rules."
 
TEXAS LEGISLATURE
 
House State Affairs Committee 1/30/2020
On January 30th the House State Affairs Committee met to discuss, among other things, electric vehicles (EVs). Witnesses included representatives from think tanks, advocacy groups, and the private industry.
 
Rep Hunter says there are a lack of chargers in south Texas and asked about mapping. Todd Smith says there’s a map of charging station. He says TCEQ is thinking of building them with their Volkswagen settlement.
 
There was also some discussion on the relationship between the rise in EV popularity and the gas tax. During the committee meeting Representative Springer said that if we are going to maintain our roads and build new ones then EVs will factor into the equation. He wants EVs to pay a fee. Representative Springer also emphasized tax fairness. Representative Springer believes a gas vehicle and an EV that both travel the same number of miles should be taxed at the same rate. The private industry panelist supports a fair tax on EVs. He says there is a study coming out in a few months that will address what a fair amount of tax is. Springer says many rural towns are already building new stations.
 
Michael Jewel, representing himself, also testified. He said the development of EVs will have significant interaction with the electric grid. He says we are in the first generation of EVs and the market will have to evolve. He says EVs will benefit the grid. He says charging in off peak times will be necessary. He says off peak charging is an opportunity for the grid to equalize. He says fixed costs are spread over several hours, will use excess grid energy, and will help the oil and gas industry when using gas generators. He says not everyone will charge off peak, but it will help.
 
Senate Business and Commerce 2/6/20
On February 6 the Senate Business and Commerce Committee met for an interim meeting. The invited witnesses discussed electric vehicles.
 
Tom Rose, New Electric Technology Policies Group, testified on electric vehicles (EVs). He says Tesla has dominated EV sales over the past 18 months. His organization has projected the added effect electric vehicle charging will have on the electric grid. He says that going forward there may be some uncertainty for the utilities market in the state of Texas. He asserted that there are pros and cons to EVs. He predicted ten megawatts per fleet of electric vehicles used for short haul deliveries.

Senator Zaffirini asked if she can drive from Laredo to Dallas in an EV. Mr. Rose says that there is a smartphone app that will allow an EV owner to help plan a trip that would likely take multiple stops. Senator Zaffirini asked how long it takes to charge an EV. Rose says it would take 30 minutes with a level 3 charger. Rose testified that the faster the charge the bigger the impact on the electric system.
 
Sen Schwertner expanded upon Senator Zaffirini’s question on driving an EV from Laredo to Dallas and asked who should regulate charging stations. Specifically, since the Department of Agriculture regulates gas stations, should the Department of Agriculture regulate charging stations? Tom Rose says they are working on recommendations. He wants to see private industry regulate the infrastructure they install except for energy metering. Senator Schwertner asked if the owners could “goose the market” by storing energy then charging a higher price for it. Tom Rose says most stations will not be capable of storage only conversion. Currently, there is no regulation on these charging stations.

 

Upcoming Committee Hearings

US CONGRESS

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will meet on Feb. 25, 2020 to conduct a hearing on “Surface Transportation Reauthorization: Public Transportation Stakeholders’ Perspectives.”
 
TEXAS LEGISLATURE

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
House International Relations/ Economic Development will meet 2/21/20
The committee will meet in a joint hearing with the committee on Transportation to hear invited testimony on the following interim charge:
Study the state's seaport infrastructure and the infrastructure at land ports of entry to facilitate international trade and economic growth.
  • Examine seaport infrastructure and the auxiliary rail and roadway needs connected to each port as well as the port's ability to keep pace with oil and gas production. Make recommendations to maximize the economic flow of goods and products to and from seaports and study the feasibility and economic impact of dredging and widening Texas ports in order to remain competitive in international trade. Examine the infrastructure at international border ports of entry in Texas and identify transportation-related impediments to international trade that negatively impact the state. Make recommendations to reduce border wait times, facilitate economic growth, and expedite trade. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Transportation)
 
House Transportation Committee will meet 2/21/20
The committee will meet in a joint hearing with the committee on International Relations & Economic Development to hear invited testimony on the bold portion of the following interim charge:
  • Study the state's seaport infrastructure and the infrastructure at land ports of entry to facilitate international trade and economic growth.
  • Examine seaport infrastructure and the auxiliary rail and roadway needs connected to each port as well as the port's ability to keep pace with oil and gas production. Make recommendations to maximize the economic flow of goods and products to and from seaports and study the feasibility and economic impact of dredging and widening Texas ports in order to remain competitive in international trade. [Examine the infrastructure at international border ports of entry in Texas and identify transportation-related impediments to international trade that negatively impact the state. Make recommendations to reduce border wait times, facilitate economic growth, and expedite trade.] (Joint charge with the House Committee on Transportation)
 
SENATE
House Redistricting Committee will meet 3/24/20
The purpose of the interim field hearings is to solicit public input on the 2021 legislative redistricting process and provide context to the official 2020 Census data that the 87th Legislature will receive by April 2021. Since the Legislature will not receive official data from the U.S. Census Bureau until the 87th session is underway, these interim field hearings seek to maximize the opportunities for Texans to share information they believe relevant to the upcoming redistricting process, including information about communities of interest within our state. Invited testimony: Texas Demographic Center and Texas Legislative Council, Mapping and Redistricting Section.
 
Senate Transportation Committee will meet 2/26/20
The Committee will hear invited testimony on the following interim charges:
  • Safety: Study the primary causes for traffic-related accidents and fatalities, including fatality rates as a result of intoxicated driving. Make recommendations for effective strategies to improve roadway safety.
  • Texas Department of Transportation Flight Services: Evaluate the current funding, maintenance procedures, and staffing levels at Texas Department of Transportation's Flight Services. Make recommendations to ensure the safest fleet and most efficient service.
  • Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Transportation passed by the 86th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:  
  • SB 1915 Relating to navigation districts. Harris County ports
  • SB 2223, as it relates to two-way directional routes.
 
Senate Transportation Committee will meet 4/29/20
The Committee will hear invited testimony on the following interim charges:
  • Project Delivery: Evaluate major roadway construction projects that have begun since voters approved new funding sources in 2014 and 2015. Make recommendations to ensure on-time project completion and improve cost efficiencies.
  • Monitoring: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Transportation passed by the 86th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee's jurisdiction. Specifically, make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation of the following:
    • The Legislature's new funding for the driver's license program as funded in the General Appropriations Act;
    • The Legislature's funding for grants to counties to be used for repair of county roads as funded in the General Appropriations Act;
    • SB 198, relating to payment for the use of a highway toll project;
    • SB 616, as it relates to the analysis of the opportunities and challenges of transferring the driver license program to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

To view Committee Hearings for the Texas Senate click here:
http://www.senate.texas.gov/av-live.php

To view Committee Hearings for the Texas House click here: 
http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/
 
 

Texas Legislature - 86th Session January 8, 2019 - May 27, 2019 

 

Other Resources


 

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.

2019 RTC Principles for Federal Surface Transportation Authorization

Resources

FAST Act MAP-21 SAFETEA-LU