Following up on last month's emergency rule addressing trains speeds, the Transportation Department issued new rules addressing tanker car standards, long thought to be one of the most important factors contributing to fiery oil tank car explosions.
After the House rejected the Senate's amendments to their Highway Trust Fund extension bill, the Senate passed the bill 81-13 on July 31. Payments to states will continue unchanged through May 2015 when the next hurdle awaits
Three days before Congress goes on recess and with the Highway Trust Fund approaching insolvency, the Senate passed a transportation bill notably different than the House version passed July 15, setting up a showdown between the two branches.
The Senate will hear four amendments to the House bill, passed July 15, in the last week of July. Sens. Boxer, Carper, and Corker want the funding extension to terminate on December 19 rather than May 31. On August 1, DOT reduces payments to states.
By a vote of 367-55, the House passed Rep. Dave Camp's "pension smoothing" bill to provide ten months of funding for the deficit-plagued Highway Trust Fund through May. A long-term (five- or six-year) funding plan will be attempted then.
A $10.7 billion funding plan to continue federal transportation spending at the current rate through May 2015 has been offered by Republicans in the House Ways and Means Committee. The General Funds transfer would be offset by "pension smoothing."
After it's first hearing, the PATH Act is not looking very promising to keep federal transportation reimbursements flowing to state DOTs late next month when the Highway Trust Fund is expected to approach insolvency. The one user fee was dropped.
A $9 billion patch bill was drafted by Sen. Finance Comm. Chair Ron Wyden to continue transportation spending to Dec. 31. Most of the funds come from a change in how Individual Retirement Accounts are administered and a heavy truck use tax increase.
A proposal in President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget would reduce the deficit and place a government-owned utility in private hands - ostensibly Republican goals - but it is being opposed by Tennessee's senior Republican Senator, Lamar Alexander.