Congress had multiple committees and conferees meeting the week of Nov. 14 on public transportation-related issues including appropriations, security, and the economic future of America.
Obama Signs Appropriations Package Including DOT
President Obama signed the three-bill appropriations package covering Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Commerce, Justice, Science on Nov. 18, one day after the full House and Senate approved the legislation. That completes the DOT budget process for Fiscal Year 2012.
The legislation includes an extension of the current continuing resolution to Dec. 16, preventing a partial government shutdown that would have occurred Nov. 18. Congress needed to pass this extension, and Obama to sign it, to avoid a potential showdown of federal agencies not included in the bill package.
The proposal provides the Federal Transit Administration with $10.6 billion, a 3 percent increase over last year’s appropriations level, and increases funding for formula and bus grants while also raising New Starts funding levels 22 percent.
Public Transit Security
Meanwhile, the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence approved two bills by voice vote, sending them on to the full committee.
The bill with larger implications for public transit systems is H.R. 3140, introduced by the ranking member of the subcommittee, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA). If approved by the full committee and Congress, this legislation would direct the secretary of homeland security to prioritize the assignment of officers and analysts to certain state and urban area centers to enhance the security of public transportation systems across America.
The second bill, H.R. 2764, addresses the need to maintain weapons of mass destruction (WMD) technical expertise in DHS’ intelligence division and create better intelligence sharing among homeland security organizations to protect and support state, local, and tribal authorities in security matters dealing with WMDs.
America’s Fiscal Future and Infrastructure
The Senate Budget Committee was also busy during the week, holding a Nov. 15 hearing addressing the economic effects of fiscal policy choices. Dr. Doug Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, testified at the hearing, which focused on short-term spending issues.
Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) also addressed long-term infrastructure spending. He discussed the impacts of infrastructure spending, with Elmendorf conceding that, over the longer term, infrastructure investment is a more favorable policy option.