December 16, 2016
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APTA's Advocacy Agenda: FAST Act Implementation, Presidential Politics

As Washington, DC, political activities in 2016 were largely shaped by the presidential campaign, APTA’s key advocacy efforts included outreach at both major political conventions, developing member consensus on the implementation priorities of the FAST Act and ensuring that public transportation remained on the national agenda. Highlights follow.

In January, APTA organized webinars for members featuring key congressional staff from the House and Senate authorizing committees who outlined details of the FAST Act, which had been signed into law in December 2015.

In March, congressional speakers at the APTA Legislative Conference in Washington included Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Robert Dold (R-IL). They addressed the significance of the FAST Act, the first long-term, fully funded surface transportation bill in a decade.

Also during the conference, FTA leaders hosted a panel on industry insight and FAST Act implementation, including then-Acting Administrator Therese W. McMillan and senior officials Carolyn Flowers, Vincent Valdes, Thomas Littleton, Bruce Robinson and Lucy Garliauskas.

At another session, APTA hosted a panel of national partners—representatives of the National Association of Regional Councils, National Association of Counties and National League of Cities—focused on collaboration and shared interests.

In July, APTA joined coalition partners in hosting gatherings at both the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. These events highlighted the importance of public transit to the economic vitality of local communities around the country.

In December, APTA’s Legislative Committee approved changes to its bylaws regarding the voting process and representation on the steering committee. The committee also approved industry-proposed principles and recommendations for any suggested infrastructure initiative in 2017, which President-elect Trump has set as a priority for the incoming administration. The APTA Board of Directors subsequently approved these recommendations.

The committee meeting concluded with the annual APTA Holiday Reception on Capitol Hill, in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee room of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Throughout 2016, APTA worked with the Obama Administration and Congress to ensure that the FAST Act was implemented as intended. To that end, APTA submitted consensus comments to represent industry concerns on many issues, including accessibility, asset management, Buy America, governance, grant management, MPO coordination and passenger facility charges. FTA’s new authority to oversee a public transit safety program continues to be a major issue requiring multiple regulatory rulemakings; APTA continues to seek member engagement on these topics.

On Nov. 8, Donald J. Trump was elected president and Republicans retained control of the House and the Senate, although by slimmer margins than they held prior to the election: A net loss of six seats in the House brought their majority to a 241-194 margin, and a net loss of two seats in the Senate brought their majority to 52.

Closing out 2016, Congress recently passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) appropriations bill that funds the government through April 28 at Fiscal Year 2016 levels.

Due to the length of this extension, FTA is expected to make partial-year apportionments to its grantees. Unfortunately, since the CR is at FY 2016 funding levels, the FY 2017 increases authorized by the FAST Act will not yet be realized.

The past practice of partial-year apportionments suggests that FTA will not make partial-year allocations for capital investment grants. APTA will continue to advocate for a subsequent full-year FY 2017 appropriations bill at FAST Act authorization levels.

The 114th Congress now stands in recess and the 115th Congress convenes Jan. 3. APTA urges its members to use this time to meet with their elected officials, invite them to visit their properties and advocate on behalf of the industry for robust investment in public transportation for the good of our local, state and national economies.
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