January 12, 2018
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Government Affairs: The Year Ahead on Capitol Hill

APTA Legislative Analyst

As the second session of the 115th Congress begins, members of the House and Senate will look to complete all unfinished legislative business as they head into the 2018 midterm election cycle. Republicans currently control the White House and both chambers of Congress; as a result, Republican initiatives are the priority.

APTA will continue to advocate for full year appropriations, with the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expiring Jan. 19. It is possible another short-term CR will be necessary to give legislators time to complete a Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill, which would include funding for DOT.

In addition, there is talk of a possible “tax extenders” bill coming from the Senate, which APTA hopes will address the alternative fuels tax benefits not included in the larger tax reform package signed into law in December. If included, this benefit would need to be retroactive, as the benefit lapsed at the beginning of 2017.

In the new year, Congress and the administration say they intend to pass an infrastructure initiative, as President Trump promised during his campaign. In the past, the president has stated his intention to use $200 billion in federal money to leverage $1 trillion in new public and private sector investments. Congressional leaders have met with the president on this and have stated that it would be one of their top priorities of 2018.

While the overall plan has not yet been negotiated, APTA will closely monitor the situation to ensure that investment in public transportation is included in this package.

Additionally, Dec. 31, 2018 is the deadline for U.S. commuter railroads to install all equipment and acquire radio spectrum needed to operate PTC systems. Agencies may qualify for extensions to test and certify PTC systems for 12-24 months after the deadline on a case-by-case basis as determined by DOT. Several members of Congress have stated publicly that statutory PTC implementation deadlines will not be postponed, and that agencies must meet all milestones noted in approved PTC implementation plans.

Also of note, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has announced he will not seek re-election in 2018 and instead will devote his time left in Congress to the infrastructure initiative. This will open a race for chairmanship in the 116th Congress, likely to be decided early in 2019. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has also announced he will not run for re-election, opening up another chairmanship race.
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