Friday, April 17, 2015

HR 1738 Introduced – Public Alert System Modernization

As I mentioned in an earlier post Rep. Bilirakis (R,FL) introduced HR 1738, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2015. The bill is virtually identical to HR 3283 from last session; which cleared the House Homeland Security Committee but was never considered on the floor. It is also very similar to HR 1472 which was approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earlier this week.

The Two Bills

Both HR 1738 and HR 1472 attempt to do pretty much the same thing; modernize the national public alert system. Both would establish an inter-agency Advisory Committee to figure out the best way to accomplish this objective. They would also add upgrading State and local alert systems to the allowable uses of Homeland Security Grants without increasing the funding for that program.

There are two major differences in these bills. First, HR 1738 would go about implementing this program by amending the Homeland Security Act of 2002; a more formalized approach than HR 1472. Second, HR 1738 would authorize spending $13.4 million per year on the program where HR 1472 would only authorize $12.8 million.

On a minor note; HR 1738 does include a cybersecurity provision not seen in HR 1472. It would require that one of the design parameters for the modernized system is that is should be “to the greatest extent practicable, hardened against cyber attacks” {§526(c)(4)}.

Committee Politics

There is one other important difference between these two bills. HR 1738 has been assigned to two committees (Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure) for consideration before it can get to the floor of the House. HR 1472 only has to (and already has) clear the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The reason is that since HR 1738 amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Homeland Security Committee has jurisdiction. Public alert systems fall under the purview of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Apparently though, the House leadership failed to realize (or ignored) the fact that HR 1472 also amend the Homeland Security Act in changing the grant use wording.

For HR 1738 to make it to the floor it would have to be considered by the Transportation and Infrastructure which fast tracked consideration of HR 1472 the competing bill. Either that or the Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would have to waive his right to consider the bill. Again, that is unlikely to happen given the approval of HR 1472.

Unless, of course, there is some horse trading going on between the two Chairmen on consideration of some other bill that is important to the Transportation and Infrastructure. This may be why Rep Barletta (R,PA and Chair of the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee) introduced HR 1472 in the first place.

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