Thursday, October 29, 2015

HR 3819 Passes in Senate – STA Extension

Yesterday the Senate passed HR 3819, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015, on a voice vote. The bill passed the day before in the House, also by a voice vote. The bill extends the authorization for various surface transportation programs from tonight until November 13th. This was done to provide additional time for Congress to pass a longer term authorization bill.

There was minimal debate in the House (20 minutes) and no debate in the Senate. Just what you would expect with a short term extension for a fast expiring program that seems to finally be moving forward to resolution. One odd thing in the Senate. This was passed at the close of the session when we normally see non-controversial bills pass ‘without objection’. In that process the voice of a single Senator can derail passage. In this case a voice vote was used instead allowing the President Pro Tempore to decide if there were more voices in the almost empty chamber for or against. I’m not saying that there was anything underhanded in the passage of this bill, but this is how you would slip one by if you were so inclined (and willing to take the heat from the opposition the next day).

OOOPS. I never did take a close look at this bill. These short term extensions are typically pretty vanilla so as not to attract any undue objections to their passage. Now I wish I had. Someone mentioned last night that the Senate had passed an extension of the PTC deadline; oh yes it was a tweet from @SOCMA. It didn’t make sense when I saw it late last night, but I checked this morning, and sure enough, §1302 of HR 3819 is the “Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015”. This is virtually identical to §7014 of the most recent House STA bill, HR 3763.

The bill is on its way to the President for signature. There has been no specific word on whether or not he will sign it. There had been suggestions during the summer after the previous STA extension had been signed, that the President did not want to sign another short term extension, but I suspect that this will be quietly signed as it looks like there is some movement to consider HR 22 in the House.

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