Thursday, May 5, 2016

HR 710 Reported in Senate

Last year on May 20th, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a markup hearing on HR 710, the Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act, that passed in the House in February. The Committee adopted substitute language and ordered the bill reported. That report was published last week.

Substitute Language

The new language reported in the Senate is a substantial re-write of the details of the bill, though the general import of the bill remains the same. The main report required by the bill was changed from a GAO report to a two phased report conducted by a national laboratory or a university-based center that is part of a DHS center of excellence. And the time limit for the study will change from one-year to complete the study to 60-days to commission the study.

The scope of the study was expanded to include a new phase 1 study that includes {§2(c)(1)}:

• The appropriateness of vetting standards;
• Whether the fee structure adequately reflects the current costs of vetting; and
• Whether there is unnecessary overlap between other transportation security credentials.
The second phase of the new study fairly closely replicates the GAO study outlined in the original bill. One new requirement was added; “a cost-benefit analysis of the TWIC Program, as implemented” {§2(c)(4)}.

Where the original bill restricted moving forward on the TWIC Reader Rule, the new bill prevents any new TWIC rule until the DHS IG approves the Secretary’s corrective action plan based upon the 2-phase study. As with the original bill, the regulatory restriction does not apply the currently stalled rulemaking on the TWIC Reader implementation.

As with the original language, the substitute language specifically does not provide any funding for the required study and reports.

Moving Forward

That it has taken almost exactly a year to get this report printed indicates that there has been some behind the scene negotiations going on to allow this bill to move forward. I expect that those negotiations have been between the Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the other committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration.

It is likely that this bill will be considered by the Senate before the summer recess. I would expect to see this considered under the unanimous consent provisions of the Senate rules with no debate and no vote. I would not be surprised to see the House accept the Senate amendment to this bill, obviating the need for a conference committee.

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