Wednesday, May 27, 2009

HR 2200 Update before Post-Memorial Day Vote

As I noted last week, it appears that the House will vote on the TSA Authorization Act, HR 2200, when it returns from its Memorial Day recess next week. This seems like a good time to review the reported version of the legislation and to discuss some of the amendments that the House Rules Committee has included in its resolution, HRes 474, authorizing early consideration of the bill. It is a rather large bill (98 pages), but only portions of the bill will affect the chemical security community. Surface Transportation Security Inspection Program Section 302 of the bill establishes the Surface Transportation Security Inspection Program and the Surface Transportation Security Inspection Office which would remove the Surface Transportation Security Inspectors from the supervision of aviation focused personnel. This would allow these surface inspectors to focus their assistance efforts on “surface transportation carriers, operators, owners, entities, and facilities to enhance their security against terrorist attacks and other security threats” §302(b)(2). It also directs DHS to hire 200 additional surface inspectors in 2010 and 100 more in 2011. Freight Rail Security Working Group Section 304 would establish a Freight Rail Security Working Group within a newly established Transit Security Advisory Committee. That working group would “provide recommendations for successful implementation of initiatives relating to freight rail security proposed by the Transportation Security Administration in accordance with statutory requirements, including relevant grant programs and security training provisions” §304(b). Surface Security Training The Secretary would be required under §306 to report to Congress within 30 days on the status of efforts to establish surface security training regulations under sections 1408, 1517, and 1534 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. Additionally the Department would be required to “identify criteria and establish a process for approving and maintaining a list of approved private third-party providers of security training with whom surface transportation entities may enter into contracts, as needed, for the purpose of satisfying security training requirements of the Department of Homeland Security” §306(b). SAFE Truckers Act of 2009 Section 432 establishes the requirement for truck drivers transporting ‘security sensitive materials’ to have a “valid transportation security card issued by the Secretary under section 70105 of title 46, United States Code” {§432(b)} known as a Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC). The Secretary would have 120 days to issue final regulations defining ‘security sensitive materials’. Presumably the same regulations would implement the TWIC requirement. This legislation does not address whether or not shippers would be required to have a TWIC Reader to verify the identity of the driver that presents a TWIC. Individual drivers with current hazmat endorsements would not be required to undergo a new background check to get a TWIC. Section 435 would require DHS to begin issuing the TWIC not later than May 31st, 2010. The requirement for having a TWIC to transport security sensitive materials would go into effect within three years of passage of this bill. Section 436 would require DHS to establish a task force to “review the lists of crimes that disqualify individuals from transportation-related employment under current regulations of the Transportation Security Administration and assess whether such lists of crimes are accurate indicators of a terrorism security risk.”{§436(a)}. The task force would be made up of representatives of industry, labor, and select Federal agencies. Authorized Amendments House Resolution 474 has been approved by the House Rules Committee to provide for early consideration of HR 2200. As part of this resolution only 14 proposed amendments have been approved for inclusion in the early consideration process. Most of these amendments have nothing to do with chemical transportation issues. Even those that might end up affecting chemical transportation mainly deal with requiring various parts of the Executive Branch to conduct studies and report back to Congress. Topics of those studies include:
DHS IG to report on the “feasibility and merit of establishing a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Surface Transportation Security in the Transportation Security Administration” §312(b) of the Thompson Amendment; and Comptroller General to report on “the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation with respect to pipeline security” §406(a) of the Thompson Amendment.
The one substantive amendment that could affect chemical transportation security is the Castor Amendment. This amendment would add §403(r) to ‘Safe Trucker Act of 2009’ section of the bill to address the issue of redundant background checks required by state and local governments. It would require the Secretary to establish regulations to prohibit “a State or political subdivision thereof from requiring a separate security background check for any purpose for which a transportation security card is issued under this section”. It does provide the Secretary the discretion to waive this requirement if the State or local government can demonstrate “a compelling homeland security reason that a separate security background check is necessary”. Early Consideration of HR 2200 As noted earlier, HRes 474 provides for early consideration of HR 2200. This ‘early consideration’ carries with it some restrictions. There will only be ‘one hour’ of debate allowed on the floor of the House with each of the fourteen amendments getting ’10 minutes’ of that debate. I know, 10x14=140 not 60, but that is how Congress does its math. This limited debate and early consideration comes with a cost to the House leadership, the bill will require 2/3 vote for passage. If it fails on this vote (probably unlikely), it can be brought up again later in the session. At that time the debate would be longer, additional amendments could be offered, and (most importantly) only a simple majority would be required to pass the bill. I’ll be watching next week to see how this bill fairs. I expect that it will pass. The Thompson amendment will probably also pass. I would not be surprised to see the Castor amendment also pass. None of this is really controversial.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder what kind of a step forward DHS is taking in "be required to identify criteria and establish a process for approving and maintaining a list of approved private third-party providers of security training"...What I hope they do is take a long hard look at the maritime security training approval process,and avoid making he MTSA mistakes.

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