Monday, October 1, 2018

Committee Hearings – Week of 09-30-18

This week with just the Senate in Washington (the House is officially on the campaign trail and is unlikely to be in Washington until after the November election) there is a substantially lower number of hearings being held. One hearing of note is the Senate version of the review of the implementation of positive train control (PTC).

PTC Implementation

On Wednesday the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will conduct an oversight hearing on the “Implementation of Positive Train Control”. The witness list will include:

• Ronald Batory, Federal Railroad Administration;
• Susan Fleming, Government Accountability Office;
• Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit; and
Scot Naparstek, Amtrak

This will essentially be a replay of the House hearing that was held a couple of weeks ago. The GAO report from that hearing provides an excellent summary of the PTC program and the problems that the industry is having with implementing this technological nightmare. It also points out some of the problems that the FRA is having (and will continue to have) with the oversight of program. The conclusion from that report will certainly raise the ire of everyone that saw the PTC program as the solution to deadly train wrecks, but were not really read in on what the program was actually attempting to do; that ‘everyone’ includes a whole slew of congresscritters.

On the Floor

On Friday the Senate began their consideration of the House amendment to HR 302 that I mentioned last week. This amended bill will provide a two-year authorization for the FAA. It also includes a number of other (and wildly unrelated) measures designed to ensure that the bill will be considered and ultimately approved. The most interesting provision is found in Division H of the bill; the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, the counter-UAS language that I have discussed elsewhere.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill this afternoon with a cloture vote scheduled for 5:30. It looks like the Senate will stay in session tonight until the bill is passed. Sharp-eyed readers will note that the link above shows that a number of inconsequential amendments were agreed to on HR 502 before the announcement was made concerning this week’s process on HR 302. This is a rather typical example of ‘filling the amendment tree’ to allow the Majority Leader to control the debate on a bill while complying with Senate rules requiring consideration of amendments. No other amendments have been offered on this bill.

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