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Congressman Capuano's
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
8th Congressional District of Massachusetts

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February 3, 2012

Transportation Reauthorization

Early this morning, the long awaited transportation reauthorization bill, H.R. 7: the American Energy and Infrastructure Act, passed in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. This legislation funds road, bridge and transit projects for five years and is the primary means of providing federal transportation resources to states and municipalities.

I am sorry to report that thereís not much to cheer about in H.R. 7. For me, one of the few bright spots is that my tunnel inspection legislation is included in H.R.7. You may recall Iíve filed this bill several times since the tragic ceiling tile collapse in a Big Dig tunnel that killed Milena Del Valle. In the aftermath of that terrible accident, it was learned that there are no nationwide tunnel inspection requirements. My proposal establishes a tunnel inspection program modeled after the existing bridge inspection program and I hope this time it will finally become law.

Overall, I am deeply troubled with the approach taken in H.R. 7 to address our nationís significant infrastructure challenges. For starters, the 831 page bill was not distributed until very late last week and not made available online until Tuesday. Despite this, H.R. 7 bypassed subcommittee consideration and was marked up by the full committee yesterday. There was very little time to review the bill and assess its impact, but from nearly everything I have read, this bill takes transportation reauthorization in the wrong direction.

H.R. 7 authorizes $260 billion over 5 years for highway, transit and safety programs. It may sound like a big number, but when you consider the details, it is actually less than we are currently spending. In addition to the lower funding levels, a number of formula changes were made that will impact Massachusetts. This bill directs 12.3% less transit money to the state than the last reauthorization in 2005. Our highway funding does increase slightly, but not enough to offset what is lost on the transit side. When highway and transit funding are combined, Massachusetts will receive 3.5% less than the last reauthorization. Even though Massachusetts gets less money under this bill, we arenít impacted as much as most other states and the District of Columbia, ranking 17th out of 51 by percentage increase/decrease. We all know that federal budget constraints are real. However, infrastructure spending creates jobs and a comprehensive transportation network is a benefit to a strong economy. A 2007 Federal Highway Administration study concluded that for every $1.25 billion in federal spending on transportation infrastructure, 35,000 jobs are supported.

Historically, federal gas tax revenues have funded the transportation reauthorization bill and some of that revenue has been specifically dedicated to transit programs. H.R. 7 eliminates gas tax funding for transit projects and instead pays for them through the general fund. I cannot overstate how problematic this can be to transit programs all over the country, which will now compete with virtually every federal program for funding. For some programs, such as Safe Routes to Schools and Transportation Enhancements, which fund non-motorized initiatives like bike paths and pedestrian improvements, the bill is just devastating. In fact the number of bad policies in this bill are really too many to list.

During the markup the Committee did accept an amendment I offered requiring that state safety plans identify the 100 most dangerous road locations and develop specific funding plans to address the problems identified with those locations. H.R. 7 passed out of Committee with a vote of 29-24. I voted NO. It is expected to be considered on the floor of the House soon, possibly next week.

FAA Bill

On Friday the House passed the Conference Report on H.R. 658: the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act. This legislation funds Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs and operations for 4 years. It contains a provision I requested calling on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the impact of flight delays and make recommendations on the types of programs that could be implemented to address them. Although I am pleased that this study was included in H.R. 658, I could not support the bill, primarily because of some labor provisions, but also because of funding levels. I am specifically concerned with a provision that increases from 35% to 50% the number of employees who must request an election to form a union. This provision has not been changed for 75 years and was originally established as an agreement between management and employee representatives. Congress should not step in and unilaterally raise this threshold. Quite simply, this is nothing more than an attempt to make it harder to form a union. I voted NO. H.R. 658 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















MF Global

On Thursday the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations conducted another hearing on the circumstances surrounding the collapse of MF Global. I am Ranking Member on this subcommittee and have been working with the subcommittee Chair to learn more about what happened at MF Global. You may recall that in December, the subcommittee heard from former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine. This week, some of the credit rating agencies, including Standard and Poorís and Moodyís, testified about MF Global. I am concerned with determining what happened to all of the money that investors lost, making sure that those who should have been watching MF Global were exercising sufficient oversight and determining if the rules currently in place are adequate. I wasnít really satisfied with the testimony of two of the credit rating agencies, who did not raise questions about MF Global until days before its collapse. If you are interested in viewing some of the hearing, you may watch here.

What’s Up Next Week

Next week the House is expected to consider H.R. 1148, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.

Congressman Mike Capuano
8th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services

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