CD127: The Fast Act (The Transportation Funding Law)

Transportation: We all need it, and Congress funded it. In this episode, we take a detailed look into the FAST Act, which funds our national transportation network for the next five years.


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H.R. 22: FAST Act ("Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act)

Bill Highlights

Division A – Surface Transportation

Title I – Federal-Aid Highways

Funding level

Acceleration of Projects

  • Creates a pilot program that will allow States to conduct environmental reviews, using their own State laws, instead of using the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
    • Capped at 5 States
    • The State can only be approved if the Secretary of Transportation determines the laws of the State are at least as stringent as the Federal requirements.
    • No lawsuits will be allowed, challenging the permit approval, after 2 years.
    • The program will sunset in 12 years

Miscellaneous

  • The Department of Transportation will identify national corridors for installation of electric car charging stations and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas refueling stations by the end of 2016.

  • Allows the Department of Transportation to move swallows from under bridges that need fixing until the Interior Department issues final rules.

Title III – Public Transportation

Funding level

Buy American

Title IV – Highway Traffic Safety
  • Provides grants to States in return for their establishment of laws that prohibit texting and driving.

  • Prohibits Federal grant money from funding for State & local programs for checking for motorcycle helmet usage or checkpoints for motorcycle monitoring.

Impaired Driving

Title V – Motor Carrier Safety

Drug Test Expansion

  • Allows companies to conduct preemployment and random tests of commercial drivers for alcohol and controlled substances using hair testing as an alternative to urine testing.
    • Allows for religious exemptions
Title VI – Innovation

Highway User Fees

Public Access to Research

Title VII – Hazardous Materials Transportation

Special permits

  • Speeds up the decision time for special permits for transporting hazardous material by 60 days
    • The decisions will be available to the public

"Wetlines"

Transportation of flammable liquids by rail

  • Within a year, the Secretary of Transportation has to create regulations to require railroads to report accurate, real-time information about hazardous liquids being transported to the local fusion centers, who will share the information with State and local first responders.

  • Tank cars that do not meet Federal standards can still be used to transport oil and ethanol until 2018 or May 2025, depending on the type of tank car.

  • The Secretary of Transportation will have 180 days to create regulations to make sure that tank cars modified to meet Federal standards be equipped with insulating blankets that have been approved by the Secretary.

Title XI – Rail

Funding Levels

  • Amtrak, which owns the tracks and passenger cars operating in the Northeast, will get an average of $519 million per year.
  • For Amtrak operations in the rest of the country, where private freight companies own our tracks, Amtrak will receive an average of $1 billion per year.

Food and Beverage Reform

Pets on Trains

Gulf Coast Rail

  • A working group will be created and have nine months to develop a recommendation for the best option for restoring intercity rail passenger transportation between New Orleans, LA and Orlando, FL.

Privatizing long distance routes

  • The Secretary of Transportation will have to create a pilot program by mid-2017 that will allow non-Amtrak companies to operate up to 3 long distance passenger rail routes.
    • The non-Amtrak operator will have control of the route for four years and it can be renewed once for an additional four year period.
    • The operator will be given an operating subsidy for up to 90% of what the government is giving Amtrak.
    • The non-Amtrak operator can be the private company that owns the tracks, another private company that has an agreement with the track owners or the States.
    • The non-Amtrak operator will be given access to Amtrak's reservation system, stations, and operations facilities and will be required to give hiring preferences to the Amtrak employees laid off because of the transfer.

Cameras on Trains

Liability Cap

Title XXIV – Motor Vehicle Safety

Recall Information

  • The Secretary of Transportation will have until the end of 2017 to create a public website for easily accessible information on vehicle safety recalls.
  • Information about recalls will have to be sent to consumers electronically in addition to first class mail.
  • There will be a two year pilot program testing the idea of States informing customers of recalls when they register their vehicles.
  • Doubles the amount of time consumers get to have their recalled tires replaced from 60 days to 180 days.

Rental Car Safety

Motor Safety Violation Penalties

Driver Privacy

  • Information from a car's event data recorder can only be accessed by someone other than the owner or lessee if it's authorized by a court, is provided willingly by the owner/lessee, is needed for emergency response purposes, or is for traffic safety research and the personally identifiable information is hidden.

Tires

Whistleblowers

Title XXXII – Offsets

Passport Denials for Tax Delinquencies

Privatize Tax Collection

  • Forces the Treasury Secretary to issue at least one contract for tax collection services by April 2016.

Customs Fees

Federal Reserve Funds

  • Limits the amount of money that can be held by the Federal Reserve banks to $10 billion and transfers the remainder to the general fund of the Treasury.

  • Adjusts dividends for Federal Reserve stockholders to the lower of the rate of the 10 year Treasury notes or 6 percent

Strategic Petroleum Reserve

  • Requires the Secretary of Energy to sell at least 66 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and deposit the money into the general fund of the Treasury.
    • The amount sold may be increased at the discretion of the Energy Secretary until the revenue totals $6.2 billion.

Crop Insurance Profits

Oil & Gas Royalties

PAYGO Scorecard

Title LI – Taxpayer protection provisions and increased accountability

Export-Import Bank

  • Reauthorizes the Export-Import bank until September 30, 2019 and reduces the amount of loans, guarantees, and insurance the Export-Import bank can have outstanding to $135 billion (from $140 billion).

  • Requires the Export-Import bank to hold 5% of it's funds in reserve to protect against losses.

  • Requires independent audits of the Export-Import bank's portfolio

  • Creates a pilot program that allows the Export-Import Bank to enter into contracts to "share risks".

    • The amount of liability allowed to be transferred is capped at a total of $10 billion.
Title LV – Other Matters

Environmental Law Waivers

  • In an emergency during which there is a sudden increase in energy demand – which includes during a war that the United States is involved in – "any party" that follows an order to generate electricity can not be sued for violating "any Federal, State, or local environmental law or regulation".

Strategic Transformer Reserve

Title LXXI – Improving Access to Capital for Emerging Growth Companies
  • Makes it easier and faster for a company that makes under $1 billion per year to offer stock to the public.
Title LXXII – Disclosure Modernization and Simplification
  • Reduces paperwork for companies that make under $1 billion per year and want to offer stock to the public.
Title LXXIII – Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings
  • Removes the requirement that collectable coins be 10% copper
Title LXXIV – SBIC Advisors Relief
Title LXXV – Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion
  • Banks will not have to mail privacy notices to their customers if they haven't changed their policies since the last disclosure was sent.
Title LXXVI – Reforming Access for Investments in Startup Enterprises
  • Allows privately held shares to be sold to "accredited investors" without registering the securities with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Title LXXXII – Capital Access for Small Community Financial Institutions
Title LXXXIII – Small Bank Exam Cycle Reform


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