Legislative Update: February-March 2020
FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
Emergency Relief for Transit
Last week the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act into law. The CARES Act is a $2.3 trillion stimulus package that will provide economic relief in response to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the bill, there is $48.5 billion in new appropriations for Transportation-HUD, of which $25 billion is for the Federal Transit Administration. The rest is mostly for Amtrak and the aviation sector, which is also receiving support through other provisions of the CARES Act.
The $25 billion in FTA funding will be apportioned according to FY 2020 formulas and does not have to appear on a transportation improvement program, long-range transportation, statewide transportation plan, or a statewide transportation improvement program. There is no federal cost share requirement. The funding is for the operating expenses of transit agencies related to coronavirus response, including reimbursement for operating costs to maintain service and lost revenue due to the coronavirus, the purchase of personal protective equipment, and paying the administrative leave of operations personnel due to reductions in service.
||TEXAS share of CARES ACT
|5307 Urbanized Area
|5311 Rural Area
|5337 State of Good Repair
The CARES Act does not include funding for highways like the 2008 ARRA did, but both President Trump and House Democrats have made it clear infrastructure will get funding through another stimulus bill coming in late April or May. In addition, states and local governments have all requested funding for the loss of revenues from fuel taxes and sales taxes that are invested in transportation.
Until then, State Departments of Transportation could be eligible for $150 billion in funding available to States, Tribal governments, and units of local government. Because state DOTs are part of state governments, they would be eligible to receive some funding at the discretion of their state governments.
Infrastructure Stimulus Still to Come
House Democratic leaders have declared their intention to include the $760 billion, five-year infrastructure framework they rolled out in January as part of the next coronavirus response legislation when Congress returns later this spring.
Their framework includes a $434 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill for highways, mass transit, and highway and motor carrier safety, and a $55 billion intercity passenger rail development authorization, as well as tens of billions of dollars for other transportation and infrastructure needs. Due to the President’s express support for an infrastructure deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans are expected to get on board despite reservations about including infrastructure in a coronavirus response package. At this point, no one is talking about funding, so it seems any new spending is likely to come from debt.
Due to concerns over the COVID-19 virus, committee hearings in the House and Senate have been canceled or postponed. The Texas Transportation Commission held their regularly planned March 26 hearing through a live audio stream. Members of the public were able to participate by calling into the hearing and providing comments.
Texas Transportation Commission
February 27, 2020
The Texas Transportation Commission met on February 27. TxDOT staff presented proposed updates to the 2020 Unified Transportation Program, which included a $7.5 billion plan to overhaul Interstate Highway 35 in three project sections from Buda to Round Rock. TxDOT staff presented information on the central project and funding sources, including $3.4 billion of funding from Category 12 and addressing a $934 million funding gap - reprioritization of more than $600 million of existing TxDOT funds allocated to CAMPO/Austin District and additional Category 12 funds during 2021 UTP. Public comments will be accepted through April 13. Commission action is expected at their April 30 meeting.
Texas Transportation Commission
March 26, 2020
The Texas Transportation Commission met via telephone on March 26. In his opening comments, Chair Bugg spoke about a recent briefing with Governor Abbott about actions related to COVID-19. TxDOT is canceling in person meetings until April 3, no ongoing project work has been halted with contractors, and additional safety measures are in place. They are in constant contact with state health officials for guidance. Action items included approving the February minutes, routine maintenance contracts and minute orders. The Commission also approved a grant deadline application opening from April 27 to May 27 for the Infrastructure Fund Grant Program. This is a grant program for oil and gas producing counties.
Monitored Bills List
The Texas Legislature is currently not in session. The US Congress bill list shows only bills with action since the last legislative update. If you need information on the bills being tracked, please contact Rebekah Hernandez.
Recent Committee Hearings
February 25, 2020
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing titled “Surface Transportation Reauthorization: Public Transportation Stakeholders’ Perspectives” on February 25. The Public Transportation title in the FAST Act expires in September 2020, which was the main concern of the committee. The witnesses agreed that states continue to make significant investments in public transportation at levels consistently higher than the federal government. They agreed that more federal investment is needed in the next authorization bill.
March 5, 2020
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing titled “Threats posed by state-owned and state supported enterprises to public transportation” on March 5, 2020. The committee discussed the threats posed by the Chinese rail car industry on the security of the American public transportation system with their non-competitive business practices and partnerships with the Chinese state military and intelligence apparatus. This issue is closely tied to Chinese steel dumping and is considered harmful to American jobs and security by the committee.
February 21, 2020
House Transportation Committee met on February 21. The House Transportation Committee met in a joint hearing with the International Relations & Economic Development Committee. The joint committee focused on border wait times and new provisions laid out in the US Mexico Canada Agreement plan.
February 26, 2020
Senate Transportation Committee met on February 26. The Senate Transportation Committee met to hear invited testimony on safety, TxDOT flight services, and monitoring. The safety portion featured analyses and studies germane to TxDOT’s Road to Zero campaign. The flight services section focused on the maintenance of TxDOT’s fleet of planes. The monitoring section focused on the ports of Harris county.
Upcoming Committee Hearings
There are no hearings currently scheduled.
House Transportation Committee planned to meet 4/29/20.
The Committee meeting has been postponed.
Senate Transportation Committee planned to meet 4/29/20.
The Committee meeting has been cancelled.
To view Committee Hearings for the Texas Senate click here:
To view Committee Hearings for the Texas House click here: