Dear Campaign Partner,
We've all been running around here like crazy as both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives simultaneously try to advance the transportation reauthorization. Below is an overall update of the process, with two particular—and critical—Senate asks.
S. 1813, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" (MAP-21) effectively fails to preserve dedicated funding for trails, walking and bicycling by forcing core programs--Transportation Enhancements (TE), Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP)--to compete with expensive ‘must do’ activities at the state level (such as routine maintenance and regulatory compliance) and providing easy ways for states to repurpose the dollars to other priorities. Despite a setback this morning in which a procedural vote to move the bill forward in the Senate failed to gain the 60 votes needed (54 voted yes, 42 no), Senate leaders are likely to find a way to gain that approval and take up floor amendments as soon as February 27th. Next week the Senate is not in session and many senators will be back in their home states.
There are two floor amendments for which we need your assistance.
1. S. Amdt. 1549, introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) would improve local access to TE and SRTS funds through sub-allocation of project decisions for large metro areas and competitive grants focused on local needs elsewhere. Further, funds would have to be spent on projects rather than repurposed if eligible applications are pending. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) distributed a sign-on letter in support of this amendment to every Senate office earlier this week. Thank you to so many of you who signed your organization on this letter.
We now need you to strongly encourage any local elected officials or other VIPs to call your senators' offices and encourage them to support S. Amdt. 1549, the Cardin/Cochran amendment. Such a request, coming from local elected officials to encourage local access to critical funds, carries great import. (For background and talking points, please see this letter of support for the amendment from the heads of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties.)
Please report back any such communiques to RTC by emailing email@example.com.
2. S.Amdt. 1661, filed by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) would restore the integrity of the RTP. If you have not yet signed your organization's name on our organizational letter of support for this amendment, please read the letter and do so now. We anticipate delivering this letter to the Senate late next week.
House of Representatives
As we noted in a recent email, the House transportation bill (H.R. 7) is, according to the New York Times, "uniquely terrible." With the exception of the preservation of the RTP, the bill eliminates dedicated funding for trails, walking, bicycling and even transit. Thankfully, more than thirteen thousand RTC supporter and countless others from around the country contacted their representatives opposing H.R. 7. These concerns, combined with opposition from right wing groups that deem the bill too expensive or object to oil drilling revenues because they are not ‘user fees,' the bill failed to attract sufficient support.
As this flurry of opposition from across the political spectrum flooded representatives' inboxes, House leadership realized they did not have the votes to pass the bill, and reneged on predictions of floor passage of the bill by President's Day, choosing instead to break the bill into several pieces and delay consideration of controversial policy provisions until at least February 27th.
A revenue piece was advanced last night, H.R. 3408, which focuses on the development of oil resources and dedicates revenue from these sources to the transportation bill, passed out of the House by a 50 vote margin. However, this measure will not gain traction in the Senate except as part of a transportation bill.
Prior to all of this, however, you should recall that Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) deserve tremendous thanks from all in our movement for introducing an amendment in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that would have restored dedicated funding for TE and SRTS. The amendment failed by a narrow 27-29 vote (also attracting Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.)). The close vote was frustrating since there was substantial arm-twisting from House leaders that dissuaded some members that would otherwise have been in our favor.
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Vice President of Policy and Trail Development