House Passes Several Moulton Bills As Part of HR 2, Major Federal Infrastructure Package
Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA)
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. The $1.5 trillion transportation and infrastructure package includes several bills introduced by Rep. Seth Moulton including H.R. 3145, the Protecting Americans from the Risks of Keyless Ignition Technology (PARK IT) Act; H.R. 4531, the State And Federal Electronic Data Records to Improve Vehicle-operator Eligibility Reporting Systems (SAFE DRIVERS) Act of 2019, and H.R. 2776, the Stop Sewage Overflow Act which he co-introduced with Rep. Lori Trahan. The bill passed with a vote of 233 to 188.
“Government is at its best when it’s pushing the country forward and challenging the American people to think big and make the country better for the next generation,” Moulton said. “Today’s vote is a good first step. We need to see a far more ambitious plan that moves us beyond a car-based future to an electrified high-speed rail system that puts people to work and gives us choices in how to get around. But, I’m encouraged that some of the first steps of that plan are in this bill, and I’m especially proud that several bills to address local issues like the Stop Sewage Overflow Act and the SAFE DRIVERS Act are included, too. Now it’s up to the Senate to do its job.”
The Stop Sewage Overflow Act is one of two bills Representatives Seth Moulton and Lori Trahan introduced together to combat combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in waterways like the Merrimack River. CSOs result when wastewater from aging domestic sewage systems exceed capacity, often during a heavy rainfall or snowmelt, and releases directly into nearby waterways without proper treatment. The main part of this bill to extend an existing CSO grant program, increase its funding, and reduce the cost burden for distressed communities made it into H.R. 2. Specifically, H.R. 2 would include $400 million annually over 5 years for EPA grants to treat and manage CSOs, with at least 20% of funds directed to financially distressed communities receiving a federal cost share of 75%.
Rep. Moulton introduced the PARK IT Act with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL) in response to deaths across the country from caused when people forgot to turn off their cars because they had keyless ignitions. Former UMass Boston Chancellor and interim UMass President Sherry Penny and MIT professor James Livingston died last year in in their Florida home because of exposure to carbon monoxide. Other victims have been crushed by cars that roll over them or someone else after they’ve gotten out of the vehicle.
The PARK IT Act would ensure a car with a keyless ignition left running and in park turns off after a set amount of time. It would help prevent rollaways by requiring a vehicle to shift into park if it is left running, the driver’s door open, and driver’s seat belt unbuckled. The bill is included in the Motor Vehicle Safety Title of H.R. 2.
Rep. Moulton introduced the SAFE DRIVERS Act in September 2019 following a June 21 crash in New Hampshire where a MA commercial driver plowed into a group of motorcyclists, many of whom were Marine veterans as they traveled to a charity event. Seven people including five Marine veterans died in the crash. The truck driver had been charged with a DUI in Connecticut, an offense which would revoke his driving eligibility, but the MA RMV failed to process the paper notice for this DUI in addition to out-of-state infractions for other MA drivers, leaving more than a thousand unsafe drivers on the road. The SAFE DRIVERS Act would improve the nation’s state traffic safety information system. With these changes, states will be able to use transportation grants to link highway safety databases and make the data compatible with data from other states, in an effort to move beyond paper notices in the digital age. Specifically, the SAFE DRIVERS Act created nine new uses for an existing grant program, all of which were included in the major transportation and infrastructure package.
Additionally, Rep. Moulton has led the effort in Congress each year to increase passenger rail funding, such as grants to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants, and other federal programs. Each of these programs was reauthorized for five years under H.R. 2 with increased funding levels to ensure we are investing in cleaner infrastructure to keep people and the country’s economy moving. Moulton also announced a national high-speed rail plan on May 19, 2020 to create jobs in response to the coronavirus pandemic and to transform how America travels and does business.
Important pieces from this proposal were included in the Moving Forward Act. These include:
- Expanding the factors considered in metropolitan, state and nonmetropolitan transportation planning to include additional economic and environmental metrics;
- Creating flexibility and reducing financial burden for state and local governments by counting Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans as non-federal share for federal grant requirements if the loan will be repaid with non-federal sources;
- Refunding credit risk premiums for RRIF loans when the terms of the loan are satisfied and also allowing federal funds to help cover the credit risk premium for RRIF loan recipients;
- Increasing 142(m) private activity bond state volume caps to help incentivize private investment in passenger rail projects;
- Authorizing advance acquisition of railroad right-of-way for rail projects receiving federal funds, while still prohibiting development of the right-of-way until required reviews are completed;
- Increasing federal funding for passenger rail projects and allowing use of funds for high-speed rail development.
Rep. Moulton is also an original cosponsor of H.R. 865, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019, on which the education infrastructure provisions in H.R. 2 are based. Under this bill, $130 billion in grants and bond authority would be invested in America’s public schools to eliminate health and safety risks to students and staff as well as equipping our schools for 21st century learning, including access to high-speed broadband.
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