WASHINGTON –Congressman Troy Balderson today voted "no" on House Democrats' $1.5 trillion, highly partisan H.R. 2, which has tripled in size in the one week following the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's approval of the Majority's original $500 billion "My Way or the Highway" bill along party lines.
Funding for America's highways and transit programs is set to expire on September 30, 2020. Meanwhile, instead of working with Republicans to deliver a common-sense approach to a long-term surface transportation bill that would fix our failing roads and bridges, the Democrats’ bill would tie $2 of every $5 in surface transportation funding (or $200 billion) to new Green New Deal mandates, requirements, and programs. And while the Democrats’ legislation doesn’t include any information on how they would actually pay for the bill, if they were to pay for the surface transportation components through the Highway Trust Fund, they would need to double the gas tax.
"The partisan games need to stop," said Congressman Troy Balderson, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "Bipartisan agreement is the only path forward for a meaningful highways funding reauthorization, and it's time for my colleagues to get serious about fixing our nation's crumbling roads and bridges. Saddling the American taxpayer with a $1.5 trillion bill glutted with Green New Deal wish list items—unvetted by the appropriate committee of jurisdiction—is irresponsible and further demonstrates their blatant disregard for the challenges at-hand."
Focused on common-sense investment and reforms, Congressman Balderson recently joined fellow committee members in introducing the Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review (STARTER) Act as an alternative to the hyper-partisan H.R. 2. Sponsored by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), and cosponsored by 20 fellow committee members, the legislation offers several pragmatic solutions to invest in nationally significant freight and highway projects, the national highway freight program, and truck parking safety improvements. Additionally, the STARTER Act preserves state decision-making and streamlines project delivery and maximizes funding by reducing outdated regulatory red-tape.
"I’m proud to co-author the STARTER Act," said Congressman Balderson. "I came to Washington to work on meaningful solutions on behalf of my constituents and that's where I will focus my attention every day. If we set aside the partisan games, I believe our parties can find common ground not only on surface transportation reforms, but also a larger infrastructure package.”
Despite partisan gridlock on significant reforms, Balderson was able to garner bipartisan support for several priority amendments submitted for the committee markup and for Floor consideration, including:
PREPARING A NEW GENERATION OF TRUCK DRIVERS
- Establishing an apprenticeship program to train qualified 18 to 20-year-old CDL holders to safely operate in interstate commerce.
- Currently, 18-year-olds are able to obtain CDLs in 49 states but prohibited from driving commercial vehicles across state lines.
- The program would require these drivers to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver and a vigorous set of benchmarks and performance standards the drivers must pass before they are able to cross state lines.
“The DRIVE-Safe Act was inspired right here in the Crossroads of America, where logistics and transportation play crucial roles in our economy and connect us to every corner of the country, including just across our eastern state border to Ohio,” said Congressman Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), author of the DRIVE-Safe Act, from which Balderson’s amendment was adapted. “Including the DRIVE-Safe Act in any surface transportation reform legislation passed by Congress would increase trucking career opportunities, help all sectors of our country’s economy keep up with shipping demand, and help regrow our economy post-coronavirus.”This proposal is included in Ranking Member Graves’ STARTER Act.
ELIMINATING ARBITRARY RED TAPE FOR RAIL INDUSTRY
- Striking the arbitrary time limit established by the INVEST in America Act that would impose a 10-minute time limit for trains, locomotives, railroad cars, or other rail equipment blocking public grade crossings and significant fines, even for first time violators.
- The underlying bill already requires the DOT to submit a report to Congress containing a national strategy to address blocked crossings.
ENSURING MOTORCYCLISTS HAVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE
- Including motorcyclists in a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) study created by the INVEST in America Act on safe interactions between automated vehicles and road users
- With more than 400,000 motorcyclists on the road in Ohio, it is vital they have a seat at the table to ensure their concerns are voiced regarding the deployment of new technology.
- Specifying motorcyclists as a unique category, similar to the designation of bicyclists.
- Adding a representative of motorcyclist interests to the working group enlisted to assist DOT in this study.
- Providing motorcycles special consideration in the DOT safety study on autonomous vehicles, similar to the special consideration given to pedestrians and bicyclists. The amendment simply strikes the words “lane splitting” and inserts descriptive language to better account for varying state laws. Congressman Balderson's amendment was added to the bill by a voice vote on the House Floor.
- Preventing the profiling of motorcyclists through the use of motorcycle-specific checkpoints.
Balderson, an avid motorcyclist and member of the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus, was pleased his motorcycle amendments passed the committee for inclusion in the final bill reported out of the committee.
“The American Motorcyclist Association thanks Congressman Balderson for his work supporting motorcyclists while Congress considers the next highway funding bill,” said Michael Sayre, Director of Government Relations for the American Motorcyclist Association, based in Central Ohio. “From working to ensure motorcyclists are including in a proposed study on the interaction between automated vehicles and other road users to continuing the important work of the Motorcyclist Advisory Council, Congressman Balderson—a lifelong motorcyclist and longtime AMA member himself—is ensuring motorcyclists have a voice during the legislative process.”
“The Motorcycle Riders Foundation is thankful that lawmakers like Congressman Balderson have taken the time to consider the priorities of the over 8.6 motorcyclists on our nations roadways,” said Kirk Willard, President of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation. “As a motorcyclist himself, Congressman Balderson understands that motorcyclists represent every facet of our nation. As Congress considers this massive piece of legislation, it is reassuring that legislators like Congressman Balderson have the interests of all roadway users at heart.”
COMBATING IMPAIRED DRIVING
- Balderson joined Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY) in offering an amendment that would create a national grant program for states to educate the public about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.
SUPPORTING WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT IN TRANSPORTATION:
- Congressman Balderson joined Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the House Career and Technical Education Caucus, in offering an amendment that would expand workforce education grants and allow states to use this funding for on-the-job training, pre-apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships, industry partnerships, and upgrading facilities used for career and technical education.
- The amendment included language from H.R. 6156, the Transportation Workforce Investment Act, which Congressman Balderson introduced with Congressman Langevin, Congressman David McKinley (R-WV), and Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-MN) on March 9, 2020.