The House and Senate have named their conferees and the first meeting of the committee tasked with hammering out a new transportation authorization before the current extension expires will meet on May 8. The most recent extension ends June 30th.
That said, Michigan is represented on the conference committee as both Congressmen Dave Camp and Fred Upton have been named as conferees. Congressman Camp chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and Congressman Upton the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
This means that local officials have a unique opportunity to contact both Congressmen Camp and Upton about the need for a long term solution that will help to bring certainity to decisions being made at the local level on transportation and infrastructure projects.
Recall that the Senate has passed a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill (S. 1813) with bipartisan support, but House Republican leaders oppose it because it does not contain their reforms for highway programs. Speaker Boehner and House Republicans also want to link revenues from expanded domestic energy production to infrastructure spending. The House on the other hand has passed a bill that would add a additional 90 days and sets the stage for a conference committee with the Senate on their own recently passed two year bill.
The House extension however also contains a poison pill to the Obama administration, mandating construction of the controversial Keystone pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
The League and a host of transportation advocacy groups, including the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (this year led by Michigan MDOT Director Kirk Steudle) supported the Senate version. While not perfect, it is a good place for negotiators to start.
Arnold Weinfeld is Director of Strategic Initiatives and Federal Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 or by e-mail.