Legislative Activity

President’s Budget Expected this Week

President Trump is expected to release his FY 2018 budget this week, and transportation stakeholders are eager to see whether the full budget includes cuts to transportation programs with bipartisan Congressional support that were included in the President’s “Skinny Budget” released in March.

In particular, the Skinny Budget proposed only funding existing full funding grant agreements through the Capital Investment Grant program (New Starts), eliminating funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, and eliminating funding for the Essential Air Service program. Even before release of the FY 2018 budget, some New Starts projects are stuck in limbo: Congress has provided first-year funding for the projects in the recently passed FY 2017 Omnibus spending bill, based on the Obama DOT project recommendations, yet the Trump DOT has not yet been willing to sign the full funding grant agreement necessary to release the funds.

Like most Presidential budgets, the Skinny Budget has been declared “Dead on Arrival” in Congress. There is a lot of political support for many of the programs that would see reduced funding or be eliminated under the President’s proposed Skinny Budget, and we expect that the final appropriations for FY 2018 will look significantly different than the Skinny Budget.

FAA Reauthorization Update

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to have one more hearing on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization in the coming weeks in anticipation of an FAA reauthorization effort later this year. The current FAA authorization expires September 30, and Congress is expected to consider legislation during the summer months.

Last week, the Committee held its fifth hearing on FAA reauthorization issues, the first one focused on air traffic control (ATC) reform. Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) is expected to advocate for fundamental ATC reform again this Congress, though he has indicated there may be some changes from his proposal in the last Congress that are intended to gain additional support from aviation stakeholders, such as the general aviation community. However, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), recently voiced opposition to the ATC reform proposal, saying that it would give airlines too much control of the National Airspace System (NAS).

Chairman Shuster has found some increased support for his ATC reform proposal this Congress: James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, recently sent a letter supporting ATC reform and the President included ATC reform in his Administration’s “Skinny Budget” released in March.

Regulatory Activity

Court Overturns FAA’s Drone Registration Rule

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that FAA’s rule requiring registration for recreational unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) contradicts a 2012 FAA reauthorization law that restricts “any rule or regulation regarding model aircraft.” Since the 2015 regulation went into effect, around 745,000 people have registered their UAS and paid the nominal fee associated with registration. Congress could address the issue in FAA reauthorization legislation expected later this year.

DOT Delays GHG Rule

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has delayed the implementation of portions of the Performance Measures rule that related to greenhouse gases (GHG). This rule was promulgated by the Obama Administration and included greenhouse gas emissions as a measure of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program. While the action delays several provisions of the rule indefinitely, DOT noted it would publish a notice of proposed rulemaking on the provisions in the coming weeks.

President Signs Bill Repealing MPO Consolidation Rule

The President recently signed legislation that repealed the Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform rule, a priority of former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The rule would have required some Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to consolidate around the country, to include an entire urbanized area, and issue a single metropolitan transportation plan, a single transportation improvement program, and a jointly established set of performance targets.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, May 23, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection has scheduled a hearing titled “Disrupter Series: Delivering to Consumers.” The witnesses will be:
    • Shyam Chidamber, Chief Evangelist and Senior Advisory, Flirty;
    • Harry Holzer, Jo John LaFarge Jr. S.J. Professor of Public Policy, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University;
    • Bastian Lehmann, Founder and CEO, Postmates; and
    • Brian Wynne, President and CEO, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
  • On Tuesday, May 23, the Senate Armed Service Committee has scheduled a hearing entitled, “Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space.” The witnesses will be:
    • James E. Dunstan, Founder, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC;
    • Laura Montgomery, Attorney and Proprietor, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC;
    • Matthew Schaefer, Co-Director of Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program University of Nebraska College of Law;
    • Mike Gold, Vice President, Washington Operations, Space Systems Loral;
    • Peter Marquez, Vice President of Global Engagement, Planetary Resources;
    • Colonel Pamela Melroy, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired and Former Astronaut; and
    • Bob Richards, Founder and CEO, Moon Express
  • On Tuesday, May 23, the Senate Environment and Public Works Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subommittee has scheduled a hearing entitled, “Making Implementation of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ground-Level Ozone Attainable: Legislative Hearing on S.263 and S.452.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Corps of Engineers (Civil Works) and the Bureau of Reclamation FY 2018 Budget Requests.” The witnesses will be:
    • Doug Lamont, Senior Official, Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works);
    • Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers;
    • Scott J. Cameron, Special Assistant, Department of the Interior; and
    • Alan Mikkelsen, Acting Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation