How’s the Federal Highway Bill?
It's been a tumultuous few weeks, with Washington focusing all of its attention on the federal highway bill. The mammoth piece of legislation that paves new roads and fixes crumbling bridges has been a ghost for the past three years, when the old law expired. Since 2009, the bill has lurched from temporary extension to temporary extension, and the most recent expires at the end of this month. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) believes that another extension is a foregone conclusion at this point. The only question is how long will it be. Here is a quick rundown of where we are and where we have been.
The Senate passed a bill (S 1813) out of committee back in December. That bill is awaiting consideration by the full Senate, but it failed a cloture motion earlier this week. A vote against cloture is a vote to keep debating the bill and not begin voting on the bill. Failing a cloture vote is oftentimes the beginning of the end. Not always though, as we may see with this bill. Sources close to the MRF are saying that a deal has been reached between Senate Democrats and Republicans, and votes on amendments may wrap up next week. The Senate bill spends $109 billion over two years and has no anti-motorcycle language or helmet language of any kind.
Meanwhile, over on the House side, their version (HR 7) of the highway bill has an even more bizarre story. The House bill would spend $260 billion over five years. This bill also has zero anti-motorcycle language. It does have the language from HR 904 rolled into it, banning motorcycle-only checkpoints. Although the annual cost is actually less with the House bill, the overall cost proved to be too much for some Republicans in Congress, and they planned a revolt. The threat of the revolt was enough to force Speaker Boehner to divide the bill into three smaller bills; an odd choice of strategy. None of those bills have been brought to the floor. Supposedly there is so much rancor that the House may now take up the smaller Senate bill as a supplement, as it's more likely to get signed into law before the end of the month. But even that is long shot.
In other news, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law a piece of legislation that bans law enforcement agencies from conducting motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints. The ban takes effect July 1, 2012.
The MRF will keep you updated on the progress of the federal highway bill, and all federal motorcycling issues.
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