Pryor Highlights Local Transportation Program, Consumer Product Safety in Homeland Security Bill
The Senate passed legislation Thursday night by Senator Mark Pryor to provide a multi-million dollar grant for Arkansas' Mack-Blackwell Rural Transportation Center as well as a temporary waiver for the Consumer Product Safety Commission so it may continue official business despite a vacancy. The measures are part of the Improving America's Security Act of 2007, which implements several recommendations by the 9/11 Commission report to protect our nation from terrorism.
Pryor said the long-awaited legislation authorizes funding for additional checkpoints and baggage screening at airports; requires 100 percent cargo screening at ports; creates a new program to improve communication links among state, local and federal officials; and authorizes separate grant programs for rail, transit and bus security. He said the Mack-Blackwell Rural Transportation Center at the University of Arkansas will play a significant role in our nation's transportation security as a result. During last minute negotiations on the bill, he designated the Center as a "National Center of Excellence for Transportation Security." The designation means the Center will be one of six charter programs in the country to share $72 million over the next four years to enhance its rural security efforts.
"It makes perfect sense for the Mack-Blackwell Center to lead the way in rural transportation security," Pryor said. "This new funding will enable the Center to expand its current research to meet some of the major security challenges we face today."
Pryor said he is also pleased the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will again be allowed to conduct official business to protect children and adults from hazardous products. His measure allows the CPSC to resume its official business despite a current vacancy, such as voting on new product safety standards or levying civil penalties for violations of safety laws, for an additional six months. The Senator said the Commission's business has been stalled because President Bush has not filled a vacancy since Chairman Hal Stratton resigned in July 2006.
"From coffee makers to baby cribs, this agency is charged with making sure everyday products we buy and use are safe. But its hands have been tied for 7 months now because of the vacancy," Pryor said. "With counterfeit imports and emerging technologies increasing daily, the CPSC needs to be at full capacity. My measure buys the agency 6-months to give the President time to move a qualified candidate through the nomination process."