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Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4348, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. BLACK. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

We began the 112th Congress by reading the U.S. Constitution as a body, and we require that every bill cite the section of the Constitution that allows Congress to consider the legislation.

My motion to instruct simply maintains this desire of the House by protecting States' rights under the 10th Amendment. The 10th Amendment reads:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

I believe that the issue of laws related to distracted driving are best left to the States. That's why as a State senator in my home State of Tennessee I voted three times for a distracted driving law on the books today.

As a mother and a grandmother and a nurse, I strongly support absolute safety on our roadways. I also believe that there's no one in this Chamber who doesn't support safe driving laws. But this motion to instruct is not about safety; it's about the States' rights under the Constitution and stopping Federal manipulation of State law through taxpayer-funded distracted driving grants.

Now, the Senate passed a highway bill, Senate Bill 1813, that contains a provision that would grant the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood $79 million to entice the States to enact and enforce Federal distracted driving laws, something that 39 States already have on their books--39 States have already enacted these laws.

I believe the States are great laboratories for determining what works and what does not work. That is why my motion to instruct keeps intact a study--wants a study to be conducted on all forms of distracted driving. This helps government and also the public better understand and identify the most effective methods to educate drivers and enhance States' understanding of these issues so that they can enact and tailor laws best suited to the individual needs of their States.

I'm offering a motion to instruct that simply strikes the distracted driving grant funding language contained in the Senate-passed bill, while calling for a study to be conducted on all forms of distracted driving. This helps government and the public better understand and identify the most effective methods to educate the drivers and enhance the States' understanding of these issues so they can enact and tailor laws best suited to the individual needs of their State. What is best for the State of Massachusetts may not be best for the State of Montana. And as the 10th Amendment to our Constitution was written, these laws are reserved for individual States.

Now, just as we must provide certainty to job creators, we must provide certainty to States on the highway bill. The only way to accomplish this task is to allow for focused use of taxpayer dollars that is produced in a multiyear transportation bill that restricts the highway fund to its intended use, that is, building and maintaining America's roads and bridges. Taxpayer dollars are so precious, they should not be used on anything other than the intended purpose.

I urge my colleagues to protect states' rights and support my motion to instruct.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACK. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

This is a worthy goal. As I've already said, I'm a nurse. I'm a grandmother. I'm a mother. I want safety on our roads.

I have served in the State legislative body where I have voted three times on distracted driving. We did our studies, we found what the problems were in the State of Tennessee. We were able to pass laws to make the roads safer.

Careless driving of any form must be stopped, and I applaud the piece in the bill that will create more study so that States can have more information about just what they need to craft in their State that will be identified as distracted driving.

Obviously, distracted driving does not just mean cell phones, and it does not just mean texting. There are other forms of distracted driving--a mother turning around to correct her small child who is sitting in the back seat. I personally have seen those kinds of accidents. Someone reaching for a CD to put in one's disk, I personally have seen the devastation from that action. There are many forms of distracted driving, and this study will help us and the States and the public to understand what those forms of distracted driving are. In my motion, that is left in place.

Again, we have to be very cautious about our dollars and how it is that we hand our dollars out. I talk about this almost like legislative candy, this $79 million, to incentivize or to entice States to do something, and 39 of them are already doing something related to distracted driving.

As a matter of fact, if we take a look at this whole discussion on the transportation bill, we know how precious every dollar is. We're talking about infrastructure and about creating jobs. This $79 million can be best used by its intended programs, which are to build roads and bridges and to make our roads safer by making sure that our roads and our infrastructure are in the best shape. States are already doing this job. We don't need to take $79 million and hand it out to States--using candy to get them to do what we want them to do.

Absolutely, safety is the major issue, but States can make that decision. States have enough knowledge to know what's best for their States.

So, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to protect States' rights and to support my motion to instruct.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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