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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa Votes to Support Transportation Bill that Includes Keeping Student Loan Interest Rates Down, an I-69 Sign Designation for South Texas, and the Extension of the National Flood Insurance Program

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Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX-15) voted to support legislation that will extend federal highway programs through 2014, a low interest rate on student loans for one year, and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years. The portion of the bill that includes student loans will keep the 3.4 percent loan rate for students through July 1, 2013. This one-year extension of student loan rate keeps the rate from doubling, which would have been a heavy burden to students who need loans to complete their education. Under current law, the rate would have doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012 for 7.4 million college students.

Student Loans:

"This will save students an average of $1,000 over the life of their loan," said U.S. Rep. Hinojosa. "In Texas approximately 461,533 borrowers will benefit from what we voted on today. Democrats made a commitment to our students, that we would help them achieve their dreams of obtaining a college degree and pursuing successful careers and to do so without the burden of a huge debt. Failure to have acted today would have added $6.3 billion to students' debt burden in one year alone!"

Transportation:

Great news for the City of McAllen's public transportation system! Congressman Hinojosa introduced language in the bill that will allow small urban transit systems (those with 75 peak buses or less that are not transit authorities) to use up to 50% of federal funds for operational assistance. McAllen operates 8 buses at peak periods. Over the next several years McAllen will have millions of dollars in federal funding for its public transportation system. This measure will also help the cities of Brownsville and Laredo.

"This is a big win for the City of McAllen and its residents and I was very happy to be a part of it," said Congressman Hinojosa. "Under the good leadership of Mayor Richard Cortez, the residents of McAllen will be provided with the best in public transportation."

"Congress works best when it works together in a bi-partisan way to do what's best for the country. This transportation bill is good for the U.S., Texas and McAllen," said McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez. "I appreciate Congressman Hinojosa's leadership and support on this issue. This bill will benefit McAllen's fast growing transit system and help keep transportation projects moving forward which are key for business."

The Transportation bill includes a portion that authorizes spending of about $120 billion through 2014, and funds most of that by extending various fuel and highway taxes.

"We have literally saved more than 2 million jobs by making sure the Surface Transportation Act of 2012 was voted through," said U.S. Rep. Hinojosa. "I am also very pleased to know that South Texas will now be authorized to have our new Interstate-69 signage in place in various parts of the Rio Grande Valley. This is the sign of progress and represents economic growth for our area."

Congressman Hinojosa co-sponsored language in the bill that will allow sections of the I-69 routes in Texas that are at interstate standard but are not connected to an existing interstate highway to be designated as part of the Interstate Highway System and signed.

Areas of US 59, US 77 and US 281 that could display the new signage are Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy, Kleberg, Brooks, San Patricio, Jackson, Wharton, Fort Bend, Liberty, San Jacinto, Polk, Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties. These highways could become part of the system if it meets interstate design standards and is planned to connect to an existing Interstate System segment within 25 years.

In addition to the new signage, billions of dollars in federal aid funding will be designated for many states including Texas. See chart:

Surface Transportation Conference Report -- State-by-State Table

Flood Insurance:

The U.S. House of Representatives also voted on the extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) a bill originally co-sponsored by Congressman Hinojosa.

Specifically, the Agreement re-authorizes the National Flood Insurance Program for five years and makes important reforms to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) premium rate structure to place the program on a stronger financial footing. Among the Agreement's key reforms are: (1) phasing out discounted rates yet providing communities and homeowners adequate time to adjust to risk-based premiums by phasing in those rates over five years at 20 percent per year; (2) requiring FEMA to update maps according to recommendations made by a technical mapping advisory council composed of government and non-government experts; (3) streamlining FEMA's flood mitigation programs to make them more effective and reduce repetitive flood claims; 4) prohibiting FEMA from charging discounted rates for new and lapsed policies; (5) establishing an independent scientific resolution panel to consider map appeals by communities; (6) requiring FEMA to establish an ongoing mapping program to review, update and maintain flood insurance rate maps and requiring that the most accurate data be used in mapping and maintenance.

While the Agreement requires FEMA to include areas of residual risk, including those behind levees, and areas with the 500-year floodplain on flood insurance rate maps, it does not include Senate language that would have required FEMA to treat areas of residual risk as a special flood hazard area, which would have subjected residual risk areas to mandatory purchase of flood insurance. In addition, the Agreement does not include Senate language that would have required that communities be notified when they are mapped into a 500-year floodplain and also would have required lenders to give notice to purchasers or lessees of property in the 500-year floodplain.

The Senate approved the measure and the President is expected to sign it into law.


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