TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT: A LEGACY FOR USERS -- (House of Representatives - March 10, 2005)
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the gentleman from Massachusetts, for yielding me time; and I rise in strong support of the amendment offered by the gentlemen from New Jersey (Mr. Pascrell), (Mr. Menendez), and (Mr. LoBiondo). The gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez) and before him my other colleagues from Massachusetts have stated, I think clearly, what is at stake here.
New Jerseyans were surprised to learn that the Federal Highway Administration recently withheld $260 million in highway funds because New Jersey had taken the very important step, I think the landmark step, to protect the integrity of contracts. Pay-to-play had become something that clearly had to be stopped, and the effort to bring integrity in public contracts by limiting political contributions is something that New Jersey is not only within its rights to do, but is something that should serve as a model for the Nation.
New Jerseyans were surprised to find that the highway administration ruled that New Jersey could not do that or else they would take the highway funds away.
This amendment would clarify the propriety of New Jersey's action. It would preserve the ability of States to protect the integrity of public contracts, and it is not just New Jersey. As the gentlewoman has heard, it would be, I think, to the benefit of West Virginia and a number of other States.
There are plenty of precedents, as the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez) has pointed out, to support the adoption of this amendment. The SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, currently has what we call a pay-to-play ban in place prohibiting contribution by bond traders, and that has been upheld in the courts.
So this amendment makes sense. It is entirely proper. It would benefit many States, and it would make clear that it is not the role of the Federal Highway Administration to decide what is and what is not ethical political procedure.
Furthermore, as my colleague, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez), has pointed out, this would probably save money. There is too much money allocated in contracts for reasons that are not based entirely on cost and efficiency.
So I strongly urge the support of the Pascrell-Menendez-LoBiondo amendment.
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