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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

What's interesting about the debate is, if the Senate bill is good, you're going to appoint conferees, argue for the Senate side--you don't have to introduce a bill here in the House--and expect us to accept it when we haven't read it, we haven't debated it. It came to the floor without any discussion on our side. So when we go to conference, if you like the Senate provisions, if you like a 2-year bill when we're going to fight for a 5-year bill, you're welcome to ask for that.
But there are some things in the Senate bill that really bother me. You had the Senate side say and guarantee there were no earmarks in this bill. Well, if you look at what Senator Reid has done, in the 2005 SAFETEA LU, the House put out a $45 million request for a project that was considered a legal earmark at that point in time. What Mr. Reid has done is he has reappropriated that project to a $45 million project near the Las Vegas airport.

Now, it's nice that the Senate wants to make promises, but actions speak a lot louder than words. And when the actions of the bill state clearly that $45 million of House money authorized in 2005 is being transferred to a project in Las Vegas in a bill--and it's 2012--something inappropriate about that promise seems to occur.

I really appreciate the chairman putting language in our original bill on environmental streamlining. I think he did a great job on this. But when I wrote the bill, the language was very clear on what we were trying to do.

In 2005, authored language in TEA LU said if a State has an environmental process that meets or exceeds Federal environmental law, they don't have to go through a duplicative process, and it allowed five States the opportunity to participate in that. But one State took advantage of that: the State of California. To this date, it's saving 17 months on process time--just application--and it's saving 30 months on delivery time.

What we tried to do in the House bill was the same thing. We're saying: Allow environmental reciprocity. But we want to go beyond that. We want to say not only should States be allowed to do that, but allow local municipalities and counties to do the same thing. They can save 17 months on process, 30 months on delivery. Today, time equals dollars. Plus, if you can create the projects today, we're going to move the economy forward in a positive direction and create some jobs.

But there's other things we need to do.

Receiving grants: Current law says that if a State or municipality applies for a Federal grant, they can't start the project until the grant money is received by the municipality or the agency. What we've done is say that once you have been approved for the grant, if you want to start the project, now start the project and you can reimburse yourself when the grant funds come in. You might save 12 months alone waiting for a grant to come in from the Federal Government; whereby, you can start today using local agency funds or State funds and get your money back when this money comes in from the grant project.

We need to establish some certainty on when you can start a project. The problem we have is, when applications are made to the Federal Government for a process for approval, it goes through an uncertain time process where they can delay and delay and delay. We've said, thanks to the chairman, that there's a date certain. Now the Federal Government has to respond by a date and has to approve it by a date.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. MICA. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.

Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I think Chairman Mica did a great job putting the language into the bill, because it says you have to know when you can do something based on the Federal process and it sets a deadline for the Federal bureaucrats to get their job done.

Now, it seems like local governments and State governments are rapidly wanting to do things and the Federal Government drags its heels, requiring them to delay until they get final approval. We're saying, no, let's set a date for the Federal bureaucracy to approve a project--and I know you agree with this issue on your side--to let the construction projects go forward and make sure bureaucrats do their job. I approve what Chairman Mica is willing to do and wants to do here.


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