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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. DUNCAN of Tennessee. I thank Chairman Mica for yielding me this time, and I especially thank him for his long and hard work on this legislation. He has raised several points, Chairman Mica has, as to the problems that this motion to instruct would cause, so let me just mention a few things.

This motion to instruct conferees to accept the Senate bill in its entirety is contrary to the purpose of having a House and Senate conference. It is our responsibility to sit down with our Senate colleagues and address areas where we have differences of opinion. More importantly, the Senate bill includes provisions that many people have serious concerns about.

For example, the Senate bill requires that all new passenger vehicles, beginning in 2015, be equipped with an event data recorder. These recorders are similar to the black boxes required on airplanes. While the intent of this provision is to collect safety information, many people think this is a slippery slope that we really don't want to go down. Privacy is a big concern for many of my constituents and for many people across this country, and this provision, many people feel, would cross the line of Federal intrusion into citizens' personal, or private, lives.

There are also other areas where the Senate bill does not go far enough. We've talked about environmental streamlining for years, but everyone on both sides of the aisle knows we need to really do something about that now because other developed nations are doing projects in half the time or less than we are. In the last two Federal highway studies, one showed it took 13 years and another said it took 15 years from conception to completion. These are not transcontinental highways. These are just relatively short highway projects, and we could be doing those in 6 or 7 years.

The Senate bill does not set hard deadlines for Federal agencies to approve projects, so they can be delayed and delayed and delayed. It does not allow State environmental laws to be used in place of Federal environmental laws. There are some States in which the State laws are better. The Senate bill does not expand the list of projects that qualify for categorical exclusions. The Senate bill does not expedite projects that are being rebuilt due to a disaster, such as the bridge on Interstate 35 in Minnesota, which was done so quickly to everybody's great relief. These are issues not addressed in the Senate bill, issues which could be addressed in the conference. There are also many other issues that Chairman Mica has pointed out.

Let me just say that much of the highway bill that the House has produced came from the other side. I understand there were hundreds of letters from Democratic Members and that 60 percent of what was requested in those letters was done by the committee staff. Then there were over 100 amendments.

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

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

Mr. DUNCAN of Tennessee. We started our markup at, I think, 9 o'clock in the morning, and we went until about 3 o'clock the next morning. We addressed over 100 amendments that were submitted by Democratic Members, and I think over 20 of them were put into the bill. So many things were put in by the other side before the bill ever was marked up, and then during the markup. Now we're supposed to do away with all of that and just go with the Senate bill, but I don't think that's the way we should do it. I urge my colleagues to oppose this motion.


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