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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SCALISE. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentlelady from Tennessee for yielding time and also for bringing this amendment forward to instruct the conferees on the transportation bill.

If you look at what the amendment, what the motion to instruct, is saying, first of all, we recognize that 39 States have already put laws on the books to address problems with distracted drivers. It's a national problem. But every State, just as they have the right and the responsibility to create their own laws on issuing driver's licenses, each State has their own age requirements, their own speed limit requirements. Each State has to look at the unique problems that are posed by distracted drivers within that State.

In fact, in our State of Louisiana, we have a ban on texting while driving. And the legislature has gone back and forth on other forms of whether or not you can use a cell phone with a Bluetooth or with a speaker in your car if it's enabled to do that. And so technology changes, and the local States have the ability to be flexible enough to change their laws according to how it best suits their State.

Ultimately, by having a $79 million pot of money that would be up to the Secretary of Transportation to enforce as Federal distracted-driving laws, I think it gets away from the whole concept of the fact that States are the ones that are in charge of doing this, and the States know best what needs to happen in their States.

Driving laws in Louisiana are a lot different than they are in California or New York or somewhere else. That's what the 10th Amendment is all about. That's why you have elected officials at the State and local levels to handle the problems that are unique to each area. And the fact that you've got a $79 million pot of money that would only be put at the discretion of the Secretary of Transportation, just for this purpose, instead of using the $79 million to build roads throughout the country, or to allow the States to do what they think is best to improve safety in other ways, there are many things that need to be done in each of our States to improve safety on the roads.

And if a State's done a good job of addressing their texting problems and the distracted-driving problems as it relates to cell phones and other things, somebody eating and sitting in their car, ultimately the States know best what to do. And if they've got more

flexibility with the money--this isn't Washington money, by the way. They're paying into it. Every citizen back home, when they buy gasoline, is paying taxes. This is their money. It's not the Federal Government's money to say $79 million is only available for the things that we think are most likely to increase safety, when the States know what's better. Local people on the ground, people paying those taxes know what's better to increase safety. And you're not allowing them to use that money for the things that actually would improve safety even more.

So by limiting this $79 million to a fund that the Secretary himself in Washington would give out, let's let the States have that money back, money that they've paid in already, and let them do what they know is best to increase safety, whether they think it's putting guardrails on roads where the guardrails have broken off and they don't have the money to put that back in place, or whether it's to put railroad crossings. We have so many deaths by people who cross railroads where there's no crossing, and yet it's very expensive to build those.

States would like the ability to use the money to increase safety and stop the deaths that occur by spending it there. Yet this $79 million isn't allowed for that.

Let the States do what they know best because it's their money. It's the people's money. It's not Washington's money. And some Washington bureaucrat who thinks he knows best how to handle a problem at a Federal level that applies to all States when it works differently in every State, the challenges, the safety challenges that face our citizens are very different in each State, especially as it relates to driving on the road.

So, again, I want to thank the gentlelady for bringing this motion to instruct. I surely support the motion and also encourage everybody else in this Chamber to support it because, ultimately, if you've got $79 million that can be much better used to increase safety in other ways, why would you want to cordon it off and only allow it to be used for one way, when maybe 39 different States have 39 different ideas of how to do it better?

Well, we can learn from them for once instead of trying to have this top-down approach where Washington knows best. I think it could be handled much differently, much better at the local level. At the end it's their money anyway.

So I urge approval of this motion to instruct.


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