TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT: A LEGACY FOR USERS -- (House of Representatives - March 09, 2005)
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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of TEA-LU. The gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young), the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), our ranking member, have done a remarkable job. It is a credit to their leadership that we are unified in our desire to pass such a major piece of legislation.
No bill in the Congress that I know of considered this year will do more to positively affect the quality of life of every single American than this surface transportation reauthorization.
This is the key bill. I know I am not alone in wishing that we had more funds to make the capital investments to meet the ever-growing need. After decades of investments to meet an expanding Nation in a growing population, the United States transportation system is unmatched anywhere else in the world. A vital transportation sector is a major reason for our Nation's high productivity and mobility.
But we cannot accept stagnation. Without continuing to grow the program, we will fall further behind. New Jersey has some of the oldest infrastructure in the Nation, Mr. Chairman. This bill will do wonders for helping rebuild decrepit bridges and bringing commercial and commuter corridors into the 21st century.
My home State has over 1,100 people per square mile going every which way. Without increases to meet our mass transportation needs included in this legislation, we will have to macadam our living rooms to reduce congestion on our roads.
There is one provision I am disappointed is missing from the legislation. The gentlemen from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez and Mr. LoBiondo) have joined with me in crafting a bipartisan amendment to address an important clean-government issue found not only in New Jersey but across our Nation. Throughout the country, States like Connecticut are in the process of enacting pay-to-play restrictions to address the threat of real and apparent corruption resulting from large political contributions from contractors to influence the awarding of public contracts.
Unfortunately in an interpretation of the Federal law, the Federal Highway Administration is withholding Federal aid highway dollars from States which choose to clean up corruption. The Pascrell amendment would clarify the law so that the rights of States are very clear.
Our amendment allows States to enact anticorruption laws curbing the practice of pay-to-play contracting without losing their Federal aid. Federal precedent is clear on our point as well. Section 441© of the Federal Election Campaign Laws that prohibits campaign contributions for government contractors, this is the Federal law, in the 1990s the SEC enacted a pay-to-play ban, prohibiting contributions by bond traders. That has been upheld by the Federal courts.
I would urge the Rules Committee to protect our simple bipartisan amendment within its second rule tomorrow.
I congratulate the chairman and ranking member on advancing this legislation. As the process moves forward, we must work together to fight for a better bill, a bill which will create needed middle-class jobs.
I thank the gentleman for yielding the time.
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