This article originally appeared in the Precast Today Q1 2023 edition.
By Rachel Derby
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the new Congress!
The 118th Congress already is up in the air: from national flight delays to unidentified flying objects to a cloud of uncertainty over House leadership and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) becoming Speaker after a historic 15th ballot.
It will take a Super-Congress to address national transportation issues facing the United States alongside economic, workforce and global concerns.
Congress has a clear transportation agenda, partially driven by politics and the need to reauthorize key programs.
Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who served as the ranking member the past four years, laid out his priority for the committee. Americans can expect oversight on the implementation of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Questions on how the money is being spent, how quickly it is going out and possibly pulling back on some infrastructure areas.
Expect a show, but don’t expect a major impact to the Biden Administration’s marquee legislation.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee agenda also is driven by upcoming deadlines to reauthorize programs before expiration. Notably, the Federal Aviation Administration needs to be reauthorized by Sept. 30.
Recently, the FAA halted thousands of flights nationwide after a pilot notification system failed. Congress is focused on updating the critical-alert system that caused this failure. The agency is looking to modernize the system in advance of the 2030 scheduled deadline and requesting additional funds for support. The House has announced an aggressive timetable for a floor vote in July on the FAA package.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee must pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2024 before the end of this Congress. This program authorizes new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chiefs reports to advance restoration, flood risk management and hurricane and storm risk reduction projects across the country.
Passage of a WRDA bill will continue the cycle of legislation every two years to advance U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects. This generally is a bipartisan effort.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) reclaims her position as chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee. Previously, she chaired the committee from 2017-19. One of Foxx’s major interests is in workforce development, overseeing the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which would assist Americans in gaining skills and knowledge to enter the workforce and compete for in-demand industry jobs.
Foxx has outlined her agenda, indicating workforce development will be at the top of the committee’s priorities.
Beyond Congress, the Biden Administration also announced requirements that all construction materials in federal infrastructure projects be made in the United States. The White House is proposing guidance to set domestic manufacturing standards for construction materials. It is imperative that precast materials be included in this guidance.
With a divided Congress and narrow margins for both parties, any meaningful legislation must garner bipartisan support.
Watch NPCA’s blog site (Precast.org/blogs) for updates from Washington and statehouses.
Rachel Derby is co-principal of Innovative Advocacy, which works with NPCA to advance the interests of the precast concrete industry in Washington, D.C.
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