House Leaders To “Postpone” Transit Assault, Introduce Shorter Bill?

Word from CQ Roll Call is that House leaders are backing down on H.R. 7.  A subscription email sent to T4 America staff this afternoon reported that a new House bill will be introduced, with a shorter time-frame:

According to a senior House GOP aide, the House bill will be shorter than the just under five-year bill (HR 7) originally envisioned.  How much shorter is unclear; the aide said it would still “provide plenty of time for a new Congress and new President to enact a long-term reauthorization.”

The aide also said the changes to transit the bill had originally contained — primarily, getting rid of its funding link to the Highway Trust Fund — will be “postponed.”

We are still confirming this news, which may or may not change our response to the House’s transportation plans.  The rumors are that the bill would remain linked to H.R. 3804, the energy revenue bill that passed last week, and could still contain troubling policies that would require continued advocacy to defeat. After all, there were at least ten reasons to oppose H.R. 7 so a smaller bill isn’t necessarily going to be a good bill.

Stay tuned and we will provide updates as more information becomes available.

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California’s Complete Streets A Model For The Nation

Sacramento has seen significant improvements for people who walk and bike thanks to an established Complete Streets policy in the city’s General Plan.  Yet in the past six weeks, two pedestrians have been struck and killed while walking in marked crosswalks in the Fruitridge neighborhood of Sacramento.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui calls for a national Complete Streets policy at a T4 America press conference in SacramentoThat’s why T4 America allies gathered with Congresswoman Doris Matsui today in Sacramento for the release of the new report “It’s a Safe Decision: Complete Streets In California.

“Since 2009, more than 880 pedestrians and bicyclists have been injured, 30 fatally, here in Sacramento,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “These needless and preventable incidents highlight the need for Complete Streets policies, which are critical to making our communities more livable, sustainable, and most importantly, safe.”

The report, authored by the National Complete Streets Coalition and the California-based Local Government Commission, showcases successful Complete Streets policies throughout the Golden State and calls on Congress to ensure the next transportation bill requires roads to be designed and operated to enable safe access for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities.

Speakers pointed to the recent tragedies as evidence that local policy is not enough.

“Until we stop designing roads with only speeding cars in mind, crosswalks alone won’t prevent these tragedies from repeating themselves,” said Terry Preston of WALK Sacramento.  “We resolve to support Congresswoman Matsui’s Safe and Complete Streets Act in Washington to protect the lives of people in Sacramento, and around the nation.”

Other speakers included Sacramento City Councilmember Kevin McCarty and Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District Executive Director Larry Greene, who urged both houses of Congress to prioritize health and safety by passing a national Complete Streets policy.  And AARP spokesperson Julia Hassel reminded the crowd that for older Americans, walking is critical for both physical and mental health.

“Too many of our seniors are stuck choosing between isolation at home, or danger as a pedestrian,” Hassel said. “We owe it to our seniors to provide safe places for walking so they can remain connected to family and friends, as well as doctors, grocery stores, and other services.”

Congresswoman Matsui is the co-sponsor of the Safe and Complete Streets Act, which would require states to ensure every transportation project takes into accont the needs of all users of the roadway.  A version of the measure is under consideration as Congress debates the transportation authorization.

Link to full report:
http://www.completestreets.org/webdocs/resources/cs-in-california.pdf

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Senate Cloture Vote Fails, Kicking The Other Can Back Two Weeks

This morning, a vote before the full Senate to combine all four sections of the transportation bill failed 54-42.  (Recall that the Senate essentially needs 60 votes to pass anything.)  With a few other items on their agenda today, Senators will head home for the President’s Day recess without taking further action on transportation.  Rumors are that a compromise on the Commerce title, which includes freight policy and national transportation objectives, is in the works.

This follows on a vote yesterday in the House to pass H.R. 3804, the energy and oil drilling revenue portions of the House transportation proposal.  Kudos to Rep. Brian Bilbray (San Diego) for breaking with his party to vote NO on H.R. 3804, in opposition to opening California’s coast to oil drilling.  As for Rep. Jim Costa (Fresno), we are disappointed that he crossed party lines to vote YES on the measure.

Both Houses are expected to resume consideration of their respective transportation bill on February 27, after they return from recess.  The coming week remains a critical time to contact both our Senators and Representatives, to ensure they know that Californians are paying attention to transportation and won’t settle for a bill that excludes walking, biking, and public transportation.

When they’re back in D.C., both chambers face an onslaught of amendments – over 300 were filed on the House bill alone.  T4 America’s national blog has a nifty Senate amendment tracker page that will be updated as debate proceeds.  We aren’t tracking House amendments because our focus is to defeat the bill.  And in case you need reminding why, here’s a great opinion piece by two of our partners posted today at the Silicon Valley Mercury News.

So get out there and welcome your reps home…and let them know California needs a transportation policy that supports walking, biking, and public transportation!

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H.R. 7 Stalls – Thanks To You!

House leaders announced today that they will break their dismal transportation bill, H.R. 7, into pieces for consideration by the full House – effectively admitting they don’t have enough votes to pass it this week as planned.

Key words here: “this week.”  Speaker Boehner has parked the steamroller, but is now aiming to use a hammer and chisel to chip away at the broad opposition that mobilized in the past two weeks. Segmenting the bill will make it easier to round up a majority on each chunk, allowing the full bill to be reunited later.

Votes on the energy portions of the bill – including oil drilling on California’s coast and shale oil exploration – are expected today.  The main bill, still containing huge policy flaws, will be delayed until after the President’s Day recess next week.

California’s largest newspapers have nearly unanimously sounded off against H.R. 7.  The latest opinion, from the San Francisco Chronicle, echoes previous commentary from the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee.

Thank you to everyone who called or wrote your Congressperson in opposition to H.R. 7 – your voices have been heard!  But we can’t let up now.

House members need to hear that a piecemeal H.R. 7 is JUST as bad as the whole pie.  We need to hang on to every no vote in order to ensure that the “divide and delay” tactics don’t succeed.

Take advantage of next week’s recess and request a meeting with your representative and keep the pressure on.  Continued phone calls, letters, and media outreach are also needed, particularly in swing districts like Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. Jim Costa, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, and Rep. Brian Bilbray.

H.R. 7 could still end up in conference committee with Senator Boxer’s MAP-21, which is currently being considered by the full Senate.  More on that here.

In the meantime, take a moment to appreciate what we’ve accomplished by forcing the House leadership to delay this bill.  Then, pick up the phone and call your Congressperson – AGAIN!

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San Diego likes bikes and the Sacramento Bee fears for transit

All across the state, opposition is lining up to H.R. 7, the House of Representatives’ disastrous transportation bill.  Transportation For America coalition partners led the charge on a national call-in day to members of Congress, urging a NO vote when the measure comes to the House floor next week.  But we’re not the only ones.

In San Diego, County Supervisors Greg Cox and Ron Roberts stood up for safer streets yesterday in the City Heights neighborhood.  They called on House leaders to restore funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects – and looked to Senator Boxer to ensure that these funds are available to local communities.  San Diego County needs $500 million over the next 40 years to achieve its goals for safe bicycle and pedestrian access.

In Sacramento, the editors of The Bee joined the call for House members to reject the bill in favor of a policy that doesn’t “throw transit under a bus”:

If they have their way, the nation’s transportation network will take a giant step backward to a “roads only” policy for dedicated funding. The full House votes next week on a multi-year transportation bill (House Resolution 7) – and Americans should urge their members of Congress to reject it. The United States needs a transportation system that gives people a variety of options – roads, rail, bus, bicycle paths and walkways. It needs to find ways to reduce emissions and traffic congestion.

Have elected leaders or the local paper in your community weighed in on H.R. 7?  There’s no time to waste.  Ask your City Council, Mayor, editorial board, or other stakeholders to speak out against the House transportation bill now.  (And let us know what they say – by email or in the comments below!)

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Stop H.R. 7: National Call-In Day Thursday, February 9

Friday was a shocking day in the House of Representatives.

A House committee majority went ahead with their plan to punish everyone who rides public transportation, as well as jeopardizing thousands of jobs in the public transit, construction and manufacturing industries.

In doing this, House leadership and this committee ignored broad, bipartisan opposition from across the country — from governors, state transportation officials, health professionals, business organizations, and from across the political spectrum — as well as thousands of messages from voters in their districts. (Including many of you who sent messages or made phone calls last week.)

With this incredible turn of events, this House transportation bill has passed the tipping point, and unfortunately demands our full opposition. Will you help us defeat it?

This Thursday, February 9, join Transportation For America and our partners across the nation in calling on the House of Representatives to vote NO on H.R. 7.

Can’t wait that long?  Take action right now.

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Unprecedented opposition to House transit assault unheeded by California representatives

Despite incredibly broad opposition to the House Ways and Means Committee’s assault on public transportation funding, California Congressmen Wally Herger and Devin Nunes voted to end three decades of bipartisan investment in transit this morning.

The proposal to move public transportation and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund would devastate public transportation nationwide by eliminating dedicated funding for transit and subjecting transit and CMAQ to the annual budget showdown while highway funding remains protected.

In less than half a day, a national groundswell generated a sign-on letter opposing the measure, with more than 600 national, state and local organizations joined with mayors, governors, state DOTs and others in strong opposition — a letter which was waved around and cited during the markup.  The 93 California signers to the letter included such heavyweights as the California Chamber of Commerce, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the Mayors of Fresno and Oakland.  Other notable opponents on the national scene included the bipartisan Building America’s Future coalition and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Nonetheless, an amendment to strike the anti-transit provisions failed and the full bill (H.R. 3864) passed by a vote of 20 to 17.  Californians should express their disappointment to Reps. Herger and Nunes for their votes, and thank Rep. Mike Thompson for standing up for transit at today’s hearing.

The Ways and Means vote comes on the heels of a nearly 18-hour markup of transportation policy legislation on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee yesterday.  The bill, called “the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen” by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, will now move to the House floor for a vote, currently scheduled for the week of February 13.

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