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Legislative Affairs: Understanding the Legislative Process

Both the Texas Legislature and the United States Congress address many important transportation issues that affect the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Transportation and air quality in the North Central Texas region are impacted by legislative decisions at the State and federal levels.

NCTCOG staff regularly update policy and technical committee members, transportation partners and others interested in monitoring legislative initiatives related to the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) legislative priorities.

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Legislative Updates

Summary of Recent Legislative News and Action
November-December 2017


UAS Integration Pilot Program-

President Trump and Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao announced the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program—a program aimed at expanding the testing and use of drones beyond current FAA regulations. This includes flying beyond the visual line of sight, nighttime testing, flying over people, delivery systems, and security operations. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is accepting applications from State, local or tribal governments to participate in the program no later than November 28, 2017.


Republican tax writers signed off on a compromise tax bill, bringing House and Senate negotiations to a close and setting up final votes on the legislation early next week. Language has not been released at this time. Once approved, details related to transportation provisions will be included in the next legislative update.


The White House recently promised an “infrastructure principles” document to be released in January 2018. The document will be an outline of the upcoming infrastructure bill and how the Administration proposes to spend $200 billion in direct federal funding while also leveraging another $800 billion in funds from state and local governments and the private sector. The Highway Trust Fund is a pressing and unanswered question in the Infrastructure Plan and the President’s 2018 budget did not make provisions for funding beyond that of the FAST Act in 2020.


On December 8, the House and Senate passed two-week stopgap appropriations measure (H. J. Res. 123), avoiding a government shutdown. A full FY 2018 appropriations bill before Christmas is unlikely but specific categories such as defense spending may be agreed upon by December 22. Another continuing resolution will be needed once again. A full appropriations bill will require amending the Budget Control Act.


The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, which included language requiring recreational drone users to register their aircrafts with the FAA and pay a $5.00 application fee.


Paul Trombino III, lead nominee for Federal Highway Administrator withdrew from consideration due to family concerns. The nomination will be filled within the coming months.


US DOT Strategic Plan-


The DOT released its Strategic Plan for FY 2018-2022. The Plan details four main strategic goals: Safety, Infrastructure, Innovation, and Accountability.

1.            Safety- Collect and manage data on safety; Establish a Departmental committee on safety; Evaluate the effectiveness of risk management strategies and implement evidence-based risk elimination and mitigation strategies

2.            Infrastructure- Streamline the environmental review (EV) process; Build partnerships to with Federal, State, Local and private sector investors for development and implementation of projects; Improve the reliability of the transportation system; establish performance measurements; Develop workforce and infrastructure for economic competitiveness

3.            Accountability- Reduce regulations and costs; Support financial systems, workforce development, procurement systems and efficient internal operations

4.            Innovation- Development, and deployment of technology that promotes safety and efficiency


MPO Coordination and Planning Area Reform


Federal Highway Administration 23 CFR Part 450

Federal Transit Administration 49 CFR Part 613

This rulemaking rescinds certain transportation planning regulations pertaining to smaller MPOs and the coordination between them. This would not have affected the DFW region. The previous rule included requirements for coordination on boundary changes, unified planning products, and mergers. President Trump signed Public Law 115-33 on December 2016, which repealed the rule. This rulemaking is simply implementing the December 2016 law.




S. 1996, The Environmental Justice Act of 2017: To require Federal agencies to address environmental justice, to require consideration of cumulative impacts in certain permitting decisions, and to mitigate the inequitable distribution of the burdens and benefits of Federal programs having significant impacts on human health and the environment for other purposes. This bill is sponsored by Cory Booker (D-NJ).


H.R. 2810, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018: The bill authorizes appropriations to DOD for: (1) Procurement, including aircraft, missiles, weapons and tracked combat vehicles, ammunition, shipbuilding and conversion, space procurement, and other procurement; (2) Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation; (3) Operation and Maintenance; (4) Working Capital Funds; (5) the Joint Urgent Operational Needs Fund; (6) Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction; (7) Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities; (8) the Defense Inspector General; (9) the Defense Health Program; (10) the Armed Forces Retirement Home; (11) Overseas Contingency Operations; and (12) Military Construction. One item to note – the bill includes language to reinstate the FAA's registration rule for small drones.


The bill also authorizes the FY2018 personnel strength for active duty and reserve forces and sets forth policies regarding compensation and other personal benefits, the Ready Reserve Force and Military Sealift Command surge fleet, and matters relating to foreign nations. The bill is sponsored by Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and has passed in both the House and Senate. The next step is to resolve differences, and then the President will sign it into law.


H.R. 4241, Transportation Access and System Connection Act of 2017: To direct the Secretary of Transportation to carry out a pilot program to improve transportation planning and for other purposes. Congresswoman Esty (D-Ct) and Congresswoman Comstock (R-VA) and Congressman Davis (R-IL) proposed The Transportation Access & System Connection (TASC) Act that would create a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) program. The program will purchase new, precise data tools for Metropolitan Planning Organizations to calculate how many jobs and services can be accessed by all modes of transport.




Select Interim Charges for the Texas House:

  • Appropriations and total funds of the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP)
  • Military installation aid and use of the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant (DEAAG) program and Texas Military Revolving Loan Fund.
  • Local and state zoning regulations and the state’s eminent domain status to ensure fairness for private property owners.
  • TxDOT’s ability to complete highway construction projects within a timeframe and under cost.
  • Opportunities to improve existing transportation finance mechanisms and develop new mechanisms.
  • Toll authorities
  • Technological advancements in transportation (autonomous vehicles & unmanned aircraft systems)
  • Impacts of energy exploration on state and county roads
  • Implementation of TxDOT Sunset legislation

Select Interim Charges for the Texas Senate:

  • Project Acceleration-separating state and federal funding to accelerate project delivery
  • Penalty practices of toll authorities
  • TxDOT’s permitting of overweight vehicles on roads 30 miles from port of entry
  • Implementation of statutory changes specified in the TxDOT’s sunset legislation:
    • Requiring toll road entities to use toll revenue to pay back TxDOT for grants used to construct toll roads
    • Prohibiting TxDOT from operating or transferring an HOV lane as a tolled lane.
    • Authorizing TxDOT to convert non-tolled lanes as toll lanes - only if the number of non-tolled lanes is greater than or equal to the number in existence before the toll conversion project.
    • Prohibiting TxDOT from awarding contracts unless the contractor participates in E-verify


Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus announced that he would not be running for reelection in the 2018 election cycle. The announcement means that the entire makeup of the house will be reshaped with new chairpersons, members, and committees. A number of candidates will announce their interest in the seat, but, it is not until November 2018 that we will see the resolute candidates.


TxDOT presented the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) with the UTP Major Projects Strategy that will be voted on in the upcoming months. Projects in the strategy in the DFW region: the 635E project, Lower Stemmons, Canyon/I-30, and I-35E Phase II.


The City of Dallas passed Proposition A in its bond package: The issuance of $533,981,000 general obligation bonds for street and transportation improvements, the estimated amount of repayment, including principal and interest based on current market conditions being $724,650,750.


The Texas Legislature bill list shows all bills being tracked for the 85th legislative session. The US Congress bill list shows only bills with action since the last legislative update. If you need information on all the bills being tracked, please contact Rebekah Hernandez.





Texas Senate Transportation Committee

The Committee heard the Unified Transportation Program (UTP) plans for Major Project Strategies around Texas. TxDOT detailed 12 different categories of funding and how money is divided into the categories. The Committee made comments in favor of lowering debt from past projects before putting large amounts of money into new ones. The committee was also briefed on Hurricane Harvey aftermath and reconstruction.


U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Meeting, November 29, 2017- Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Emerging Uses in a Changing National Airspace: The Committee discussed the role of the U.S. in drone innovation in light of the new UAS Integration Pilot Program. The committee heard testimony about UAS being instruments in hurricane relief efforts and the U.S. can continue to lead in innovation by promoting the use of this technology instead of watching it happen overseas. Some questions and concerns the Committee had include:

  • The ability of jet engines to survive a collision with a drone
  • Research and testing outlooks for the future of drones
  • How airspace will be regulated and managed
  • If the expanding use of drones will help educate and spark interest in individuals for the aviation field
  • How the U.S. compares to other nations in drone innovation
  • Privacy and security issues
  • What role the FAA should take in UAS matters and airspace





Environment and Public Works: Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure will meet December 20, 2017

Hearings to examine freight movement.



The Senate Finance Committee will meet January 30, 2018 to hear invited and public testimony on the following interim charge:

Texas Emission Reduction Plan: Review the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP) and its economic benefits to the state. Examine whether the state's investment in TERP, including transfers from the Department of Transportation, are being effectively utilized to comply with federal air quality standards, reduce pollution and protect the public health of Texans.



To view Committee Hearings for the Texas Senate click here:

To view Committee Hearings for the Texas House click here:


Texas Legislature Online







US Congress

In 2005 Congress passed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) . This legislation guided surface transportation policy and funding through 2009. Nine short-term extensions passed since SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009. The final short-term extension of SAFETEA-LU extended surface transportation authorization through June 30, 2012.

On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law a two-year $105 billion surface transportation authorization, titled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). MAP-21 reauthorized the federal-aid highway, highway safety and transit programs that were last authorized by SAFETEA-LU. New programs and funding levels began on October 1, 2012, and continued through September 30, 2014. The final short-term extension of MAP-21 expired on December 4, 2015.  

On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act into law, which authorizes Federal highway, transit, safety and rail programs for five years at $305 billion. The FAST Act is effective October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2020.







12/19/2017  RH %Trans

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