With today being the final legislative day for Congress before the 4th of July break, one would expect it to be a busy day with last minute legislation coming to the table. It lived up to expectations, with the looming deadline to the current highway bill and student loan rates increase both set to expire at midnight tonight both the House and Senate needed to act today if they were to beat the deadlines and fix the problems.
Early this morning the Conference committee had reached a bipartisan agreement to the new transportation bill that would fix all the issues and then some, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Beyond reauthorization of federal highway programs, until 2014, it also contained a student loan rate extension for another year, the flood insurance reform that had been halted in the senate this past week as well as two provisions that will reduce regulation on farmers.
These provisions would:
- expand an existing hours of service exemption for drivers transporting agricultural commodities to apply up to a 150 mile radius (from 100 miles under current law), to apply even if a vehicle crosses state lines, and to apply to trips between wholesale distribution points and retail distribution points;
- create a new exemption from all Federal motor carrier safety regulations (CDL requirements, drug and alcohol testing, hours of service, and vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance requirements) for vehicles operated by farm or ranch owners, operators, their family members, or their employees. Drivers of vehicles weighing less than 26,000 pounds would be completely exempt from the regulations. Drivers of vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds are exempt from the requirements up to a 150 air mile radius from the farm or ranch.
Illinois Corn was following the bill closely and contacted all the Illinois legislative offices looking for support for the bill because of its provisions that would aid farmers with a reduction of unneeded regulation on shipments and vehicle requirements.
Both the House and Senate passed this conference report this afternoon after short debates and a couple of procedural rules were dispensed with. This bill will bring reduction on regulation as well as more money for infrastructure and railways. So it was a very productive and successful final day of work in the nation’s capitol before the July 4th recess.