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Transportation Safety, Supply Chain Top Agenda for House Panel

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Reported by Lillianna Byington for Bloomberg Government.

House members who oversee transportation plan to reauthorize key safety and freight regulators this year, while pushing for legislation to alleviate supply-chain backups.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee laid out an agenda for the year that prioritizes measures to empower the Surface Transportation Board, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Federal Maritime Commission. The panel will consider its fiscal 2023 budget strategy, which reflects “a bipartisan effort,” on Thursday.

The agenda lays out the panel’s goals in the final months of the leadership of its long-serving top Democrat, Chair Peter DeFazio (Ore.), who is retiring. Still, not all members of the committee agree with “every aspect of the report,” the document said.

Limited time on the congressional calendar in a midterm election year confronts the panel with challenges pushing through its wish list. Lawmakers could try to add pieces of their agenda to larger legislation, such as annual appropriation bills.

Safety, Aviation

Among the panel’s priorities is reauthorization of the National Transportation Safety Board, the independent federal agency that investigates crashes. It’s seeking more money than in its current authorization, which expires Sept. 30 after last being renewed in 2018.

The agency wants $129.3 million for fiscal 2023, up from $121.4 million in the current fiscal year, according to the legislative proposal the NTSB submitted to lawmakers. The House committee is now “reviewing this proposal,” the panel said in its plan for the year.

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The panel also said it will start its work on the next Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Meanwhile, lawmakers plan to continue oversight of the FAA’s last law, which authorized the agency through fiscal 2023. Mandates from that law have yet to be carried out, according to the committee, including a requirement for flight attendants to get at least 10 hours of rest between flight duty.

Supply Chain, Rail Goals

The committee also said it plans to reauthorize the Surface Transportation Board, which was last renewed through 2020. Lawmakers are weighing further authority for the board as part of the legislation.

The agency, which oversees freight rail rates and service, has been weighing action against railroads amid complaints of delays, worker shortages, and strained supply chains. It’s holding a public hearing this week about rail service complaints, and some have suggested it may need additional authority to address freight rail delays.

“If the board requires more authority or clarity from Congress, it should request it,” Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, said at the STB hearing Tuesday.

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