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Government Affairs and Policy Report – May 2024

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LEGISLATIVE

Nutshell

Congress departed for Memorial Day recess as both parties look toward the coming months to further position themselves for the fall elections. The FY 2025 appropriations process is well underway, although an agreement on overall funding levels between the two chambers has yet to be reached.  

2025 Appropriations

The FY 2025 appropriations process is proceeding in the House, with overall funding levels set and an ambitious plan to try markup and vote on all 12 appropriations bills by the Congressional August recess. The funding levels were set to reflect a 1% boost to defense spending and a 6% cut to non-defense spending. However, with Republicans in control and the first markup completed, squabbles over funding levels and efforts to add controversial “policy riders” to the bills may lead to delays in the schedule. Here is the current House markup schedule.

Appropriations BillSubcommittee MarkupFull Committee MarkupFloor Vote
Agriculture-FDAJune 11July 10July 22
Commerce-Justice-ScienceJune 12July 9July 22
DefenseJune 5June 13June 24
Energy and WaterJune 28July 9July 29
Financial ServicesJune 5June 13July 22
Homeland SecurityJune 4June 12June 24
Labor-HHS-EducationJune 27July 10July 29
Legislative BranchMay 23June 13July 8
Interior-EnvironmentJune 28July 9July 22
Military Construction-VAMay 21May 23June 3
State-Foreign OperationsJune 4June 12June 24
Transportation-HUDJune 27July 10July 29

The Senate has not announced its overall funding levels or a markup schedule yet, and it usually lags behind the House.  However, based on prior years, most in Washington believe that, even if a few less controversial appropriations bills are voted/passed by the House, nonetheless, a continuing resolution will be needed in the fall to keep the Government funded beyond the September 30 fiscal deadline and accommodate the November elections. Then, depending on election outcomes, the lame-duck session following the elections will generate a final FY 2025 funding deal. 

The ABA is again seeking equitable funding for the Intercity Bus Security Grant program, requesting a $10 million share of the over $100 million in funding for public transportation modes. FAA Reauthorization – Congress passed, and the President signed legislation (H.R. 3935) to fund the federal aviation programs but needed another short-term extension due to last-minute issues in the Senate over airline slots and efforts to add non-aviation-related provisions. The final enactment occurred on May 16. The final bill included $105 billion to authorize and fund FAA programs, reauthorize and fund the National Transportation Safety Board at $738 million, and provide various consumer protection policies regarding ticket refunds and passengers with disabilities.

REGULATORY/ADMINISTRATIVE

US DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT)

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

New Motor Carrier Registration Process – On April 19, FMCSA published an information collection request in support of developing a new online registration process aimed at reducing fraud and improving transparency and efficiency for the registration of motor carriers, transportation brokers, insurance companies and other users. The new process, if approved, would modernize the Unified Registration System, replacing it with a process that will be renamed the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Registration System.” Comments on the information collection request are due by June 18, 2024.

FMCSA will host a public meeting on May 29 to discuss the new registration process. Register here.

Guidance on ELD Training Provider Violations – On May 23, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued Guidance to states seeking to report training entities that violate state requirements for entry-level driver training. This guidance provides a checklist for states to follow proper reporting procedures to ensure that FMCSA receives the information necessary to take enforcement action against non-compliant training entities, including removal from FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry (TPR).

Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

Rural Area Circulars and Grant Guidance Update – On April 4, FTA published notice of a proposed new circular titled “Rural Areas Formula Grant Programs Guidance Proposed Circular.” This new circular combines existing program guidance on the Bus and Bus Facilities Formula Program (the rural component) and the Rural Area Formula Grants Program, including the 5311(f) grant program. It also proposes moving sections from the current circular concerning equipment management to another circular. Comments are due June 3, 2024. ABA has created a template to assist with filing comments.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Safety Standards for Hydrogen Powered Vehicles – On April 17, NHTSA published an NPRM to establish two new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) specifying performance requirements for all motor vehicles that use hydrogen as a fuel source. The proposed standards are based on Global Technical Regulation (GTR) No. 13. FMVSS No. 307, “Fuel system integrity of hydrogen vehicles,” would specify requirements for the integrity of the fuel system in hydrogen vehicles during normal vehicle operations and after crashes. FMVSS No. 308, “Compressed hydrogen storage system integrity,” would specify requirements for the compressed hydrogen storage system to ensure the safe storage of hydrogen onboard vehicles. Comments are due by June 17.

Safety Standards for Electric Powered Vehicles – On April 15, NHTSA published an NPRM to establish a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard consistent with a Global Technical Regulation (GTR No. 20) on electric vehicle safety. NHTSA proposes to establish Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 305a to replace FMVSS No. 305, “Electric-powered vehicles: Electrolyte spillage and electrical shock protection.” Comments are due by June 14.

US DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (DHS)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Applications for FY 2024 Intercity Bus Security Grants – On April 16, the DHS released the FY 2024 Notice of Funding Opportunity or NOFO Announcement for the Intercity Bus Security Grant Program (IBSGP). The total funding amount available for FY 2024 is $1.8 million. ABA hosted a webinar with FEMA on May 2 to review the application process. Click here to view the recording. FEMA will be hosting another webinar on June 4; click here to register. Completed applications are due by June 24, 2024.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Cyber Incident Reporting Rules: On March 28, DHS published an NPRM to establish rules for reporting cybersecurity incidents and ransom payments to CISA, in compliance with the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act or CIRCIA, passed in Dec. 2022. Comments are due by May 27, 2024.

This regulation will apply to Over-the-Road bus operators regulated by 49 CFR 1584, which includes fixed route operators who provide services to 10 high-threat urban areas: Anaheim/Los Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana Areas, San Diego, San Francisco, DC National Capital Region, Chicago, Boston, New York City/Jersey City/Newark Area, Philadelphia Area/Southern New Jersey Area, Dallas-Fort Worth/Arlington Area, and Houston.

US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)

Greenhouse Gas Phase 3 Rules Finalized – On April 22, the EPA published a final rule, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Phase 3,” that sets new standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty (HD) vehicles beginning in model year (MY) 2027. Recognizing the challenges for over-the-road buses to transition to zero-emission vehicles, it does not appear motorcoach engines will be heavily impacted by this rule. This final rule is effective on June 21, 2024.

$932 Million Grant Program to Fund Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicles, Available for Application – On April 24, EPA announced the availability of over $930 million in grants for the purchase of Class 6-7 clean heavy-duty vehicles only (i.e., does not cover over-the-road Class 8 buses). The program solicits nationwide applications for competitive grants to replace existing non-zero-emission Class 6 and 7 heavy-duty vehicles with zero-emission vehicles, including school buses. Eligible applicants for this funding opportunity include state and local governmental entities, public school districts, and nonprofit school transportation associations. Applications are due by July 25.

US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR (DOL)

Wage & Hour Division (WHD)

Overtime Pay Thresholds – On April 26, the DOL’s WHD announced a final rule increasing the salary thresholds that trigger overtime pay or exemption for salaried executive, administrative, or professional employees from federal overtime pay requirements. The annual salary threshold will increase to $43,888 on July 1, 2024; and automatically increase to $58,656 on Jan. 1, 2025. For highly compensated employees, the rule will adjust the threshold starting July 1, 2027, with salary thresholds updated every three years, using up-to-date wage data to determine new salary levels. Read a summary of the changes.

US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ)

US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Regulation of Marijuana – On May 21, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an NPRM to move marijuana from its current classification as a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug, thereby loosening federal DEA restrictions. Marijuana is federally scheduled as a Schedule I drug, which means marijuana use (including sale, distribution, and ingestion) is illegal federally. Notably, the rule proposal applies to marijuana and is limited to the plant (other than the mature stalks and seeds) and derivatives of the plant. It does not apply to synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is outside the CSA’s definition of marijuana. Synthetic THC will remain in Schedule I. Comments are due by July 22, 2024.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

New Lending Rules: The CFPB announced on May 17 that it was extending the compliance deadlines for the small business lending final rule. The rules govern the collection of small business lending data, requiring financial institutions to compile, maintain, and submit to the CFPB certain data on applications from minority and/or disadvantaged small business enterprises. These rules now face legal challenges, and to accommodate these challenges, CFCB plans to issue an interim final rule to extend the compliance deadlines.

OTHER ISSUES

New York City

Congestion Pricing/Tolling – On March 7, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) approved a final tolling scheme to implement congestion pricing; however, as MTA moves to implement the program, there remain technical issues to work out which may provide opportunity for more changes affecting the bus industry. Currently, the toll rate schedule for buses is as follows: Intercity scheduled service buses and commuter buses under contract to a government or with schedules open to the public are exempted from tolls; Charter buses will be charged $24 for entry into the Central Business District, and Tour or Sightseeing buses will be charged $36. The MTA intends to begin implementing the tolling scheme on June 30, 2024. Motorcoach companies will be tolled via EZ-Pass. Read the latest explanation of MTA’s Bus exemption plan and to apply for an exemption.

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