At the federal level, Congress passed the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) Accountability Act of 2018 (HR 5729) to formally delay the implementation of the TWIC Reader Rule. The legislation has not been sent to the President for his signature yet, but that delay is just procedural. We expect a formal notification soon from the U.S. Coast Guard that the TWIC Reader Rule will not be implemented for any port facility. HR 5729 contains the following language with respect to implementation of any TWIC reader requirements by the U.S. Coast Guard:
“The department in which the Coast Guard is operating may not implement the rule entitled “Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)–Reader Requirements” (81 Fed. Reg. 57651), and may not propose or issue a notice of proposed rulemaking for any revision to such rule except to extend its effective date, or for any other rule requiring the use of biometric readers for biometric transportation security cards under section 70105(k)(3) of title 46, United States Code, before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of the submission under paragraph (5) of section 1(b) of Public Law 114–278 (130 Stat. 1411 to 1412) of the results of the assessment required by that section. Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter until the submission under paragraph (5) of section 1(b) of Public Law 114–278 (130 Stat. 1411 et seq.) of the results of the assessment required by that section, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall report to the Committee on Homeland Security and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate regarding the implementation of that section.”
We expect the President to sign the legislation soon, and the publication of a statement on the U.S. Coast Guard’s recommendations about how to proceed on TWIC reader issues.
As reported in last month’s report, Senator Rubio included language in the Senate Homeland Security appropriations legislation (S 3109) to require the CBP to work with seaports and associated stakeholders on staffing and infrastructure issues. Port Canaveral, FPC, and others stakeholders continued their discussions with House representatives on CBP issues, and the House included language in their Homeland Security appropriations draft legislation report directing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to “work with seaports, cruise vessel operators, and other stakeholders to determine the appropriate number of CBP officers that need to be deployed at seaports to properly and efficiently handle the clearance of cruise passengers.” Floor votes have not been scheduled on this legislation and it is unlikely any floor action will occur until September.
Chairman Bill Shuster, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released an infrastructure discussion draft, intended “to further the national conversation about the current state of America’s infrastructure and highlight some of the major roadblocks to funding and improving our transportation network.” The plan provides some concepts for a long-term solution to financing transportation infrastructure and providing for long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The plan includes a variety of proposals, including these concepts:
- The establishment of a national, volunteer-based pilot demonstration program to explore if a per-mile user fee can replace the existing Federal gas tax.
- An increase of the Federal gas tax by 15 cents per gallon and the Federal diesel gas by 20 cents per gallon over a period of three calendar years, after which time they should be indexed to inflation.
- The extension of the FAST Act for one additional year, through fiscal year 2021, with all programs funded at FY2020 rates.
- Permanent statutory authorization of the TIGER/ BUILD program up to $3 billion of annually. This would include a 30 percent set aside for rural projects and another set aside for incentive grants to “eligible applicants that have leased an infrastructure asset to the private sector and have certified that the proceeds from the lease will be used to make other infrastructure improvements.” The proposal also increases the minimum grant size to $25 million. There is also a $500 million set-aside annually that would allow Congress to assign dollars, as opposed to USDOT, through an “Act of Congress.”
- Two changes to the INFRA program providing more oversight/delegation by Congress – requires the USDOT Secretary to send Congress project application evaluations; and requires USDOT to reserve $200 million in contract authority over three years (2019-2021) for unsuccessful prior-year applicants “for allocation by an Act of Congress.”
As you may know, Chairman Shuster has announced he will not run for Congress again. Everyone expects some type of push by the House on this legislation to show their appreciation for his years of service. However, it is unclear at this time whether the full House will pass any significant transportation infrastructure legislation (especially legislation containing tax increases), or whether the Senate will consider any significant transportation legislation.
Ares continues to roll-out the implementation of this system. The ports involved in the Beta Test are holding face-to-face and teleconference discussions on the use and functionality of the system. Ares will continue to work with your security directors or IT staff as the system begins implementation around the state. We expect additional discussions on this product during the FSTED Security Committee on September 4th in St. Petersburg.