Congress Wraps Up Session with Little Progress on Major Issues
Vehicle Safety Legislation Unlikely to Move
The 111th Congress is wrapping up for the year a little early due to the contentious fall elections on the horizon. Members of Congress want to get back to their districts and states to campaign for the Nov. 2 elections. With the U.S. House of Representatives in play for control and the Senate increasingly up for grabs, House and Senate leaders are opting to cut short an already abbreviated fall agenda.
Although legislation has moved steadily through the House of Representatives, much of this has stalled on the Senate floor. Climate legislation is just one example of a contentious debate by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as on the floor of the House, before finally passing due to efforts by the House leadership. The Senate has not taken up the climate bill, and it is highly unlikely it will be addressed prior to adjournment for the year. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., opened the climate debate in a July 2009 hearing titled "Legislative Tools for Addressing Global Warming," but the Senate would fail to act in the 111th Congress on climate legislation.
In addition, energy legislation began with a multitiered effort by U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. During this past summer, supporters of energy legislation believed a scaled-down version of an energy bill would move before the end of the year, but it is not likely to occur.
Of particular interest to automotive repairers is the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010. Both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee held hearings and bill markups to address the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010. The Senate Commerce Committee passed its bill in June of this year and the House Committee in July. The House Rules Committee was set to bring the bill to the floor but the legislation was delayed due to procedural issues raised about the potential economic impact of the bill. The House has not scheduled its bill for the floor. With only weeks to go before adjournment, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act is expected to die for the year.
The Automotive Service Association (ASA) had discussed with key members of the House the possibility of addressing crash parts policy in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010. Any parts policy changes will now move to the 112th Congress. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act as proposed in the House:
• Establishes Center for Vehicle Electronics and Emerging Technologies
• Provides for new safety standards related to electronics and unintended acceleration
• Establishes provisions for accelerator control systems
• Provides for increased transparency at NHTSA by requiring that more early warning reporting data be made public
• Provides for increased public accessibility to data
• Improves vehicle defect reporting system
Another bill that is expected to die again is the Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act. This legislation has been offered in the Congress for almost a decade, yet has not passed a full committee to date. ASA opposes this bill. The 111th Congress has not scheduled a hearing or consideration of any kind for the Right to Repair bill prior to adjournment.
Senate leaders have indicated that the Senate will consider the defense authorization bill, food safety, immigration reform, expiring tax policy extensions and Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations legislation before adjournment. No more than Homeland Security and Defense appropriations bills are expected to be finalized. Congress is anticipated to pass a continuing resolution for most if not all Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations bills. There is speculation that Congress will come back for a lame duck session after the November elections and move the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations bills.
The Senate did pass the Small Business Lending Fund Act of 2010, H.R.5297. The House of Representatives had previously passed this bill but with Senate changes it will now return to the House for final passage. Key provisions in the bill include:
• Requiring applicant institutions to deliver to the appropriate federal banking agency a small business lending plan describing how its business strategy and operating goals would allow it to address the needs of small businesses in the areas it serves;
• Setting forth financial incentives for small business lending by such institutions;
• Instructing the secretary to require capital investment recipients to provide outreach and advertising in the appropriate language of the applicant pool using media outlets that target organizations, trade associations and individuals who represent or work within or are members of minority communities;
• Establishing the Small Business Lending Fund Program as separate and distinct from TARP. The bill states that an institution shall not be considered a TARP recipient by virtue of a capital investment under this act;
• Directing the secretary to study and report to Congress on the number of women-owned and minority-owned businesses that receive assistance as a result of the program.
The November elections could have a tremendous impact on the agenda for the next Congress. Automotive parts, vehicle safety, climate, energy, vocational education, immigration reform, tax reform and other legislation could again be top issues in the 112th Congress. What party controls committees and the House and Senate leadership will determine much about public policy impacting the future of independent automotive repairers.
To view legislation discussed in this article and other federal and state policy initiatives, please go to ASA's legislative website, www.TakingtheHill.com.
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