T&I's new 'big four' take on a highway bill

By David Tanner, associate editor

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has a new “big four,” and they wasted no time in getting down to business on crafting a new highway bill.

Shortly after committee assignments were handed out in January, T&I Chairman John Mica, R-FL, called a series of field hearings to gather input and discuss the need for a new surface transportation authorization bill. Those hearings took place Feb. 16-25 in two dozen cities.

OOIDA supports the passage of a comprehensive bill and continues to educate lawmakers and staff on issues that affect truckers. That mission hasn’t changed, even though T&I leadership saw a shakeup after the November 2010 elections.

Before the elections, the Democrats controlled the House and its committees. At that time, the leaders on the T&I Committee were Chairman James Oberstar, D-MN; Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR; Mica; and Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-TN.

Republicans won control of the House and, with it, the committees. Party leadership named Mica as the new T&I chairman. Not only that, but the election also saw Oberstar lose his re-election bid to Republican Chip Cravaack.

Mica’s first order of business as chairman was to name chairs of the T&I subcommittees. He named Duncan to lead the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Democrats chose Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia as the T&I Committee’s ranking Democrat. Rahall then tapped DeFazio as ranking Democrat on Highways and Transit.

That solidified the new big four as Mica, Duncan, Rahall and DeFazio – and they will be the chief authors of the next surface transportation bill in the House.

OOIDA and truckers will be part of the dialogue during this process. Topics such as transportation policy, funding, private-sector involvement and safety programs are just a few of the issues the Association will be tracking as a new comprehensive bill unfolds. LL