SPECIAL REPORT: Senate names transportation bill conferees - effort begins to defeat Section 1609

| 5/21/2004

The Senate late May 20 named conferees who will iron out a final transportation reauthorization bill, but the House will hold off until at least June 2, according to congressional sources.

Meanwhile, OOIDA is asking members to fax, write, e-mail or call their state’s senators and urge them to reject provisions in Section 1609 of the Senate version of the highway bill. This provision allows states to begin collecting tolls on existing interstate highways.

Instead, OOIDA says if it’s a given that some tolling provision will be included in the final bill, the toll option is contained in the House’s version, within Section 1603. This section allows new tolls only on newly constructed highway lanes. Use of those lanes would be optional to motorists, and the toll would be imposed only as long as necessary to pay for the new lanes’ construction.

The House will not name conferees until after the Memorial Day recess, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-IL, told The Bureau of National Affairs news group.

Senate conferees to contact

Republicans named to the conference are: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee Chairman Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles of Oklahoma, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain of Arizona, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Sens. John Warner of Virginia, George Voinovich of Ohio, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Trent Lott of Mississippi.

The independent senators and Democrats on the conference are: Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James M. Jeffords, I-VT, Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee ranking member and Minority Whip Harry Reid, D-NV, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Max Baucus, D-MT, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Kent Conrad, D-ND, Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Ernest F. Hollings, D-SC, Senate Banking Committee ranking member Paul Sarbanes, D-MD, and Sens. Bob Graham, D-FL, Joseph Lieberman, D-CT, and Barbara Boxer, D-CA.

Sample letter

The following is a sample letter members can use:

"It is extremely important that Senator ___________ contact the lawmakers who are participating in the highway bill conference and tell them to reject Section 1609 of the Senate bill. That section has programs that would allow for tolling of existing interstate highways and would devastate small-business truckers. If there must be a tolling program in the final version of the highway bill, Section 1603 of the House bill is the only one that is voluntary and fair."

Write your U.S. elected officials at their Washington and/or local offices as soon as possible. Phone calls are also important, but letters are very effective, and we should have time over the next few weeks to make calls.

With lawmakers having to screen all their mail these days, letters take a little longer to get to their offices. If possible, fax your letter before mailing it to ensure it gets the immediate attention it deserves.

If you are not sure who your lawmakers are, simply phone the OOIDA Membership Department, and they'll look up the information for you. The toll-free number is 1-800-444-5791. If you know who they are but don't have contact information, you can visit www.congress.orgwww.house.gov or www.senate.gov. Or you can also call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. If you're home, try looking in the blue government pages in the phone book, or call local information.