A likely change in the leadership of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee could lead to new opportunities for small-business truckers. The current committee chairman, Rep. John Mica, R-FL, faces a term limit set by the Republican caucus. The likely candidate to assume leadership in the new year is Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA, who is familiar to trucking.
Mica has asked for a waiver from Republican leadership to extend his chairmanship, but to date a waiver is not likely to happen, according to multiple sources on Capitol Hill who say the lone waiver that Republicans are likely to grant for a committee chairmanship will go to Rep. Paul Ryan who chairs the House Budget Committee.
OOIDA, which has approximately 650 members in Shuster’s congressional district, sees anticipated change in leadership as a new opportunity.
“OOIDA has a good relationship with Congressman Shuster that we look forward to building upon,” OOIDA Chief of Staff Rod Nofziger said.
Shuster played a significant role in the highway bill process this past year. He helped Chairman Mica unveil the initial House blueprint – the multiyear bill that attached the Keystone Pipeline and funding from oil drilling to fund transportation. The House version of the highway bill succumbed to the Senate’s two-year version known as MAP-21, which is now the law.
During negotiations between the House and Senate on MAP-21, Shuster said Congress needs to keep all options on the table to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent. The fund, which pays for transportation programs and policies, has faced a zero balance a number of times since 2008.
Even with the $109 billion MAP-21 in place, the current policy in Washington does not shore up the Highway Trust Fund beyond 2014.
OOIDA advocates for a sound, long-term policy that focuses on roads and bridges. The Association has supported some of the funding methods debated during the highway bill process, but does not want to see the nation move towards a culture of toll roads and public-private partnerships for infrastructure.
So far, Shuster has kept an “all options” approach including tolling and PPPs.
OOIDA is watching to see if that carries over into committee discussions.
“He’s not ruled out options such as increased tolling or PPPs. Our hope is that he would,” Nofziger said.
Nofziger is a former staffer for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Bill Shuster’s father, Bud Shuster, was chairman of the committee at the time.
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