Last week, some Members of Congress questioned whether the ELD compliance date of December 18, 2017, should be delayed. Beyond asking that question, some of those Members of Congress took action toward that end. Their action was a first step in what can be a lengthy legislative process. Since the federal legislative process is confusing for some, I thought it might be helpful to (1) briefly describe the relevant legislative actions taken this week, and (2) communicate the legislative process that still remains for any type of ELD delay to happen.
The Legislative Actions –
1. On Monday, July 17, the Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a ‘Fiscal Year 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill’ designed to fund the U.S. DOT for the upcoming fiscal year (starts on Oct. 1, 2017). This bill included one small section on ELDs—a few sentences that would prohibit FMCSA from enforcing the ELD rules on livestock haulers during fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 – Sept. 30, 2018). However, the conference report accompanying the bill (a report written by Committee staff to explain portions of the bill) also included language directing the following two ELD-related actions:
1. That the Department of Transportation analyze whether a “full or targeted delay in ELD implementation and enforcement would be appropriate…”, and provide a report within 60 days of the bill becoming law; and,
2. That FMCSA review the “technology platforms” of ELD manufacturers to confirm they meet the new standards, and to determine whether they have a “user interface that is reasonably easy to navigate.”
Note: While conference report language is not a part of the actual bill, it’s usually viewed by federal agencies as something they need to follow, if the bill becomes law.
2. On Tuesday, July 18, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) introduced a short bill designed to do one thing–extend the ELD compliance date for two years, from Dec. 2017 to Dec. 2019. This is a ‘stand-alone’ bill that is not connected to any larger piece of legislation.
Next Steps In The Process –
It’s important to know that both of these bills are early in the legislative process. The FY 2018 DOT Appropriations bill in the House has cleared an early hurdle–the Committee–and now goes to the House “floor” for consideration and a vote by the full House. If that happens, it doesn’t make it law. The Senate Appropriations Committee must craft and pass its own bill (not yet done) and, if that’s accomplished, it must also go to the full Senate for consideration and a vote. Then, a “conference committee” consisting of a few Senators and House Members must meet to resolve differences in the Senate and House bills. If that happens successfully, then the full Senate and House must separately pass the final ‘conferenced’ bill. If that happens, the bill is sent to the President for signature. While an oversimplification, there are about 10 steps in the typical legislative process. And things can get derailed at any step. The House Appropriations bill (and its conference report) has cleared step #2.
The process for Rep. Babin’s ‘stand-alone’ bill is similar, but it’s even earlier in the process. Most introduced bills are referred to a Committee of jurisdiction for consideration. In this case, Rep. Babin’s bill was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee. The Committee Chairman decides which referred bills get considered, and in what order. If the T&I Chairman decides that Rep. Babin’s bill should be considered, it would be considered and voted on by the Committee. If passed, it would be sent to the House “floor” for consideration, and the process described in the above paragraph must occur. It’s important to know that most ‘stand-alone’ bills never move forward because they are not considered by the Committee of jurisdiction. If they do get consideration, it’s usually because they are included in a larger bill that has momentum, and that addresses similar or related issues. Rep. Babin’s bill is at step #1 of the oversimplified 10-step process. Stand-alone bills in Congress remind me of an oft-used slogan of some elite Universities—‘many apply, few are chosen.’
Have specific questions related to this legislative action? Email me at [email protected]
If you have any other questions related to the ELD Mandate, click here.
President of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC and ELD Consultant to Trimble