November 30, 2017

Committee Approves Disaster Recovery Reform and Human Trafficking Legislation at Markup

This morning, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved sweeping FEMA reform legislation, as well as two bills to address human trafficking on the Nation’s highways.

“This morning’s markup demonstrated what our Committee can accomplish through bipartisan consensus,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA). “We approved significant FEMA reform legislation that shifts our focus to predisaster mitigation in the wake of a historic hurricane season.  The human trafficking bills cleared today will help stem the growth of this terrible crime.  I look forward to quick consideration of these bills by the House.”

“It is critical we as a Nation do everything in our power to help communities struggling to recover from disasters, but in doing so we must ensure we are building more resilient communities that are better prepared for when the next disaster strikes,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR).  “This year’s hurricane season was one of the worst on record.  These storms brought extreme devastation, which is still being felt today.  In addition, severe wildfires left regions of the Western United States completely ravaged this summer.  Climate change is real and the intensity of extreme weather events, and the billions of dollars in accompanying damage, are growing each year.  More must be done to better prepare us for the next major disaster, and the Disaster Recovery Reform Act is a step in the right direction.”

The Committee approved H.R. 4460, “The Disaster Recovery Reform Act” (DRRA), which is sponsored by Chairman Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Ranking Member Hank Johnson (D-GA) of the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee.  The DRRA makes critical reforms to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster response and recovery programs that will help our communities better prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against disasters of all kinds.  More information on the DRRA can be found online here.  An editorial by Rep. Barletta on the DRRA can be read here.

“The current post-disaster recovery structure is no longer effective” said Barletta.  “Building resilient communities on the front end is how America must approach natural disasters for the future.  The Disaster Recovery Reform Act is a stronger and smarter approach to disaster recovery.”

“Communities across the country have been dealing with unprecedented disasters this year, including devastating hurricanes and wildfires,” Johnson said.  “This bill will help us better prepare for future disasters by focusing on predisaster mitigation and resilient rebuilding post-disaster, such as permitting proactive measures that allow electrical lines that were above ground to be buried after disaster strikes, among other activities.  The DRRA will help us save lives, limit property damage, and reduce recovery costs in the long run.”

The two human trafficking bills were approved by the Committee today.  H.R. 3814, the “No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act,” is sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY).  The legislation disqualifies individuals from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for their lifetime if they used a CMV to commit a felony involving human trafficking.

“As a former organized crime prosecutor on both the northern border at home in New York and on the southern border in El Paso, Texas, I’ve seen firsthand the horrors of human trafficking,” said Katko.  “Too often, human traffickers take advantage of our nation’s transportation network to transport their victims from one location to the next, and the U.S. Department of Transportation and the transportation industry play a critical role in preventing and stopping these heinous exploitations.  I’m grateful for Chairman Shuster’s commitment to ending the crime of human trafficking.  I’m proud to work with him and members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today to pass two bipartisan pieces of legislation that I’ve authored with Representative Esty to help make our transportation systems safer.”

H.R. 3813, the “Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act,” is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT).  The bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to designate a human trafficking prevention coordinator, expands the scope of activities authorized under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's outreach and education program and commercial driver’s license financial assistance program to include human trafficking prevention activities, and establishes a human trafficking advisory committee.

“Human trafficking is an appalling and inhumane crime – and it’s happening throughout Connecticut and all over the country,” Esty said.  “As I sadly learned firsthand when a human trafficking ring was broken up in my hometown of Cheshire, anyone can become a victim of this crime, regardless of race, age, gender, or socioeconomic status.  It’s even worse that the majority of human trafficking incidents exploit young girls sexually: the average age a teen enters the sex trade in the United States is between the ages of 12 and 14.  We need to put a stop to this inhumane activity now, which is why I’m proud to have introduced the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act.”