May 08, 2019

Committee Approves Slate of Legislation to Maintain Nation’s Ports, Increase Transparency, Encourage Energy Efficiency in Federal Building Leases, and More

Washington, DC- Today, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved a slate of bipartisan measures by voice vote, including the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, the DISASTER Act, the Transparency in Federal Buildings Projects Act of 2019, and nearly two dozen General Services Administration (GSA) Capital Investment and Leasing Program Resolutions.


“I am pleased the Committee approved my bipartisan legislation to unlock billions in already collected taxes in order to better maintain our nation’s ports and harbors,” said Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR). “In addition, I’m pleased the GSA resolutions approved today incorporate new language that encourages the use of energy efficient spaces, with the ongoing hope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Committee also passed important legislation to streamline disaster relief assistance information, and to modernize GSA website practices. I applaud Ranking Member Graves and all members of the Committee for again working in a bipartisan way to advance critical pieces of legislation.”

“The bills we approved today are about good government.  The ‘Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act’ ensures that these user fees we collect are used for their intended purpose – investing in America’s ports and harbors,” said Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO).  “Legislation approved today will also provide greater transparency in how the government spends disaster program funding and in the management of federal real property.  For years, Committee Republicans have elected to post information about proposed capital and leasing projects on their website, and if signed into law, the Transparency in Federal Buildings Projects Act will require GSA to post this information.  These measures are wins for the taxpayers and the Nation’s infrastructure.  I want to thank Chairman DeFazio for working with us on these bipartisan bills, and I commend Ranking Member Meadows and Congressman Palmer for their leadership on these issues.”

The legislation passed today out of Committee includes:

H.R. 2440, Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act (DeFazio)


“For years—during Republican and Democratic administrations alike—the Harbor Maintenance tax has been diverted from its intended purpose, which is to ensure our Nation’s ports and harbors are properly dredged and fully operational. It’s past time we put those taxes back into much-needed improvements,” said Chair DeFazio. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill will make approximately $34 billion in harbor maintenance taxes available over the next decade for harbor maintenance, assuring we are able to save and create jobs, grow businesses, and keep us globally competitive. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this bill and advancing it out of Committee, and I will keep fighting for this legislation at every step until the President signs it into law.”

Currently, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (Trust Fund) collects more revenue from shippers than Congress has appropriated to the U.S. Army Corps (Corps) of Engineers to maintain our harbors. Approximately $9.3 billion in already collected revenue sits idle in the U.S. Treasury, not being used for its intended purpose of investing in our Nation’s ports and harbors. At the same time, some ports and harbors of all sizes struggle to remain competitive in the global shipment of goods and services or remain open to meet the needs of the communities that depend on a vibrant maritime and commercial fishing industry. While shippers continue to pay into the Trust Fund for Congressionally approved maintenance activities, the Federal Government has not carried out many of them.


This bipartisan bill makes it easier for Congress to appropriate any funds collected in the Trust Fund for authorized harbor maintenance needs, including the existing $9.3 billion balance in the Trust Fund.  The legislation enables the expenditure of approximately $34 billion over the next decade, which will allow the Corps to dredge all Federal harbors to their constructed widths and depths.


H.R. 1984, DISASTER Act


“The DISASTER Act would mark a significant step forward in providing needed transparency to disaster relief expenditures,” said Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Ranking Member Mark Meadows (R-NC).  “Our constituents deserve to have access to details on how we spend their money, and our bill would go a long way toward consolidating this research and information for them, like spending reports or calculation breakdowns. I look forward to continuing our bipartisan work on this important issue going forward.”


H.R. 1984 directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to compile, aggregate, and organize all federal disaster relief assistance information it currently collects into an annually produced, user-friendly, publicly-available report.


H.R. 2502, Transparency in Federal Buildings Projects Act of 2019


“I’m pleased that my colleagues joined me in advancing the Transparency in Federal Buildings Projects Act, which will strengthen transparency and accountability in federal construction, renovation, and leasing projects. I thank Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves for their work on this bill and look forward to giving the taxpayers more information about how their hard-earned dollars are being spent going forward,” said U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), sponsor of H.R. 2502.


H.R. 2502 requires the General Services Administration (GSA) to publish on its website all prospectuses for leasing, design or construction activities which the GSA - pursuant to Chapter 33 of Title 40, United States Code sections 3307 and 3316 – has submitted to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.


General Services Administration Capital Investment and Leasing Program Resolutions


“The Federal government has a great opportunity to reduce energy costs and curb carbon emissions in its day-to-day operations, which is why I’m proud to include this new language to encourage the use of greener infrastructure,” said Chair DeFazio. “By emphasizing the availability of public transportation and the inclusion of renewable energy, water efficiency, and indoor air quality improvements in future leases, the Federal government will be part of the solution in our continued fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”


Each fiscal year, the Committee considers GSA’s Capital Investment and Leasing Program

(CILP) resolutions. Today, the Committee approved 20 resolutions that authorize GSA to complete several lease projects across the Nation. Nearly all of the projects considered involve an agency either reducing its space footprint or improving its utilization rate.