America Outdoors Association
America Outdoors Association

 June 29, 2012

 

America Outdoors Association Bulletin

Victory on Van CDL Language in Transportation Bill

Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill Extends Forest Service Cost Recovery to 2017

Victory on Van CDL Language in Transportation Bill As Legislation Passes House and Senate.

The requirement for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop a plan or study to require a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) endorsement for drivers of 9 to 15 passenger vans was removed from the final version of the Transportation Bill, MAP-21.  Congratulations to all of you who weighed in.  With your support we led the way to defeat of this provision.

After a brief delay today in the Senate, MAP-21 passed both chambers and is expected to be signed into law by the President tonight.

There is a reference to making changes for existing CDL requirements in SEC. 32709. The Secretary of Transportation will produce a report within two years which reviews “the knowledge and skill testing requirements for a commercial driver’s license passenger endorsement to determine what improvements to the knowledge test, the examination of driving skills, and the application of such requirements are necessary to ensure the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport passengers.”  This provision could impact the availability of CDL’s for bus drivers if significant changes are made.  Read the language carefully.  The Secretary of Transportation will never be able to "ensure" the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles, no matter what Congress says.  Unfortunately, these provisions often get interpreted literally.  Such a stringent requirement could mean a much higher level of testing and evaluation.

SEC. 32710 of MAP-21 may present a challenge in some states.  This section mandates a rule-making within three years to study a requirement for the states to adopt inspection programs for ALL commercial motor vehicles.  Many states already have inspection programs, but some do not.

Other provisions of interest.

  • $700 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund did not get approved.
  • The Recreational Trails Program survived but states may opt out of the program.

       Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill Extends Forest Service Cost Recovery through 2017

This week the Appropriations Committee for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies approved legislation to extend the Forest Service’s cost recovery authority through 2017.  (Despite the name the Committee oversees the budget for the Forest Service). The Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for 2013 was approved by the committee on June 28, 2012.  AOA and the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, among others, had appealed for reform of cost recovery rules.  Representative Simpson (R-ID) was well aware of the significance of this issue to the outfitting industry.  But the Salmon-Challis National Forest is the biggest employer in Lemhi County, which is in Representative Simpson's District.  Permit holders with big bank accounts routinely pay for environmental analyses associated with permits.  While Representative Simpson has expressed concern about cost recovery to the Chief of the Forest Service, his legislation gives the agency carte blanche authority to implement cost recovery for the issuance of special use permits.  The bill passed the Committee on partisan lines with most Republicans in favor.  Democrats did not vote against the bill over the cost recovery provision, however.  

The language in Representative Simpson’s bill states:

SPECIAL USE COST RECOVERY EXTENSION

SEC. 429. Section 331 of the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000 (Public Law 106–113), is further amended as follows:

(a)(1) in subsection (a), by striking ‘‘develop and implement a pilot program’’ and inserting ‘‘implement a program’’;

(2) by striking ‘‘forest service’’ and inserting ‘‘Forest Service’’;

 (3) by striking ‘‘through 2012’’ and inserting ‘‘through 2017’’; and

(4) by striking ‘‘Prior to the expiration’’ and all that follows through ‘‘permit applications’’; and

(b) in subsection (b), by striking ‘‘2012,’’ and inserting ‘‘2017,’’.

We suggest that you contact your Senators to oppose this extension unless changes are made.  While the bill may pass the House, the Senate is unlikely to take up the bill before the election.  After the election Congress will pass a huge package of bills in a rush to get out of town and hope the voters forget what they have done to them before the next election two years away.  AOA already has plans to oppose this language in the Senate.

The bill also 

  • allows agencies to issue grazing permits for up to 20 year terms;
  • provides special consideration to interpretive associations to provide interpretive and outfitting services to the public;
  • requires BLM to develop a plan for cost recovery for grazing permits.

 Members of Congress are eager to require businesses large and small to cover the agency's costs to authorize operations and uses of federal lands.  But they have not been successful or made much effort to make those costs reasonable.

America Outdoors Association
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