Thune Statement on Injunction Blocking Obama EPA’s WOTUS Implementation

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressThune Statement on Injunction Blocking Obama EPA’s WOTUS Implementation

“The recent ruling by a federal district court in North Dakota shows that the Obama EPA is not only defying common sense, but is also defying the original intent of the Clean Water Act.” 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement in response to an injunction by a federal district court in North Dakota that temporarily blocks the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing its burdensome Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in South Dakota and 12 other states:

“The Obama EPA’s WOTUS rule is one of the largest federal land grabs in recent memory,” said Thune. “It will drive up compliance costs for farmers and ranchers and expose homeowners and property owners across the country to massive new fines. The recent ruling by a federal district court in North Dakota shows that the Obama EPA is not only defying common sense, but is also defying the original intent of the Clean Water Act. The EPA should immediately suspend the enforcement of this regulation across the country. The ruling is yet another reason we need to enact a permanent stop to EPA’s overreach.

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US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Getting Washington Working Again For the American People

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressGetting Washington Working Again For the American People

When Republicans campaigned for the Senate majority in 2014, we made a simple, yet important pledge to the American people: If you elect Republicans to the majority, we will get the Senate, which has been dysfunctional for years, working again. That was not a half-hearted campaign slogan; it was a commitment on which we intended to deliver.

For far too long, the legislative process was nearly nonexistent in the Democrat-run Senate. Democrats were more focused on saving their own jobs than enacting policies that would help create good-paying jobs for hard-working Americans. The Senate floor transformed into a campaign hall, and basic legislative functions often took a back seat to political show votes that were intended to create fodder for 30-second campaign ads rather than solve key problems facing people across the country. Last year, the American people opted for a new direction, and seven months into the new Republican majority, I am happy to report that we have made significant progress.

It is halftime in the first session of this Congress, and Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have put some important points on the board on behalf of the American people. Most importantly, we have returned the Senate to what our Founders intended it to be: a place for open and honest debate, where committees are able to work and senators on both sides of the aisle are able to participate. With a divided government, I believe that the legislative outcome is better when members of both parties are part of the process.

Since reopening the Senate, we have passed more than 80 bills to help improve our economy, reform our government, protect some of the most vulnerable among us, and strengthen our national security. We passed a joint balanced budget resolution, the first since 2001, and did not raise a single dime in taxes during the process. We also passed legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, strengthen our efforts to eradicate human trafficking in this country, provide a check on the Obama administration’s flawed Iran nuclear agreement, and long-overdue trade legislation to help expand access to American-made goods overseas. Additionally, we passed the first long-term bill to strengthen Medicare in over a decade – ensuring South Dakota seniors have access to the physicians they prefer – and an education reform bill that transfers power from Washington bureaucrats back to parents, teachers, and local school boards.

More than 200 bills have been reported out of our various committees, including 36 that were reported out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which I chair. In particular, the Commerce Committee and full Senate passed my bipartisan legislation to reform the Surface Transportation Board and help ensure the rail backlog, which hurt South Dakota’s economy in 2013 and 2014, does not happen again. Also, just a few weeks ago, the Senate passed a long-term highway bill that is critical to South Dakota’s economy. This legislation not only passed with 65 votes, but includes a host of legislative priorities that I worked to include, such as provisions that will strengthen rail and highway safety, while cutting regulatory red tape for agriculture producers who rely on a national transportation system to get their goods to market.

On Saturday, I delivered the weekly Republican address to the nation and shared this important progress with all Americans. While we have accomplished a lot so far, there is much more work to be done during the second half of this session of Congress, and I will continue to fight for South Dakota’s priorities and the priorities of the American people.

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US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Take Me Out to the Fair

thuneheadernewTake Me Out to the Fair
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressIt is that special time of year again when families of all ages from every corner of the state can enjoy the sights and sounds of our state and county fairs. From Turner County to Brown County to the state fair in Huron and everywhere in between, there are multiple opportunities for families to make new memories, continue old traditions, and reconnect with friends and family.

While the food, rides, and concerts are certainly the highlight for many fairgoers, there is more to these local celebrations than cotton candy and tilt-a-whirls. Fairs also present a good opportunity to highlight all of our agriculture producers from around the state. Agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry, and there is a lot to celebrate. Our farmers and ranchers not only carry on the generations-long tradition of working hard and living off of the land, but they also contribute a great deal to our state and local economies and communities.

Preserving these traditions is important, which is why getting the next generation of farmers involved and interested at an early age is so crucial. I am always glad to see so many 4-H demonstrations, booths, and activities as I travel from fair to fair. They are not only a staple of the fair scene, but they give young South Dakotans the chance to show off their talents and inspire others to participate as well.

Thankfully, the avian influenza outbreak that swept through the Midwest earlier this year, which affected nearly 50 million birds nationwide, has begun to subside. The outbreak took a toll on egg production in the United States, and costs, both to consumers and farmers, skyrocketed. At this year’s state fair, farmers and ranchers can receive an important update on the outbreak and learn more about its impact on South Dakota. This is just one of many examples of the educational opportunities available this year at the state fair.

I know that I mentioned there is more to the fair than the food and entertainment, but I would be lying if I said that I do not look forward to stopping by the Pork Producers’ or Cattlemen’s booth for a sandwich or attending events like the rodeo championship or an evening concert. These are the things that memories are made of, and I look forward to this season each year to experience these events firsthand with my own family.

If we cross paths at your local fair, be sure to stop and say hello – I look forward to seeing you soon.

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EPA’s Backdoor National Energy Tax a Burden for South Dakota Consumers

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressEPA’s Backdoor National Energy Tax a Burden for South Dakota Consumers

Electricity Bills Could Skyrocket as a Result of EPA Regulation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) announcement that it has approved the Clean Power Plan, which could increase electricity bills for Americans across the country:

“The Obama EPA strikes again,” said Thune. “If there is one thing for which the EPA can be counted on, it is the repeated issuance of rules and regulations that stifle growth and make life harder and more costly for American families and entrepreneurs. This backdoor national energy tax will hurt jobs, cause costs to skyrocket, and threaten grid reliability. While all South Dakotans are likely to feel the pain of this burdensome new regulation, low-income families and seniors living on fixed incomes will be hit the hardest. I will continue to fight for South Dakotans and do all I can to see that this rule is reversed.”

The EPA’s final rule will require a 32 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, targeting America’s affordable and reliable coal generation. For South Dakota to meet its state reduction target, the recently overhauled Big Stone Plant would likely have to shut down for at least part of the year. The plant, which is nearing completion of a $384 million environmental upgrade to meet the EPA’s Regional Haze and Utility MACT regulations, will soon be among the cleanest in the country. Yet, under the Clean Power Plan, this investment would be stranded and its sunk costs passed on to ratepayers.

In January, Thune urged EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to withdraw the proposed regulations on existing power plants.

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US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Multi-Year Highway Bill an Investment in Our Roads and Bridges

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressMulti-Year Highway Bill an Investment in Our Roads and Bridges
By Senator John Thune

With one million bikers expected to take to the highways for the 75th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, and as tourist season remains well underway, there is no better time to stress the need for safe, reliable roads and bridges in South Dakota and across America.

Our transportation infrastructure keeps our economy and our nation moving. That is why I am pleased the U.S. Senate recently passed a multi-year highway bill by a vote of 65-34 that would fund federal highway and infrastructure projects for three years. The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act provides certainty to states across the country, does not increase the gas tax, and would be the longest highway funding measure in over a decade.

For too long, transportation funding has been subjected to one short-term extension after another – 34 short-term extensions since 2009 – that leaves those responsible for our nation’s transportation system without the certainty and predictability they need to maintain and improve the safety of our roads, bridges, and highways.

If Congress fails to provide state and local governments with this necessary certainty, they are hamstrung when it comes to authorizing certain projects or making long-term plans for transportation infrastructure. Such a scenario could mean that essential construction projects get deferred, necessary repairs might not get made, and jobs that depend on transportation are put in jeopardy.

The DRIVE Act answers the call for the type of long-term certainty state and local governments need. This legislation signals an important commitment to safe, quality highways and bridges in South Dakota that will help support our economy and ensure important industries such as tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing continue to thrive.

South Dakota agriculture producers and businesses rely on our interstate highway system to distribute their goods to stores across the United States and around the world. All of us depend on our nation’s roads and bridges to get from place to place every day – especially in a state like South Dakota where the distance between towns is often measured in hours.

This multi-year highway bill is another major legislative achievement for the Republican-led Senate and the result of months of hard work by multiple Senate committees, including the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which I chair. Republicans and Democrats alike had their voices heard during this process, and the final product is stronger because of it. It is critical the House and Senate finish a long-term highway bill in the coming months.

As this year’s rally approaches, I hope your travels throughout the state are safe. Motorcycles will be everywhere over the next few weeks, so remember to look twice and save a life.

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Thune Statement on Passage of Bipartisan DRIVE Act

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John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressThune Statement on Passage of Bipartisan DRIVE Act

“Passing a bipartisan, multi-year highway bill will provide South Dakota with much-needed, long-term certainty to make important investments in infrastructure projects, leading to job creation and sustained economic growth in communities across the state.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement on the Senate’s bipartisan passage of the multi-year Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, which contains several Thune-led provisions that were included as part of the Commerce Committee-approved titles of the bill:

“Passing a bipartisan, multi-year highway bill will provide South Dakota with much-needed, long-term certainty to make important investments in infrastructure projects, leading to job creation and sustained economic growth in communities across the state,” said Thune. “I am proud that several key Commerce Committee-approved reforms to enhance safety, provide regulatory relief, streamline grant programs, and improve the accountability and efficiency of oversight efforts were included in this bill. Specifically, these reforms will help cut unnecessary red tape and provide relief to our agriculture transporters and custom harvesters in South Dakota.

“There is still more to be done, and I look forward to working with the House of Representatives as it completes its work in the months ahead.”

On July 15, the Commerce Committee, under Thune’s leadership, passed the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act, which was combined with legislation from other Senate committees that have jurisdiction over transportation issues to form this year’s highway bill. In addition to the regulatory relief for agriculture transporters and custom harvesters, the DRIVE Act creates new grant eligibility for states like South Dakota that provide 24/7 sobriety programs.

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US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Why the Iran Nuclear Agreement Is a Bad Deal for America

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_Congress
Why the Iran Nuclear Agreement Is a Bad Deal for America
By Senator John Thune

There has been a lot of recent coverage in the news about the Iran nuclear agreement. For many South Dakotans, this agreement may seem far away. However, the danger this agreement addresses – that of a nuclear-armed Iran – is not only a threat to our allies, including Israel, but also to the United States. The agreement will help finance Iran’s terrorist activities, allow Iran to acquire conventional and ballistic weapons, and advance Iran’s nuclear program – resulting in a more dangerous and unstable world.

For this to be a good deal, full access for inspectors is essential. However, instead of the anytime, anywhere inspections that the United States initially sought, the agreement only allows for inspections of Iran’s currently known nuclear facilities.

If Iran is suspected of violating this agreement, inspectors must request Iran’s permission to examine other sites. If the Iranians object, the resulting appeals process could take almost a month, winding through various levels of bureaucracy at the United Nations before inspectors are finally allowed access. For a country that has a long history of doing things in secret, that’s a lot of time.

“Breakout time” is a phrase that has frequently been used during these negotiations. The “breakout time” is the period of time from which we know Iran has started building a nuclear bomb to the time they are able to use it. Unfortunately, as part of this agreement, even if Iran does not cheat on the deal, they can still modernize their nuclear infrastructure and continue research and development on advanced centrifuges. That means 10 years from now, Iran’s “breakout time” will be almost zero.

In addition, this agreement discontinues the ban on conventional weapons after five years and on ballistic missiles after eight. In the future, if Iran wanted to pursue a nuclear weapon, not only would their breakout time be very short, but they will likely have the means to defend themselves against a military strike. If they acquired a nuclear bomb, they could also have a ballistic missile capable of hitting targets far beyond the Middle East.

For these reasons, and the fact that lifting the sanctions will help fund Iran’s continued support of terrorism, I have expressed my strong concern about this agreement and skepticism that Iran will actually hold up their end of the deal.

Just last week, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, echoing the chants from his people, said, “You heard ‘Death to Israel,’ ‘Death to the U.S.’ … we ask Almighty God to accept these prayers by the people of Iran.”

While I am sure not all Iranians want death to America, it is clear that their leaders still do.

As Congress reviews this agreement, I hope the president will listen to the concerns that have been raised by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the United States, and an agreement that allows Iran to retain all the components necessary to build a nuclear bomb is not a good deal for America and should be rejected.

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Thune Discusses Importance of Prescribed Burn Approval Act at Senate Hearing

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Thune Discusses Importance of Prescribed Burn Approval Act at Senate Hearing

“I’ve introduced a bill that very simply would require collaboration with the state and local entities before these prescribed burns are initiated.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed his Prescribed Burn Approval Act of 2015, legislation that would require federal agency employees to collaborate with state and local officials before starting prescribed burns on federal lands. Thune’s remarks were made during a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee hearing that reviewed pending Forest Service and forestry-related bills, including his bill, S. 1100.

Thune’s bill also would also make federal agencies liable and expedite the payment process for damages when federal employees start fires that damage private property.

Excerpt from Thune’s remarks:

“I’ve got a bill that addresses a situation that we’ve faced in the last couple of years in South Dakota. We’ve had two fires that have burned out of control … It happened two years ago up in Northwestern South Dakota and then more recently here in the Black Hills near Wind Cave. I’ve introduced a bill that very simply would require collaboration with the state and local entities before these prescribed burns are initiated.”

Click here to watch Senator Thune’s full remarks and Q&A with U.S. Department of Agriculture Under-Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie.

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US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Transportation Reforms Strengthen, Provide Certainty toFarmers, Ranchers, and Businesses

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Transportation Reforms Strengthen, Provide Certainty to
Farmers, Ranchers, and Businesses
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressWith all the Senate has accomplished this year, it is hard to believe that we are just six months into the Republican majority. The Senate has passed nearly 50 bipartisan bills since January, and we are on pace to pass many more. We have made bipartisanship a cornerstone of the GOP-led Senate because when the two parties work together, the American people win.

With a new majority, came a fresh set of leaders at the numerous Senate committees, which is where the important groundwork is laid before legislation comes to the Senate floor. For years, this process was ignored under Democrat leadership, and the legislative process suffered because of it. Thankfully, that has changed, and our committees are once again hard at work.

I was among the new set of committee leaders that took over earlier this year, and am humbled that my colleagues selected me to lead the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has broad jurisdiction over significant issues that are important to South Dakota, including telecommunications, aviation, rail, highway safety, and interstate commerce. The committee has already passed a number of improvements this year.

South Dakota businesses and agriculture producers faced numerous challenges last year during the nine-month labor dispute at 29 West Coast container ports. During this prolonged slowdown, many businesses and agriculture producers faced inventory challenges during the holiday season because shipments on the West Coast were severely backed-up.

Some estimates say that these disputes cost the economy up to $2.5 billion per day, and the resulting strife was widely cited as a contributing cause to the anemic 0.2 percent annual growth rate of the U.S. economy in the first quarter of 2015.

To help prevent a reoccurrence, I led a group of senators in introducing a set of common-sense sunshine reforms that would help with early identification of port labor disruptions before they inflict damage on the economy. These reforms would also require yearly port metrics reporting, which would create a new level of transparency and accountability for U.S. ports and give businesses and agriculture producers across the country greater certainty. Last month, my bill cleared the Commerce Committee, and I am hopeful that the full Senate will consider this legislation soon.

Freight rail is another issue that is critically important to South Dakota businesses and agriculture producers because of our dependence on transporting commodities and products across the country and around the globe. Because of the serious rail backlogs that occurred at the end of 2013 and into early 2015, I introduced legislation last Congress, and again this year, to provide common-sense reforms to the Surface Transportation Board to address the added costs and uncertainty that many South Dakota agriculture producers and businesses encountered when they were unable to get reliable rail transportation they depend on.

I have worked with numerous South Dakota groups for years on this bill, which has strong bipartisan support and the endorsement of organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation, the South Dakota Grain & Feed Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperatives, and the South Dakota Farmers Union. This bill passed the Senate unanimously late last month and is awaiting consideration in the House.

Once these reforms are in place, South Dakota farmers, ranchers, and businesses will be in a stronger position to ensure that they get a fair deal on critical shipments, coming or going.

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Thune Sets Mark-Up of Transportation Bill With Regulatory andConsumer Protection Reforms

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Thune Sets Mark-Up of Transportation Bill With Regulatory and
Consumer Protection Reforms

Bill Includes Passenger Rail, Regulatory Relief for Livestock Transportation and Custom Harvesters, Grant Reform and Consolidation, and Transparency Improvements

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressWASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced the committee will convene on Wednesday, July 15, to consider and vote on S. 1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015. The legislation authorizes the office of the secretary of transportation for the next six years (fiscal years 2016 through 2021) and contains key reforms to enhance safety, provide regulatory relief, streamline grant programs, and improve the accountability and efficiency of oversight efforts.

“As the Senate works to consider a multi-year plan to fund highway and other infrastructure projects, we also have the opportunity to enact reforms for the Department of Transportation that are vital for our economy and the safety of travelers in South Dakota and around the country,” said Thune. “This bill incorporates numerous proposals from the administration, bipartisan proposals put forward by senators, and proposals that have been previously considered and embraced by a consensus of the Commerce Committee. Among the many improvements this bill makes, I’m especially glad that we can provide some much-needed regulatory relief to our agriculture transporters, who are vital to South Dakota’s agriculture industry.”

By tradition, following committee approval, S. 1732 will be combined with S. 1647, the DRIVE Act, and component legislation from other Senate committees on the Senate floor as early as next week to form legislation commonly referred to as “The Highway Bill” or the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill.”

Mark-up agenda:

  1. S. 1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015

Executive Session Details:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

10:00 a.m. EDT in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253

A live video of the mark-up and additional information will be available at http://1.usa.gov/1LUiwCz

Highlights of S. 1732:

Regulatory Reform, Relief, and Transparency

Cutting Red Tape – Provides permanent regulatory relief for drivers who transport livestock and bees by permitting hours of service exemptions.

Custom Harvester Protection Would allow the operation of vehicles that provide fuel for agricultural operations to be exempt from the requirement of obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement, which would help individuals like custom harvesters.

Transparency – Requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to maintain updated records relating to regulatory guidance, and provides for regular review to ensure consistency and enforceability.

Port Performance Act – Includes legislation previously approved by the Commerce Committee to increase transparency of port operation by providing currently non-existent key metrics on port operations to help provide earlier warning of disruptions to various sectors of our economy following the recent nine month labor dispute at 29 West Coast container ports.

Freight: TIGER Reformed and Refocused

Develops a National Freight Strategy and Strategic Plan – Sets goals to enhance U.S. economic competitiveness by improving freight transportation networks that serve our agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and energy sectors. Focuses freight planning efforts in the Office of the Secretary with the Undersecretary for Policy to provide multimodal coordination.

Authorizes a Freight Grant Program – Formally authorizes the TIGER transportation grants program, and refocuses funding efforts on freight infrastructure. The bill reforms the project selection processes to increase accountability and transparency of grants.

Improved Project Delivery and Department of Transportation (DOT) Management

Project Streamlining – Building on the Administration’s proposed GROW AMERICA Act, the bill provides additional authority to streamline delivery of infrastructure projects and consolidate burdensome permitting regulations.

Responsible Management – Prohibits designating a single individual as a long term agency head without formally nominating a qualified candidate who is subject to formal consideration by the U.S. Senate.
Flexibility for States

Provides for Flexible State Planning – Improves freight planning efforts to ensure that freight planning is multimodal and addresses the links between highways, railroads, ports, airports, and pipelines.

Grant Consolidation – As proposed by the Administration GROW AMERICA Act, the bill consolidates FMCSA state trucking enforcement grants to provide additional flexibility to states to administer enforcement programs.

Grant Flexibility
Increases emphasis on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) highway safety grants, allocated according to state population and road mileage, to address each state’s unique highway safety challenges and provide additional opportunities for states to obtain grants to combat impaired and distracted driving.

24/7 Sobriety Programs –
Amends the grant for alcohol ignition interlock devices to include eligibility for states that provide 24/7 sobriety programs.

NHTSA Oversight and Improvement

Vehicle Recalls Improves consumer awareness of vehicle safety information and requires franchised dealers and car rental companies to provide consumers with notification of open safety recalls. Increases the time consumers have to seek a free remedy for tire recalls and creates a state pilot grant to inform consumers of open vehicle recalls at the time of motor vehicle registration.

Provides Increased Oversight of NHTSA Following a record number of recalls for defects linked to fatalities, high profile failures by the auto safety regulator and expert testimony that the most immediate needs are to fix fundamental problem of NHTSA’s defect identification and investigation process and not substantial increased funding, the bill requires the DOT Inspector General and NHTSA to provide updates on how NHTSA is addressing these problems and directs audits of NHTSA’s management of vehicle safety recalls, public awareness of recall information, and NHTSA’s research efforts.

Promoting Crash Avoidance Technology – Adds a requirement that crash avoidance information, such as active braking and lane-tracking technology, be included next to the 5-star information on the car sticker for consumers purchasing new vehicles.

Rail

Passenger Rail Includes the bipartisan Railroad Reform Enhancement and Efficiency Act, which was amended and passed the Commerce Committee by unanimous voice vote, increasing safety, improving infrastructure, cutting red tape, and empowering state and local officials.

Click here for text of the bill as introduced.

Click here for a section-by-section summary.

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