Like many roads in the Atlanta area, those in U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall's (R-GA) 7th District, encompassing Gwinnett and Forsythe counties in the northeast suburbs, need infrastructure upgrades to relieve congestion.
With the possibility of new long-term funding for transportation and infrastructure around the corner, Martin Wattenbarger, Woodall's communication director, told TI Daily News recently that the prospects of the long-term bill were “worthy of optimism.”
The House continues to pass short-term transportation infrastructure funding bills, and the latest bill is set to expire at the end of the month.
“No one can make long-term plans on short-term extensions,” Wattenbarger said. “There is always a lack of certainty (when managing short-term funding)."
These short-term extensions impact the 7th District because they are all the district can afford. Repairs with short-term funding fade quickly, and there isn’t much progress that can be made when there are such limitations.
The federal transportation funding mechanisms supported by Woodall, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, are, “generally speaking, those that are supported by most on a local, state and federal level,” Wattenbarger said. “Any time you have a user-pay format, the users need to contribute.”
Long-term funding is anticipated to be accepted by the end of the year. This funding will range from three to six years, and address larger scale upgrades needed in U.S. transportation and infrastructure. As for Woodall, he is very confident the funding will happen.
“It has been a long time coming," Wattenbarger said.
On Thursday, Americans will gather together with friends and family from the shadow of Stone Mountain to the shores of California, from the mountains of Pennsylvania to the deserts of New Mexico, to celebrate our good fortune and remind ourselves all that we are thankful for.
Most of us remember learning in school that the first Thanksgiving took place at Plymouth Colony in 1621 between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians. It’s easy to focus on the food and football in a modern Thanksgiving, but let’s remember what the first Thanksgiving was about. What started as a treacherous journey across the sea undertaken by the religiously persecuted who fought deprivation and disease ended with the outstretched hand of friendship from native peoples in a new land. The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of our American values – accepting the stranger, providing comfort to the oppressed – and every Thanksgiving thereafter has been and will continue to be a reminder of how people from all walks of life and all cultures can come together as Americans and create a nation grounded in liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I’ve long spoken about how important it is for our government to take seriously its responsibility to ensure the safety and security of American families. Last week’s news that one of the perpetrators of the senseless attacks in Paris may have entered France posing as a Syrian refugee was a sobering reminder that those who seek to do us harm are not above taking advantage of a nation’s generosity.
America has a long history of compassion, and I am proud of that fact, but the safety and security of American families comes first. No questions asked. That’s exactly why my colleagues and I acted swiftly last week to pass H.R. 4038, the American SAFE Act, which strengths our already strong screening process to make sure our nation’s security and intelligence agencies each unanimously certify that every refugee we admit to the U.S. does not pose a security risk. This isn’t just a positive step towards ensuring national security, it is a necessary step, and one that received the support of two-thirds of the House of Representatives.
Make no mistake, American remains committed to aiding the oppressed. With billions invested abroad, no nation on the planet is doing more than the United States to aid refugees from Syria. But the answer to a crisis that has displaced millions does no lie in how many refugees are admitted permanently to other nations. Rather, the answer lies in how quickly other nations can come together to bring peace to Syria. Ending the motivation for the refugee flight is the true success.
Sadly, like many other common sense ideas, President Obama has already threatened to veto this legislation that prioritizes America's safety. I understand and share his compassion for refugees, but what I don’t understand is his lack of commitment to ensuring the safety of those who live in the nation he leads. This is not a partisan issue; it is a national security issue, as the heads of America's national security apparatus have told us clearly that we do not have a system in place that can prevent terrorists posing as refugees from entering this country. Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats in the House see the national security importance, and passed this legislation with a giant bipartisan majority -- a majority large enough to override the President's threatened veto.
This important bill does not mark the end of Congress’ effort to help keep America safe – it is just the beginning of a renewed focus, and it will ensure the integrity of our refugee admissions program. On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Syrian refugee crisis, and I expect more hearings will follow.
Folks who have lived in Georgia, Alabama, or Florida for a number of years are no doubt familiar with the ongoing dispute over water usage. Despite Georgia’s incredibly responsible stewardship of our precious water resources, this issue has led to interstate negotiations, court litigation, and congressional scrutiny. For many years, Congress has rightly avoided picking winners and losers in an ongoing legal proceeding while encouraging the three states to come to agreement. However, Senators from Florida and Alabama recently formed a disturbing political alliance in an attempt to overturn congressional precedent and do an end-run around the ongoing discussions by quietly inserting the legislative branch into this very divisive regional issue that is fraught with serious, long-term consequences for the state of Georgia and metro Atlanta in particular.
The question is simple: will Georgia families continue to have access to clean drinking water as we continue to grow and attract more businesses and families to our communities? The Georgia congressional delegation delivered on Thursday an emphatic answer to that question: yes, we will. We sent formal letters to Speaker Ryan and the leaders of both Appropriations Committees requesting that no language be included in this year’s spending bill that destroys the delicate and continuing negotiations and forces Congress to pick sides in a regional dispute. You can view the letters here. We expect nothing short of a full commitment to ensure this devastating language does not become the law of the land.
With all the violence perpetrated throughout our world in the past few months, one thing is clear to me – we must stand with our allies and all freedom loving people to fight terror in the strongest terms. For that reason, I crafted and introduced H.Con.Res. 96, which condemns Palestinian incitement of violence in Israel and reaffirms the special bond between Israel and the United States. I am proud to be joined by my friend Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL) to make this a non-partisan initiative. Throughout the coming weeks, we will work to grow the cosponsors on this bill and show the world that in America, being on the side of good over evil supersedes partisan politics.
Throughout October, newspapers across the world carried stories of horrible, lone-wolf style attacks against Israelis – both civilians and police and military personnel – that killed or wounded more than 100 people and spread fear across the region of a possible renewed intifada. There have been 66 stabbings and 8 shootings since October 1st, at various sites in Israel, from the Temple Mount to bus stations. What’s so concerning is that this violence doesn’t seem to be coordinated by an particular terrorist group. Instead, it’s a grassroots terrorism that was fomented by Palestinian media reports that falsely claimed Israel was going to cut-off access to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. When a population lives amongst terror, fear, and hatred of their neighbors – as too many young Palestinians do – the incitement to violence is all too easy. Whether organized or not, terrorism, evil, and violence have become part of daily life in Israel. We must take a stand against that evil, and I hope that H.Con.Res. 96 is a sign to our allies and Israel’s enemies that the United States is a force for peace and a bulwark against terrorism.
Last week I joined in supporting my Georgia colleague Dr. Tom Price’s (R-GA) bill, H.R. 3940, the “Meaningful Use Hardship Relief Act.” Medicare is working very hard to ensure that health care practitioners are using modern electronic health records (EHR) in order to reduce costs and ensure that patients are getting appropriate care. The days of getting the same lab test ordered from two different doctors at two different hospitals over a two week period because neither doctor knew what the other had ordered are close to being long gone thanks to EHRs. In fact, the positive health and economic benefits from using EHRs are so great that Medicare even penalizes physicians who aren’t using them appropriately. That’s good news. The bad news is that bureaucracy is getting in the way of physicians having the opportunity to prove that they are doing all they can to implement EHRs effectively.
Medicare bureaucrats were delayed in getting doctors the technical information they needed to prove that they have been using EHRs effectively in 2015. That delay makes it almost impossible that your physician can get Medicare the paperwork it requires before the end of the year. If Medicare doesn’t get that paperwork, your physician will be penalized. That’s just not fair. Americans should be penalized for the shortcomings of Washington bureaucrats. H.R. 3940 makes sure that doesn’t happen by giving physicians a blanket penalty exception. Your physician should be focused on you, not on fighting Medicare bureaucrats.
Last week the House passed three extremely important bills that will make our nation’s financial services industry more responsive to the American people: H.R. 1210, H.R. 1737, and H.R. 3189. Many times, these banking and finance bills seem tailored to Wall Street, but in reality, they are fundamental changes that will make Main Street banking easier, more affordable, and more accessible for the 7th District community.
The first bill, H.R. 1210, the “Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act,” is designed to provide banks and credit unions across the nation, including right here in the 7th District, more flexibility to loan money to credit-worthy borrowers who want to purchase a home. Right now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – through myriad rules and regulation – is deciding who should get a mortgage and what kind of mortgage they should get. I appreciate the need to ensure folks who take out mortgages can afford to make their monthly payments, but I trust lenders in our community more than I trust Washington regulators to make those decisions. What H.R. 1210 does is allow more of those decisions to be made by lenders if the lenders agree to keep the loan on their books, a condition that ensures lenders – and not the taxpayers – will be on the hook if a mortgage goes bad.
Giving Brand Bank the freedom to make loans to Gwinnett residents, or our friends at Community Business Bank in Cumming to make loans to Forsyth County residents, is good for our economy. As long as institutions are willing to assume the risk, we can trust them to make the right decisions when dealing with their neighbors and to unleash the capital that is currently locked up by reactionary regulation. This will certainly be a healthy shot in the arm for our community.
A second bill, H.R. 1737, the “Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act,” was passed by the House with strong, bipartisan support. H.R. 1737 would nullify guidance issued by the CFPB without public input that has created uncertainty in the indirect auto lending market. The CFPB guidance recommends that lenders restrict auto dealers’ ability to negotiate financing terms with customers and cap auto dealer compensation for securing auto loans. According to the CFPB, current practices by auto dealer financing departments have created a fair credit risk and changes are needed to minimize the risk of discrimination. The concern is that the CFPB’s recommended changes will likely increase the cost of purchasing a car. For example, under the CFPB's plan, dealerships won't be able to discount lender interest rates in hopes of meeting or beating a competing offer. What that means is you and I will no longer be able to walk into the finance department at car dealerships across the 7th District and negotiate a lower interest rate.
Finally, the House passed H.R. 3189, the “Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization Act of 2015.” Over the past few years, many of you have reached out to me to express concerns about the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies – quantitative easing, low cost loans to large financial institutions during the recession, and years of near-zero interest rates to name a few. Most of you wanted to know more about how the Federal Reserve makes its policy decision, and some of you called for increased Congressional oversight and audits. If you are one of those folks, then H.R. 3189 may be the solution you were seeking. H.R. 3189 makes a number of reforms to the Federal Reserve that I believe will make it more transparent, accountable, and predictable.
Once again, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Member of Congress
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA-07) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20) have introduced a bipartisan measure – H.Con. Res. 96 – in strong support of the nation of Israel and condemning the Palestinian incitement of violence in the region. In recent weeks, multiple attacks perpetrated by radical Islamist elements have resulted in the death or injury of many Israeli people as well as the destruction of Jewish Holy sites. As reported by the Jerusalem Post, the most recent of the terror attacks occurred near Jerusalem today, resulting in civilian injuries and the death of an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier. The House coalition led by Woodall calls for an immediate end to the violence and affirms continuing support for the nation and people of Israel. Statements from Rep. Woodall and Rep. Hastings are provided below.
“The American people share a very special bond with the people of Israel,” said Rep. Woodall. “We have no stronger ally, and their strength is necessary not only for their own protection and success, but for freedom-loving people throughout the region and across the world. They face tremendous danger on a daily basis from those who deny their right to exist and seek to destroy their nation and heritage. Those carrying out recent attacks do not share the love of liberty that bonds the American and Israeli nations together. I am proud of this non-partisan effort to provide an opportunity for the House to unite against these evil acts, and I thank my friend Mr. Hastings for helping us get here.”
“The current wave of violence in Israel deserves swift and clear condemnation, not just from the United States, but from the entire international community. Unfortunately, we have not seen this happen, even as attack after attack is carried out against innocent Israelis,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. “Roughly 100 stabbings, shootings, and car-ramming attacks have been carried out since October. The Palestinian government and leaders around the world must unequivocally condemn these acts of terror. I am therefore pleased to introduce this bipartisan resolution with Congressman Rob Woodall, which calls on the entire international community to stand in unison against acts of terrorism in Israel and reaffirms our belief that any chance at lasting peace can only happen through peaceful, bilateral, discussions between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee.
U.S. Reps. Rob Woodall and Jody Hice, both R-Ga., praised a house bill that requires screening measures for refugees seeking sanctuary in the U.S. this past week.
The issue of refugee screening, particularly for Syrian refugees, has been a focal point for politicians in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Woodall said screenings were necessary to “prevent a ruthless enemy from exploiting American goodness and generosity.”
The House approved the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act by a 289-137 vote on Thursday. The majority of votes in favor of the bill came from 242 Republicans, who were joined by 47 Democrats. Meanwhile 135 Democrats and two Republicans voted against it.
Woodall and Hice voted in favor of the act while Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., voted against it.
“The horrific attacks in Paris last week are a painful reminder of the enemy’s resolve — and underscore the need for a clear strategy from the President to defeat ISIS,” Woodall said in a statement. “Congress and the American people have asked repeatedly — and most recently in the National Defense Authorization Act sent to the White House just days ago — for that strategy, and now is the time.”
President Barack Obama has reportedly threatened to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, but Hice urged him to rethink that idea.
“As a Nation that has historically welcomed immigrants, we cannot let our reputation for kindness serve as a weakness,” Hice said in a statement. “Today’s bill would ensure that no current or former fighters in Iraq or Syria would be able to gain admittance to the United States until such a time when new vetting processes are in place.
“The most important job of the American government is to protect the American people. It is my hope the President will step up to the plate and act in the interest of our citizens’ safety.”
Unterman named ‘Champion of Children’
State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, received a second award this year for working on children’s issues, this time for her work on legislation dealing with issues surrounding temporary power of attorney for kids.
The Foundation for Government Accountability presented its 2015 Champion of Children Award to Unterman on Thursday for her work on the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act. The bill sets up a procedure that lets parents create, authorize and revoke temporary powers of attorney so another adult can be responsible for their children.
It is intended to be used when parents have to temporarily waive their parental rights because of situations such as military deployment or substance abuse treatment.
“I am honored to receive the Champion of Children Award from the Foundation for Government Accountability,” Unterman said in a statement. “Being a voice for Georgia’s children is a top priority of mine, and I look forward to persistently working with my colleagues in the 2016 legislative session to generate legislation that will continue to improve the lives of children and families all over Georgia.”
The Supporting and Strengthening Families Act is still pending in the state House of Representatives, which has until the end of the 2016 legislative session to pass it.
Isakson to help in reauthorization of education act
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office announced this past week that the senator has been picked to be one of the Republican negotiators from the Senate in talks on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Members of both the Senate and House of Representatives have been picked to serve on the conference committee to negotiate a final reauthorization bill for the act. The committee held its first meeting this past Wednesday.
“I look forward to working as a member of the conference committee to put education progress and decisions back in the hands of parents, teachers, and state and local governments,” Isakson said in a statement. “I also look forward to working to make sure this agreement includes an amendment that I sponsored in the Senate-passed measure that ensures parents have the information needed to make decisions on their children’s education, including their rights to opt their children out of mandated testing.”
Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.Read More
WASHINGTON — Congressman Rob Woodall says Washington lawmakers are likely to reach agreement on a highway funding bill. The Gwinnett County Republican is on a conference committee that's ironing out differences in versions passed by the House and Senate.
There's debate over whether it should be a three or six year bill. Woodall says Georgia benefits from a longer plan.
"And what we have seen, and Georgia leads the way in this respect, is that when states and localities understand what the Feds are going to do, then those states and localities decide what more needs to be done and they take action on their own.''
The conference committee first hoped to have a bill ready before Thanksgiving. Now, they're aiming for December 4. The panel is still trying to resolve how to fund the measure. As the Washington Postreports, the House and Senate passed six year bills, but only included three years of funding.
Congress has passed a series of stop-gap measures to fund transportation, since the last long-term bill expired in 2010. That's caused headaches for the Georgia DOT, which announced last month it would delay bids on some projects because of uncertainty over federal dollars.Read More
In a telephone town hall somewhat reminiscent of a FDR fireside chat, Georgia Seventh District Rep. Rob Woodall of addressed Saturday’s terrorist actions in Paris, the state of ISIS and possible American responses, and how the country should deal with Syrian and other refugees who want to enter the country, but could potentially be ISIS members.
The congressman stated that no one is more vested in humanitarian aid to assist refugees to assist refugees suffering from religious persecution than the United States, however the nation’s number one job is to protect Americans. He talked about the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, recently passed in the House. President Obama vetoed the previous version because off-budget funds were used to fund Defense. The current version adds a rider requiring the president to define a strategy to defeat ISIS.
Woodall asked listeners what they thought whether the United States should have a strategy to defeat ISIS, and 90% of those responding said it should. Yet, the congressman noted, President Obama has been reluctant to attack ISIS where it counts. He pointed out that the military hasn’t struck ISIS fuel supply lines because of the risk of killing civilians. In another poll of those listening, Woodall asked whether the US should put boots on the ground, and have a strong presence in the Mideast, whether the military’s approach should use air strikes and avoid ground troops, or whether the country could continue its hands-off approach. 60% of those responding favored air strikes, 35% wanted to send troops, and 5% said to stay the current course.
Winding up the town hall, Woodall asked those listening to pay attention to the issue of visa waivers as a possible avenue for ISIS radicals to enter the country. Many residents of European Union countries can fly into the US without having to obtain a visa as long as they have a passport. This is especially a worry for those Europeans who have become radicalized by ISIS. Woodall said this issue has been on Congress’s radar for a while, but with no perfect answer.Read More
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-07) issued the following statement with regard to his support of House-passed legislation – H.R. 4038, the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act” – that would increase existing screening requirements for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Included in the additional security measures, the bill requires refugees from the region to receive unanimous clearance from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence before being permitted to enter the United States.
“The number one priority of the Federal government is to keep the American people safe,” said Rep. Woodall. “That is exactly why I co-sponsored H.R. 4038, and why I was proud to support its strong, bipartisan passage in the House today. The SAFE Act puts in place necessary screening measures to prevent a ruthless enemy from exploiting American goodness and generosity. By requiring unanimous certification from our nation’s top security officials before granting entry to a refugee, we are able to prioritize American safety while continuing to be a safe harbor for good people in need. The horrific attacks in Paris last week are a painful reminder of the enemy’s resolve – and underscore the need for a clear strategy from the President to defeat ISIS. Congress and the American people have asked repeatedly – and most recently in the National Defense Authorization Act sent to the White House just days ago – for that strategy, and now is the time.”
Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee.
Last week was very transportation focused. On Monday I was the keynote speaker for the Council for Quality Growth's 6th Annual Community Improvement District Appreciation Luncheon. On Tuesday I had the honor of addressing the 2015 Georgia Transportation Summit in Atlanta, which was hosted by the Georgia Transportation Alliance. Both events hosted transportation experts and community stakeholders from across the state for the purpose of learning from each other and discussing how to improve Georgia’s roads, bridges, and ports. We were certainly well represented from Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties.
The focus of my comments was how proud I am that the recent highway bill received such broad support in the House and how grateful I am to the many who were in attendance for their proactive participation in the process. Our Georgia stakeholders and officials were vocal and involved as the bill was being crafted, and because of that initiative, we see a lot of our Georgia values represented in this bill.
The highway bill streamlines much of today's bureaucracy by moving regulatory authority to states. It empowers state and local transportation authorities to take the lead on projects. As we’re seeing right here in the 7th District, our local transportation leaders are able to bring projects from the concept to the construction stage in a matter of months, which eliminates congestion, supports economic growth, and makes it easier for hard working taxpayers in our community to get to work, bring their kids to school, and go about their daily lives. This bill makes significant strides in the right direction on a number of policy issues, and I want to thank all of the folks at home who helped Congress get here.
On Wednesday I had the great honor of celebrating Veterans Day with our local veterans in Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties. Veterans are all around us. They serve our communities in law enforcement or as first responders. They work in our banks and at our hospitals. They bring us comfort in our places of worship. Veterans served our country in combat, placing our lives and our freedom above their own safety. The awesome events last week in Lawrenceville and Cumming should remind all of us that we owe a debt of gratitude to our service men and women every day. Thank you to all our veterans for everything they have done for the United States of America.
Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial Veterans Day Ceremony
(Photo Courtesy of the Gwinnett Daily Post)
In the past few years, President Obama has directed the development and expansion of programs to allow non-citizens who have been living illegally in the United States to obtain work permits and be protected from deportation. The program that would allow some adults who are in the country illegally to remain here is called the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). DAPA has been challenged by 26 states, including Georgia, on the grounds that the Obama Administration did not go through the appropriate regulatory process before finalizing the program. The good news is that two federal courts have agreed with the states and prohibited the illegal implementation of DAPA.
President Obama has indicated that the Department of Justice will appeal the rulings to the Supreme Court in the hopes of being able to enforce DAPA. I want to be perfectly clear; I believe that the President has seriously overstepped his authority by unilaterally changing immigration law. He is upset that Congress wants him to be willing to enforce current immigration law before Congress passes any new laws. Unfortunately, instead of working with Congress to forge a compromise, he has worked to go around Congress. I am disappointed that it has taken two federal courts to stop this power grab, but I am heartened by their decisions. I hope that the Supreme Court will uphold their decisions should it decide to hear this case next year.
I am often invited to visit local businesses and non-profits to celebrate our local successes and learn from our local experts. Among the many great visits last week was one with the good folks at Creative Enterprises, Inc. Creative Enterprises, Inc. is a non-profit organization in Lawrenceville that provides adults with developmental disabilities the skills that they need to maximize their potential and achieve a level of social, vocational, and economic independence that every American strives to have. The people at Creative Enterprises work hard every day to make sure that everyone is part of our community and everyone has the opportunity to share their special talents. I am grateful to everyone involved with Creative Enterprises, and I thank them for their hard work.
This week the House will be considering a number of important bills: H.R. 1737, which eases the burden of federal financial overregulation on American consumers and businesses; H.R. 3189, which examines how the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy has affected our country’s economic performance; and H.R. 1210, which ensures that local banks can continue serving Americans who want a piece of the American Dream.
On Thursday I am hosting another Telephone Town Hall Meeting. This is a great opportunity for anyone who has questions or concerns about what’s happening in Washington, D.C., to call in and share those with me.
Telephone Town Hall Meeting
Thursday, November 19th
7:00PM – 7:30PM
Dial-In Number: (877) 229-8493
Member of Congress
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall has been on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee for less than a year, but he’s already been doing some heavy lifting.
The House just passed its version of a six-year transportation funding bill, a feat which has eluded federal lawmakers for years. Over the past six years, there have been 35 short-term extensions as legislators who were reticent to raise taxes and unable to find any other long-term funding source kicked the can down the road.
The problem is motor fuel tax collections, which have slowly eroded over time. The 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax is the primary funding source for all federal and state transportation projects. However, with vehicles becoming more fuel efficient, Americans are buying less gas and therefore paying less taxes to drive on roads than they once did. At the same time, the cost to build and maintain roads has skyrocketed.
So it’s no surprise that the Highway Trust Fund is continuously teetering on the edge of insolvency.
The $340 billion Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act would provide some much needed predictability for state transportation planners and maintain road and transit funding levels at about the same level they are now. However, so far Congress has only found guaranteed funding for the first three years of the six-year bill.
The legislation is now in a Conference Committee to help reconcile differences with the Senate bill passed in July. As it happens, Woodall has been appointed to the Conference Committee, too.
“What we’ve done on transportation is incredibly cooperative, it is incredibly bicameral,” Woodall said after speaking on Tuesday to a gathering of transportation industry professionals in Atlanta. “My biggest concern is not getting involved in year-end politics. This is something that’s important to all of this so let’s keep it separate.”
At the Georgia Transportation Summit, Woodall said that he’s hopeful a resolution can be reached by Nov. 20. That is the deadline for the latest extension of transportation funding to expire. Or if not by Nov. 20, Woodall said the committee is shooting for early December.
He also hopes that the full six years can be funded with what has been viewed as the preferred method by many in Congress, international tax reform.
“Right now while the iron is hot, while folks are taking the victory lap for getting the good policy done, let’s go ahead and make the hard decisions and get the funding done,” Woodall said.
After the Conference Committee report is completed, it will go back to both chambers for a final vote.
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said that he was encouraged to hear that Congress appears close to a compromise.
Three weeks ago, GDOT decided to delay $123 million worth of federally funded projects due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding federal highway funding. The 34 delayed projects were previously scheduled to go out for bids at the end of this year.
If federal funding gets back on track, those projects would still be shelved until after the new year. However, they could be bid out in January or February as long as GDOT has 30 days to advertise them first.
“It appears Congress, between the House and Senate, know how vital this is,” McMurry said. “They know that we need a long-term bill. We are very close to getting that bill.”Read More
Gwinnett County leaders kept coming back to one common theme at the Georgia Transportation Summit in Atlanta on Tuesday: Local officials are better than federal representatives at running transportation projects.
Or at least the public trusts their local government more than the federal level, according to U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga.
The congressman told a packed ballroom filled with transportation officials, experts and business leaders that local officials have to be involved in, if not leading, efforts to address transportation issues facing individual communities.
“If I go through my district and ask people, ‘Who do you trust with your tax dollars?’ the counties are going to overwhelmingly come out as No. 1,” Woodall said. “About 50 percent of folks trust counties and local governments more than they trust anyone else.
“About 30 said they trust state governments more than anybody else and the federal government get a small fraction of that at the end.”
The summit brought together a range of officials at the Georgia World Congress Center. County commissioners, county- and state-level transportation staffers and representatives of the business community came together to share ideas about how to best approach transportation projects.
In sessions where Gwinnett County officials were panelists, the frequent answer was to keep the funding sources as local as possible because of the paperwork involved in getting through bureaucratic processes needed to get the project moving.
Woodall said it can take as many as 84 months to complete a project that has federal funding. Meanwhile, he said, projects where the state is the highest level of government involved can take as many as 30 months to complete.
In one session, Gwinnett County commission Chairman Charlotte Nash explained that the county uses SPLOSTs and partnerships with the Georgia Department of Transportation as a main way to get projects done quickly.
“Most of the funding for transportation projects that are available to those of us at the local level entail a referendum of some sort, whether it’s a GO Bond referendum … or SPLOST and, now, single-county option of a T-SPLOST,” Nash said. “That means you’ve got to figure out a way to make sure you are giving the public reasons to vote in favor of the referendum.”
In another session, County Transportation Director Alan Chapman said reducing the number of regulators by keeping projects as close as possible to the local level, or working directly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also helps a project.
“We normally have just one or two partners who are providing the regulation and review of what we’re doing,” he said. “I do appreciate all of the regulators that we work with, but when you only go through one versus going through several, it does save you a good bit of time.”
But about $350 billion in federal funding could become available for projects that are deemed to have national importance, according to Woodall. The House of Representatives and the Senate have each passed long-term transportation funding bills that could keep money flowing to such projects for the next six years and are now negotiating a single bill.
Examples in Georgia of projects that Woodall said could be deemed to have national importance include the Savannah port expansion. Plans to fix the Interstate 285 interchanges at Interstates 75 and 85 to relieve congestion also fall into that category because they are key corridors needed to transport goods from Savannah to other parts of the country.
“If you can’t get your good from the Savannah port to the rest of America, the entire country is going to suffer,” Woodall said. “That’s why we’re investing national money in the port and why we’re investing national money in these interchanges.”
Woodall is part of a conference committee made up of members of both chambers to finalize a bill that can go to the House and Senate for approval.
He said a key difference between the otherwise similar bills is that Senators found more funding sources than their House counterparts could come up with. As a result, the Senate version makes a few billion dollars more available for transportation projects, Woodall said.
The committee’s goal is to get a final bill in place before the current short-term funding bill expires on Nov. 20, according to the congressman.
“I believe that’s possible,” Woodall said. “If we can’t get that done, we’re going to look at the first two weeks of December. You know we have this big train wreck that happens at the end of every congressional session as folks try to jam stuff through in December. A lot of that is partisan and a lot of that is controversial.
“My goal is to make sure, whatever happens with the timeline, we separate this very cooperative, non-partisan transportation solution from any of the shenanigans that happen at the end of the year.”Read More
1725 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Rob Woodall serves the 7th district of GA in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Committee on Rules, the House Budget Committee, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rob also serves as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force.
Rob was born and raised in Georgia, graduated from Marist School in 1988, attended Furman University for his undergraduate degree and received his law degree from the University of Georgia
Rob first came to public service as a staffer for then Congressman John Linder serving as his Chief of Staff and was elected to Congress in 2010.
Rob’s political philosophy is guided by the principles of freedom, and his proudest accomplishment is helping Seventh District families one at a time through casework and creating a Congressional office that functions for the people.
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