The surface transportation bill that's been slowly and not-so-surely winding its way through both houses of Congress has been called many things. Notably, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the House version "the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service".
To date, two versions of the legislation have been passed -- one from the House and one from the Senate. LaHood says that the House bill is hugely partisan and anti-safety, whereas the Senate version demonstrates thoughtful compromise. (NB: As a Republican politician serving under a Democratic president, LaHood seems qualified to speak on on matters of compromise.)
The two bills now sit in joint committee, waiting for elected officials from the House and Senate to hammer out a final version. Consumers Union -- the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports -- thinks the bill is still salvageable. To be beneficial, though, Consumers Union thinks the final bill needs to incorporate some of the car safety measures that the Senate included in its version.
Four of those items we've covered here:
- Giving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the authority and responsibility of issuing "safety standards for vehicle stopping distance, brake override, and pedal placement".
- Using grants and other federal funds to encourage states to create graduated licensing for teenage drivers.
- Setting new safety standards for child car seats (since our kids are bigger than they used to be).
- Mandating the installation of "black box recorders" in all new vehicles by 2015.
Given the partisan politics on Capitol Hill these days, we're not so sure that Consumers Union will get what it wants -- at least not before November 6. After all, the surface transportation bill covers a lot of ground, including standards for big rigs, trains, and other forms of land-based transit. Given the controversial nature of several things on Consumers Union's wish list, we wouldn't be surprised to see Congress punt on these until after the presidential election.
Of the items listed above, the best odds are probably on the children's car seats, since that's an issue that plays to folks on both sides of the aisle. The worst odds? Perhaps the "black box recorders", since many see those as an additional expense for consumers and an invasion of privacy.
Then again, we're not politicians, or even lobbyists. If you have a more informed opinion, feel free to drop us a line or leave a note in the comments below.
[h/t John Voelcker]