Construction Industry News

Thune Statement on 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement on today’s announcement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games will return to the United States for the first time in 32 years:

“I would like to congratulate the city of Los Angeles and the United States Olympic Committee for their hard work that led the International Olympic Committee to award one of our great U.S. cities the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Thune. “It is an incredible opportunity to have the Games on home soil again, and I look forward to seeing our national Olympic committee and Los Angeles work together to deliver a unique and innovative event fulfilling their promise of hosting a New Games for a New Era.”

The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over sports, including the federally-chartered United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

<p>Thank you to the Chairman for

Thank you to the Chairman for calling this important hearing.

I’m in this seat today because Sen. Nelson is back home in his great state of Florida, helping to begin the long recovery effort after the devastating Hurricane Irma, and our thoughts are certainly with him and his constituents this morning.

As the Chairman mentioned, last Friday he and I released a discussion draft of our self-driving car legislation, which is a result of months of collaborative effort, countless meetings with stakeholders across the spectrum of interests, and further bipartisan work with Senator Nelson.

I want to thank Chairman Thune and his staff for the long hours and effort that have gone into our bipartisan draft.

This legislation will provide the first-ever changes in federal law targeted at ushering in a new era in mobility and transportation innovation.

The bill will facilitate the safe development and adoption of self-driving cars, reduce existing regulatory barriers, and establish a new regulatory framework to support this innovation going forward.

Importantly, it will also ensure that the United States leads the international race to deploy these new technologies. We must develop and build them here, creating new 21st century manufacturing jobs in the United States. 

For the remainder of this month, we will work diligently to resolve and finalize the outstanding issues in this draft legislation – including the topic of today’s hearing – whether highly-automated trucks and buses should be part of this particular legislation, or addressed in a separate bill.

I will note that while gathering feedback on Chairman Thune’s and my draft legislation, many stakeholders were clear that the prospect of self-driving trucks raises a very different set of issues from self-driving cars. And – ultimately – those same stakeholders expressed serious concerns with including self-driving trucks in this bill without a much more robust discussion and evaluation of their impact by industry, academia, and government.

I will also note that our draft legislation was informed by two Commerce Committee hearings – in March 2016 and June 2017 – and two iterations of NHTSA’s Federal Automated Vehicle Policy. All of which were focused on highly-automated light-weight, passenger cars – not trucks.

And finally, I will note that the House recently passed its self-driving vehicle legislation unanimously, without the inclusion of self-driving trucks weighing over 10,001 pounds.

It is indisputable that the trucking industry is critically important to our economy and to our day-to-day consumer needs, delivering more than 10 billion tons of freight-per-year and employing more than 3 million Americans as truck drivers.

The same can be said of the bus industry, which provides important transportation options for many Americans and creates thousands of jobs.   

Major changes to these industries brought on by high levels of automation will have major impacts on jobs, transportation and the economy – not to mention roadway safety.

And we need to make sure that when we do establish a regulatory framework for self-driving trucks – we get it right after having considered all of the implications.

For example, we need to be able to answer fundamental questions like, what is the trucking industry’s timeline for deployment of highly-automated trucks?

  • Will the industry deploy levels 4 or 5 automated trucks, or will it stick to lower levels of automation?
  • What specific federal motor vehicle safety standards will highly-automated trucks need exemptions from?
  • Do the unique characteristics of the trucking industry require additional safeguards for highly-automated trucks, particularly for safety and cybersecurity issues?
  • How will changes to the vehicle safety standards impact operations and enforcement?  And should we be considering those impacts now?
  • What are the job impacts of highly-automated trucks and what are the industry’s plans for retraining or reassigning the drivers who are in danger of being out of work?

But in our discussions to date, we have not gotten as clear of an understanding on issues related to self-driving trucks as we have during our countless discussions on self-driving cars. As a result, I am of the mind that highly-automated trucks are not ripe for inclusion in this bill.

Before I close, I want to be clear that improving safety on our highways is critically important to me. It is one of the reasons why advancing this self-driving car legislation is so important to me. And I recognize that in the long-term, self-driving trucks and buses are also intended to improve safety on our highways. That is certainly clear. But I question assertions that excluding self-driving trucks from this particular bill will result in less safe roads and that they don’t merit special considerations going forward. We cannot allow such premature conclusions to stand in this Committee’s way of talking specifics – and getting the answers we need to have a more complete understanding of the safety, workforce, and policy implications of highly-automated trucks.

I want to thank all of the witnesses for being here today and for helping to start the conversation on this very important topic. I look forward to your testimony.

<p>Good morning.&nbsp; This committee

Good morning.  This committee has been working in a bipartisan fashion to address the advancement of automated vehicles.  I would especially like to thank Senator Peters for partnering with me in this effort.  I also appreciate the contributions of Ranking Member Nelson, who is unfortunately unable to join us today due to the ongoing relief efforts in Florida following Hurricane Irma. 

We’ve put a lot of work into this effort to date, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to introduce and pass bipartisan legislation.

Given this Committee’s broad jurisdiction over transportation, interstate commerce, and vehicle safety, we are well-positioned to oversee and address the emergence of this transformative technology.  Beginning last Congress, we’ve held two hearings and hosted a demonstration of this technology for Committee Members.  With today’s hearing we will take a closer look at the promise and implications of the technology for trucks and larger vehicles.

Automated vehicle technology holds great promise to transform transportation in this country—expanding mobility, reducing traffic congestion and related emissions, and increasing productivity, among other benefits.  But the most exciting aspect of this transformative advancement is the potential to save thousands of lives every year on our nation’s roadways.

In 2015, more than 35,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States.  With more than 90 percent of those deaths are attributable to human error, automated vehicles have the potential to reduce these tragic numbers dramatically.  Too many lives are lost on our roads, and I look forward to hearing from Ms. Hersman about how automated vehicles—including trucks—can help to reduce this number.

Trucks share our roads, deliver our goods, and keep our economy moving.  Including trucks in the conversation about automated vehicles is important as we seek to improve safety; it also puts our economy on a level playing field as other countries around the world deploy automated freight trucks. 

In 2015, trucks traveled over 280 billion miles to carry over 70 percent of the goods by tonnage on our roadways.  A 2017 Energy Information Administration study projected that automated trucks could yield fuel savings between 6.7 and 18.6 percent, improving our economic competitiveness, lowering consumer prices, and supporting job growth.  I am glad that Mr. Spear has joined us today to speak to the impacts of trucking on our economy and the role of automated trucks in the future of transportation innovation.

Testing and development is already ongoing as companies in the U.S. have increasingly explored the potential benefits of automated trucks.  Companies like Uber, Tesla, Google, Embark, Starsky, and others have invested in automated truck technology.  Truck manufactures like Navistar are actively pursuing automated technologies in trucks.  Colonel Scott Hernandez, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol, who joins us today, has seen this technology firsthand.  Last year, he participated in a test of Otto, now Uber’s truck startup, which drove 120 miles on Interstate 25 in Colorado. 

As other countries devote significant attention and effort to stimulating innovation in this area, strong federal leadership will be necessary to maintain our position as a global leader and ensure these vehicles are tested and deployed safely.

Just yesterday, Secretary Chao announced the Department of Transportation has updated its policy guidance on automated vehicles.  I am pleased to see action from the administration on this transformative technology.  DOT’s new guidance improves upon similar efforts by the prior administration, and takes the same position regarding the inclusion of all motor vehicles—both cars and trucks, from light to heavy duty—under the same regulatory framework. 

And, though their approaches differ, states that have passed automated vehicle legislation similarly cover all motor vehicles – cars and trucks.  In doing so, they have recognized the need to address automated motor vehicles cohesively, without leaving out certain vehicle classes.

Of course, it’s important to consider all impacts of this new technology.  It is crucial that we hear about the potential impact on jobs, and engage in a clear-eyed discussion about how to best prepare for the future.  So, I am glad that Mr. Hall was able to join us today. 

There are over 3 million commercial drivers in the U.S., and they are the backbone of the economy.  Technological advancements have the potential to affect them in different ways—including in positive ways.  Technology should make a driver’s life easier and safer, which in turn will improve the rest of our transportation system and those who use it every day 

Automation will bring many benefits and many challenges, but they are not entirely new challenges.  As former President Johnson said in response to the challenges of automation during his term, “Automation is not our enemy…Automation can be the ally of our prosperity if we will just look ahead, if we will understand what is to come, and if we will set our course wisely after proper planning for the future.”  I’m glad we are continuing that discussion today. 

I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses as we move forward with legislation to address automated vehicles.  

Now, I turn to Senator Peters for his opening remarks. 

Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and Our Nation's Highways

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Thune Announces Key Committee Staff Changes

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced two promotions and one new addition to the committee staff.

Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene the hearing titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. The hearing is the third of the series and will focus on the perspectives of commercial, charter, and recreational fishermen on the state of our nation’s fishery laws.

Witnesses:

Panel I
-  Phil Faulkner, President,  Nautic Star Boats
-  Jim Donofrio, Executive Director, Recreational Fishing Alliance
-  Chris Horton, Senior Director, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation

Panel II
-  Lori Steele, Executive Director, West Coast Seafood Processors Association
-  Capt. Robert F. Zales, II, President, National Association of Charterboat Operators
-  Greg DiDomenico, Executive Director, Garden State Seafood Association

*Witness list subject to change

Hearing Details: 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Commerce Committee Seeks Answers on Equifax Data Breach

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter to the chief executive of Equifax Inc. following news that the company had identified a cybersecurity incident potentially impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumers.

Excerpt from the letter to Equifax Inc.:

“This announcement raises a number of concerns given the sensitivity of the personal data implicated and, consequently, the severity of risk consumers may face.  As one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the United States, Equifax collects highly-sensitive information on American consumers.  The company maintains that its investigation uncovered “no evidence of unauthorized activity on Equifax’s core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases.”  Nevertheless, the nature of the information that appears to have been compromised, together with the number of potentially-impacted consumers, requires that we regard this incident as a major data security breach.”

The full letter to Equifax Inc. may be viewed here. The Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security have jurisdiction over consumer protection and cybersecurity.

Commerce Hearing to Examine the Potential of Self-Driving Trucks

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled“Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and our Nation's Highways” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. The hearing will examine the benefits of automated truck safety technology as well as the potential impacts on jobs and the economy.

Subcommittee Continues Hearing Series on Magnuson-Stevens Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene the hearing titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. The hearing is the third of the series and will focus on the perspectives of commercial, charter, and recreational fishermen on the state of our nation’s fishery laws.

Witnesses:

Panel I
-  Phil Faulkner, President,  Nautic Star Boats
-  Jim Donofrio, Executive Director, Recreational Fishing Alliance
-  Chris Horton, Senior Director, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation

Panel II
-  Lori Steele, Executive Director, West Coast Seafood Processors Association
-  Capt. Robert F. Zales, II, President, National Association of Charterboat Operators
-  Greg DiDomenico, Executive Director, Garden State Seafood Association

*Witness list subject to change

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Addressing the Risk of Waste, Fraud and Abuse in the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Risk of Waste, Fraud and Abuse in the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. The Lifeline program, which subsidizes telephone and broadband service for low-income consumers, was the subject of a recent study by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO). In its report, GAO describes recurring failures of evaluation and oversight creating persistent risk of waste, fraud, and abuse and threatening the ability of Lifeline to serve its intended purpose.

Witnesses:

-  Mr. Seto Bagdoyan, Director, Audit Services, Forensic Audits & Investigative Service, Government Accountability Office
-  Commissioner Chris Nelson, Commissioner, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission
-  Ms. Deborah Collier, Director of Technology and Telecommunications Policy, Citizens Against Government Waste
-  Dr. Jeffrey Eisenach, Visiting Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Adjunct Professor, George Mason University School of Law

*Witness list subject to change

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017
10:00 a.m.
Full committee

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

<span>Good morning. &nbsp;Welcome to

Good morning.  Welcome to today’s hearing on the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program.

What began some 32 years ago as a program to help protect consumers from increases in telephone charges following the break-up of AT&T has morphed, as many government programs tend to do, into something much broader and more expensive—a one-and-a-half billion dollar a year program with no budget limit that provides, among other things, free phones and free service to millions. 

Let me be clear:  the bipartisan principle of universal service have been the bedrock of our nation’s communications policies for more than 80 years, and programs that efficiently and prudently further the goal of universal service have contributed greatly to our nation’s economy, and to the safety and well-being of Americans.  As someone who represents a rural state, which also includes nine Indian reservations, I am especially committed to the notion that consumers in all parts of the country should have access to communications services that are comparable, in both service availability and price, to those services provided in urban areas.

Even when services and rates are reasonably comparable, there is value in efforts to ensure access for low-income Americans.  Connectivity is necessary for health and welfare, and for full participation in the economy.  A carefully designed, properly administered program to help those Americans who, without a subsidy, would be unable to afford a reasonable level of connectivity is an important part of universal service.  Unfortunately, as has been demonstrated time and time again, the FCC’s Lifeline program has not lived up to this promise, especially to those that rely on these services.  The American people deserve better than a program so plagued by fraud, waste, and abuse.  This marks our second hearing in as many years on those problems in the Lifeline program. 

Over the last seven years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has repeatedly documented the FCC’s failure to properly oversee the billions of dollars paid by American families to provide Lifeline support.  GAO has also highlighted the Commission’s failure to assess whether the Lifeline program is meeting its stated goals.  While much attention has rightly been focused on rampant fraud, duplicate payments, and unverified payments, an even more fundamental question has gone largely ignored:  Is the Lifeline program an effective means of increasing telephone subscribership among low-income consumers?  In 2010, GAO noted that the FCC has not prioritized the development of performance goals and measures for Lifeline, and as a result, the Commission has limited insight on what the program is actually accomplishing.  FCC action in this regard is long overdue, and I call upon the Commission to undertake this fundamental analysis of the program.

There is substantial evidence to indicate that, even without the well-documented fraud, duplication, and unverified payments that have plagued the program, the Lifeline program could be an ineffective means of increasing telephone subscribership among low-income consumers.  As it is currently designed, for example, the Lifeline program appears to do a poor job of directing support to those who truly need it—namely, those who would not get service without a Lifeline subsidy.  One study estimated that, because most Lifeline subscribers would have purchased telecommunications services even without the subsidy, it costs the program $1100 annually for each truly new subscriber and over $2800 annually for each new prepaid wireless subscriber.  That would mean Lifeline is costing American consumers between eight and twenty times the benefit amount actually received by program participants for each new low-income subscriber.  The FCC’s long-standing failure to make performance goals a priority is a failure to meet its obligations to American consumers.

Let me put it another way – I have no doubt that the Lifeline program provides a critical service for many low-income Americans, including my constituents, but I think we need an honest assessment of how best to deliver such services to those who need them the most.

At the request of Senators Portman and McCaskill, the GAO completed a report earlier this year highlighting these and other issues in the administration of the Lifeline program.  The report does note some areas of improvement.  For example, under Chairman Pai, the FCC is finally taking the long-overdue step to move fees collected for the Universal Service Fund from a private bank account to the Federal Treasury, where they will benefit from the management practices and regulatory safeguards applied to other federal funds.  In addition, the number of duplicate subscribers—once a problem costing an estimated $160 million per year—appears to have been reduced significantly. 

Separately, our colleagues Senators Fischer and Udall introduced legislation to overturn an Obama-era effort at the FCC to usurp State authority in designating eligibility for participation in the Lifeline program.  Chairman Pai has disavowed the Commission’s prior effort in favor of returning authority to the States.  The States have long played a key role in preventing waste, fraud, and abuse, and so this move is an important one – and why I’m especially pleased to have Commissioner Chris Nelson from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission here as a witness today. 

Finally, the FCC announced last week that, by the end of this year, it will begin rolling out to a few States a National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier.  We need to understand how this new tool will address the problems identified in the GAO report.

Chairman Pai is making real progress toward improving oversight of the Lifeline program, but many serious issues remain.  I look forward to hearing from our diverse panel of experts as we explore ways to fulfill the promise of universal service for all Americans.

Nightly Closure of Three Northbound Exit Lanes at San Ysidro Port Begins Sept 12

GSA news releases - Tue, 09/05/2017 - 12:12pm
Traffic Advisory for Phase 2 construction at SYLPOE.

Peck Says GSA Recovery Act Funded Projects Create Jobs and Green Cities

GSA speeches - Sun, 09/03/2017 - 5:05am
Speech 7/8/2010 Peck Says GSA Recovery Act Funded Projects Create Jobs and Green Cities

GSA Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Per Diem Rates for Federal Travelers

GSA news releases - Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:12pm
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- GSA released the fiscal year (FY) 2018 travel per diem rates today, which will take effect on October 1, 2017. GSA sets these rates based on local market costs of mid-priced hotels annually.

GSA announces new lease agreement for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Camp Springs, MD

GSA news releases - Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:12pm
New lease will consolidate USCIS headquarters, save $21.4 million in first year and reduce footprint

Committee Announces Hearing Addressing the Risk of Waste, Fraud and Abuse in the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Addressing the Risk of Waste, Fraud and Abuse in the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. The Lifeline program, which subsidizes telephone and broadband service for low-income consumers, was the subject of a recent study by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO). In its report, GAO describes recurring failures of evaluation and oversight creating persistent risk of waste, fraud, and abuse and threatening the ability of Lifeline to serve its intended purpose.

Witnesses:

-  Mr. Seto Bagdoyan, Director, Audit Services, Forensic Audits & Investigative Service, Government Accountability Office
-  Commissioner Chris Nelson, Commissioner, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission
-  Ms. Deborah Collier, Director of Technology and Telecommunications Policy, Citizens Against Government Waste
-  Dr. Jeffrey Eisenach, Visiting Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Adjunct Professor, George Mason University School of Law

*Witness list subject to change 

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017
10:00 a.m.
Full committee

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Commerce to Hold Field Hearing on Magnuson-Stevens Act in Alaska

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges.”

Threats Facing Florida’s Tourism Driven Economy

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a field hearing titled “Threats Facing Florida’s Tourism Driven Economy” in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Commerce Committee Seeks Answers on Insurance Practices

Committee Leaders Question National General and Wells Fargo About Insurance Sales Practices...

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