Construction Industry News

Nelson Calls for Robust Federal Funding to Improve Internet Access in Rural Florida

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Tuesday called for swift and direct federal investments to help rural Floridians get increased access to quality and affordable internet service.  Nelson, who serves as the top Democrat on the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, made his remarks during a hearing held in Washington that explored the need for federal funding to expand internet service nationwide.

Nelson pointed to rural Florida communities such as Dixie, Gilchrist, and Levy counties as areas where many residents struggle to find or afford quality internet service.

“In those areas, students often lack the ability to complete their homework, small businesses cannot compete and social and political engagement is hampered,” said Nelson. “We have to close this digital divide and leave no area of this country behind.  That’s why I have wanted to include significant direct investments in broadband deployment in any federal infrastructure legislation.”

Today’s hearing is part of a series of discussions underway in the Senate to develop an infrastructure package aimed at fixing and modernizing the nation’s aging roads, bridges, airports, waterways and broadband networks.

Following is a transcript of Nelson’s remarks as prepared and a link to a video of his speech: https://youtu.be/05V0TzKgLsI

 

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Hearing

“Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband”

March 13, 2018

Florida boasts some of the nation’s most advanced broadband networks.  But we have pockets of the state – both in rural areas, such as Dixie, Gilchrist, and Levy counties, and even in some cities –  where citizens have little to no access to quality and affordable internet service. 

In those areas, students often lack the ability to complete their homework, small businesses cannot compete and social and political engagement is hampered. 

We have to close this digital divide and leave no area of this country behind.  That’s why I have wanted to include significant direct investments in broadband deployment in any federal infrastructure legislation.  Because the administration’s proposal is woefully inadequate on this point, it is incumbent on this committee to work together to provide these critical investments.

As I have said in the past, everyone – from those of us in the Senate to our mayors and local officials around the country – want Americans to benefit from the availability of robust broadband. 

Building these networks has always raised a number of very sensitive issues – from historic preservation and environmental concerns to state and local land use policies, tribal sovereignty and national security. 

And the highly anticipated 5G wireless technology brings with it networks that will require installation of much denser wireless infrastructure, made up of many more small cell facilities. 

I remain open to a reasoned discussion about these regulatory issues. 

But, to me, that reasoned discussion cannot begin and end with a wiping away of key laws and regulations meant to protect our fellow citizens and important federal, state, local, and tribal interests – steps that the FCC seems keen to take. 

And that discussion must include fair and fulsome input from all affected parties, including states and localities.  That’s why I am pleased that Mayor Resnick of Wilton Manors, Florida, is here yet again to provide the committee with an important local government perspective and expertise.   

I continue to hope that all stakeholders, including those represented before us today, can work together to help us find ways to effectively balance the competing concerns about siting and construction of broadband facilities and consumers’ increasing demand for fast and reliable broadband services.  I know I will be looking for that sort of balanced approach.

 

<p>Today the Subcommittee will kick off

Today the Subcommittee will kick off a week of hearings in the Commerce Committee on rebuilding America’s infrastructure.  We start here in the Communications Subcommittee with a focus on how to advance broadband deployment in infrastructure legislation this Congress.  I am glad to convene this hearing with my colleague Ranking Member Schatz.

Broadband connectivity is the digital engine driving investment, innovation, and productivity in virtually every economic sector in the United States. Over the past decade, there have been unprecedented advancements in health care, agriculture, transportation, and many other industries because of increasingly ubiquitous broadband connections. These connections are helping industries reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and rapidly identify and act on opportunities for growth.  

Continuing the success of these developments and maintaining the nation’s global leadership in technological innovation are goals that depend on widespread access to a reliable high-speed broadband connection. Although we have made significant progress on wireline, wireless, and satellite broadband deployments, more needs to be done. There is still a disparity in broadband deployment across the country, particularly in rural America. In its 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, the Federal Communications Commission concluded that “far too many Americans remain unable to access high-speed broadband Internet, and we have much work to do.”

To that end, I am greatly encouraged by the President’s support for programs directed toward increasing broadband infrastructure deployment in rural areas.  Today, I hope to discuss with our witnesses how Congress can most effectively and efficiently deploy broadband infrastructure to unserved communities. Using the lessons learned earlier from broadband projects, President Trump’s infrastructure proposal is an opportunity to get broadband to communities that truly need it. 

 

This process should start with collecting standardized and accurate data about where reliable fixed and mobile broadband already exists and where it does not – both in Mississippi and around the country. This is critical to delivering broadband to rural communities that lack service, whether that be through infrastructure legislation or existing federal programs like Phase II of the Mobility Fund. Inaccurate information of where broadband exists will only exacerbate the digital divide and leave millions of rural Americans further behind.

As we seek to close the broadband gap in rural America, we should also plan for the next generation of broadband, such as 5G. The availability of 5G communication networks promises to transform the way we experience the Internet because of the projected capacity, speed, and reliability. To make next-generation broadband a reality and position the United States so it can win the global race to 5G, we should modernize outdated rules that delay and add unnecessary costs to broadband infrastructure deployment. A bipartisan piece of legislation that I introduced called the “Streamlining Permitting to Enable Efficient Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure,” or SPEED Act, does just that. Inaction on our part will take the next generation of jobs, innovation, and investment out of the United States and put us at an economic disadvantage with respect to our global competitors.

Clearly, as the FCC concluded in its report, there is much work to be done. We are almost one-fifth of the way through the 21st century. We ought to be able to accelerate the deployment of next-generation broadband, get all Americans connected now, and close the digital divide once and for all.

Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, will convene a hearing titled, “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband,” at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. The hearing will explore the most effective and efficient ways to address broadband deployment to close the digital divide in an infrastructure package while reviewing the lessons learned from broadband infrastructure projects in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.


Witnesses:

  • The Honorable Gary Resnick, Mayor, City of Wilton Manors, Fla.
  • Mr. Steve Berry, Chief Executive Officer, Competitive Carriers Association
  • Mr. Bob DeBroux, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, TDS Telecom
  • Mr. Brad Gillen, Executive Vice President, CTIA – The Wireless Association
  • Mr. Mike Romano, Senior Vice President for Policy, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet
Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253

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.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Florida boasts some of the nation’s most advanced broadband networks.  But we have pockets of the state – both in rural areas, such as Dixie, Gilchrist, and Levy counties, and even in some cities –  where citizens have little to no access to quality and affordable internet service. 

In those areas, students often lack the ability to complete their homework, small businesses cannot compete and social and political engagement is hampered. 

We have to close this digital divide and leave no area of this country behind.  That’s why I have wanted to include significant direct investments in broadband deployment in any federal infrastructure legislation.  Because the administration’s proposal is woefully inadequate on this point, it is incumbent on this committee to work together to provide these critical investments.

As I have said in the past, everyone – from those of us in the Senate to our mayors and local officials around the country – want Americans to benefit from the availability of robust broadband. 

Building these networks has always raised a number of very sensitive issues – from historic preservation and environmental concerns to state and local land use policies, tribal sovereignty and national security. 

And the highly anticipated 5G wireless technology brings with it networks that will require installation of much denser wireless infrastructure, made up of many more small cell facilities. 

I remain open to a reasoned discussion about these regulatory issues. 

But, to me, that reasoned discussion cannot begin and end with a wiping away of key laws and regulations meant to protect our fellow citizens and important federal, state, local, and tribal interests – steps that the FCC seems keen to take. 

And that discussion must include fair and fulsome input from all affected parties, including states and localities.  That’s why I am pleased that Mayor Resnick of Wilton Manors, Florida, is here yet again to provide the committee with an important local government perspective and expertise.   

I continue to hope that all stakeholders, including those represented before us today, can work together to help us find ways to effectively balance the competing concerns about siting and construction of broadband facilities and consumers’ increasing demand for fast and reliable broadband services.  I know I will be looking for that sort of balanced approach.

Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: State and Local Transportation Needs

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, will convene a hearing titled, “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: State and Local Transportation Needs,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. The hearing will examine opportunities to improve the national transportation network to better connect communities across the country. 

Witnesses:

  • Mr. Kyle Schneweis, Director, Nebraska Department of Transportation
  • Mr. Dan Gilmartin, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Michigan Municipal League and Member of the National League of Cities
  • Mr. Jordan Kass, President, Managed Services, TMC Division, C.H. Robinson
  • Ms. Jo Strang, Senior Vice President, Safety and Regulatory Policy, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security
Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253 

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.

Five Cabinet Secretaries to Testify at Infrastructure Hearing on March 14

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,today announced an expanded witness list for the full committee hearing, adding Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, and Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to the witness list that also includes Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Thune Statement on Nomination of Vice Admiral Karl Schultz for Coast Guard Commandant

WASHINGTON–- U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which exercises jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, issued the following statement on the nomination of Vice Admiral Karl Schultz to be the 26th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Vice Admiral Schultz has years of experience protecting and serving our nation. He is an extremely qualified choice to lead the Coast Guard, which has the unique responsibilities of not only protecting our nation but also enforcing our laws, supporting commerce, and saving lives at sea. Once we receive all necessary information, I expect the committee will move quickly to consider his nomination.”

Committee Announces Three Hearings to Examine Infrastructure in America

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene three hearings on March 13-14, 2018 on the infrastructure proposal released by the White House.

Statement on Nomination of Patrick Fuchs to the Surface Transportation Board

WASHINGTON– U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement on the nomination of Patrick Fuchs, currently a senior professional staff member at the Commerce Committee, to the Surface Transportation Board (STB):

“While I will miss Patrick and his expertise at the Commerce Committee, I am excited for him to have this opportunity to serve on the Surface Transportation Board. Railroads and their customers will benefit from his sense of fairness and his talent that we utilized over the past three years at the Commerce Committee to help pass legislation reauthorizing passenger railroad service, making resources available to improve safety, and reforming the Surface Transportation Board. Once the committee receives the formal nomination and other required submissions, I expect we will move quickly to convene a confirmation hearing.”

The STB is the independent federal regulatory body responsible for economic oversight of the nation's freight rail system. Run by a five-member bipartisan board serving five-year terms, the STB has regulatory jurisdiction over railroad rates, mergers, service, line acquisitions, new rail-line construction, line abandonment, and other rail issues. The STB was created by Congress in 1996 as the successor to the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Walden, Pallone, Thune and Nelson Announce FCC Reauthorization and Spectrum Agreement

WASHINGTON – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) announced today a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation reauthorizing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and spurring the deployment of next-generation wireless services.

The legislation, RAY BAUM’S Act (H.R. 4986), will be voted on in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

“This legislation, combining provisions that have previously passed both the House and Senate, does what no legislation has done in 28 years – it reauthorizes the FCC and includes provisions that help make sure that the Commission is transparent, efficient, and ready for the 21st century communications landscape. This bipartisan, bicameral product puts consumers first and solidifies the nation’s critical telecommunications infrastructure, giving the U.S. a global edge in the race to 5G and improving internet services across the country. Importantly, it includes spectrum legislation that passed the Senate unanimously last year and authorizes reimbursement for broadcasters who were displaced in the successful incentive auctions. We look forward to continued bicameral, bipartisan work to make sure RAY BAUM’s Act is signed into law,” said Walden, Pallone, Thune and Nelson.

The Energy and Commerce Committee approved an earlier version of H.R. 4986 by voice vote last month. The Senate Commerce Committee passed its own bipartisan FCC reauthorization bill last Congress.

The legislation to be considered next week would:

  • Reauthorize the FCC and include reforms to ensure the commission continues to improve its efficiency and transparency.
  • Enact key provisions from the Senate-approved MOBILE NOW Act (S. 19) to boost the development of next-generation 5G wireless broadband by identifying more spectrum – both licensed and unlicensed – for private sector use and reducing the red tape associated with building wireless networks.
  • Authorize a repack fund to address the shortfall in funding available to relocate broadcasters being displaced following the successful Incentive Auction, and set up new relocation funds for translators, low-power television, and radio stations that will be impacted by the repack – supplemented by a consumer education fund.
  • Include a spectrum auction deposit “fix” which allows the FCC to deposit upfront payments from spectrum bidders directly with the U.S. Treasury.
  • Direct the FCC to craft a national policy for unlicensed spectrum that includes certain specific considerations and recommendations.
  • Advance proposals that would help the FCC and law enforcement protect consumers from fraudulent telephone calls, and to educate Americans about their options to stop these illegal calls.

The bill is named for former Energy and Commerce Committee Staff Director Ray Baum, a champion of telecommunications policy and long-time personal friend of Chairman Walden, who lost his battle with cancer in February 2018

Thune and Nelson on Senate Contributions to Bicameral FCC Reauthorization and Spectrum Legislation (RAY BAUM’S Act)

Legislation includes Senate MOBILE NOW Act, Spoofing Prevention Act, and other measures...

Thune Statement on Equifax Data Breach Announcement

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which summoned the current and previous CEOs of Equifax to testify at a hearing on the company’s 2017 data breach affecting an estimated 145 million individuals, issued the following statement that Equifax has identified an additional 2.4 million U.S. victims.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

I want to thank Chairman Thune for calling today’s hearing on positive train control. 

We have met several times on this topic previously. 

I wish I could say that this technology was in place and working, so that we wouldn’t have to keep having these deadly accidents. 

Unfortunately, that is not the case. 

Instead, we are here again after another tragic crash that killed several people and injured dozens, and which could have been prevented with positive train control technology.

In Washington State, an Amtrak train was speeding as it rounded into a curve and derailed onto the highway below, killing three people and injuring more than sixty.

The facts of this case are eerily similar to the 2015 crash in Philadelphia, where a speeding Amtrak train derailed while traveling into a curve, killing eight and injuring hundreds.

Just last month, an Amtrak train traveling to Florida was in a head-on collision with a CSX freight train.

The engineer and a train conductor from Florida were killed in this collision and more than a hundred people were injured.

These tragedies can be prevented. 

And they should be prevented.

That’s why the industry as a whole must do a better job of implementing positive train control and get it done quickly.

We’ve heard for far too long from some in the industry that implementing positive train control is a complex and expensive process and that railroads have faced serious challenges during implementation. 

But more and more these arguments are becoming tiresome, especially in light of the fact that the railroads have had ten years already to get this done.

I also know that many railroads have overcome these challenges.

Railroads like BNSF, SEPTA commuter rail, and others have made significant progress toward implementation and I applaud them for their work.

But some railroads are way behind the curve and, shockingly, according to the Department of Transportation, a few have made almost zero progress.

This includes railroads in my state of Florida.  

This is unacceptable.

In many instances, it feels like déjà vu.  In 2015, none of the railroads were near completion.

The railroads, commuter rails, states, and countless others, including the Obama administration, requested an extension of the positive train control deadline.

Reluctantly, Congress granted additional time, but demanded real action from the railroads, including:

  • Completion of equipping the locomotives and tracks
  • Significant testing and evidence that their systems work, and 
  • New penalties for the department to ensure that railroads are meeting their deadlines.

We also provided nearly 200 million dollars in grant funding, in addition to the more than two billion dollars in federal support that had previously been provided.

That effort was supposed to ensure that PTC would be quickly implemented.

We heard repeatedly that, given a limited amount of time, railroads would be able to get positive train control in place.

Yet, here we are again

And it’s now become crystal clear that many railroads have not lived up to their end of the bargain.

That’s why I’m not inclined to give anyone additional time.

We simply must get this done.   

That means railroads need to make sure that they are doing everything possible to meet the 2018 deadline.

States and the Department of Transportation must come together to ensure that all available resources are being directed to this task. 

And finally, the department must use its authority to hold railroads’ feet to the fire.

We have a responsibility to the traveling public to learn from these tragic crashes and to improve safety on our rail lines.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how we can meet that challenge.

<p>We convene today&rsquo;s hearing at

We convene today’s hearing at a critical time for positive train control, or PTC, implementation.

The victims, families, and all those affected by the overspeed derailment of Amtrak 501 in Washington and the collision of Amtrak 91 in South Carolina remain in our thoughts and prayers.  These accidents underscore the importance of implementing PTC quickly, safely, and successfully.

And, while tragic grade crossing collisions like the one involving Amtrak Special Train 923 are not generally prevented by PTC, reducing the number of such incidents remains another important priority.  

We are now about 10 months away from the December 31, 2018, statutory deadline for PTC, and recent reports suggest many railroads will not fully implement this safety technology by the end of the year. 

More alarmingly, a new report from the GAO, which I requested and which will be presented today, finds that seven to 19 commuter railroads are at-risk for not even qualifying for a limited extension to work out software, testing, and interoperability issues.

To be sure, PTC installation is an enormously complex undertaking.  To implement PTC, railroads must develop, acquire, and install new hardware components and complex software systems that are able to communicate with other railroads. 

There are different PTC systems, and each system has different configurations – and yet they all must work seamlessly across our nation’s interwoven rail network.  There are a limited number of PTC hardware suppliers, and there are a limited number of individuals who have the technical expertise to program that hardware.  Simply put, PTC is not an “off-the-shelf” technology, and a railroad can’t simply “flip a switch.”

Understanding these challenges, the Federal government has provided substantial funding and financing support for implementation.  A new report from the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, which I requested and which will also be released today, shows DOT has awarded nearly $3 billion in grant and loan assistance – with $2.3 billion provided to date and another $600 million on the way.  This includes much of the $199 million that this Committee worked to include in the FAST Act. 

For instance, this financial support includes a $967 million loan and a nearly $100 million grant to support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, one of our witnesses today.

While not all financial assistance should come from the Federal government, with a significant amount of Federal support not yet expended, it is critical that grant and loan recipients deploy resources in a timely and efficient manner in advance of the deadline.

I want to conclude my remarks by emphasizing what is at stake here.  Failing to comply with the law is not an option.  If commuter railroads do not meet the requirements of the law, there is a real risk of halting or reducing service.  If so, millions of people who depend on commuter rail to get to work each day, or to visit a doctor, or see a family member, could see their lives disrupted.  Those entities that aren’t on track need to look at successful examples and recommit their organizations to getting the job done.

I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any opening remarks.

Committee Approves Federal Trade Commission Nominations, Sen. Wicker's Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 and four presidential nominations to the Federal Trade Commission, subject to Senate confirmation.

Implementation of Positive Train Control

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Implementation of Positive Train Control,” at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 (immediately following the conclusion of the 10:00 a.m. business meeting). The hearing will focus on the implementation of the safety technology known as positive train control (PTC), amid concerns that some passenger railroads could fall short of meeting legal safety obligations, as well as actions or steps that could be taken to ensure compliance with the statutory deadline of December 31, 2018. 

“Railroad passengers expect railroads to follow safety laws and implement the necessary technology to do so, including positive train control,” said Thune. “After troubling reports that some commuter railroads are falling behind on implementation, this hearing will examine what needs to get done and what railroads need to do to meet their obligations.”

Earlier in the year, Chairman Thune sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an evaluation of PTC implementation among passenger railroads. The GAO will testify about the results of its study at the hearing. Chairman Thune also asked the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG) to track Federal government funding and financing support for PTC, and spending among recipient railroads, and the DOT OIG will also testify about its findings. The hearing will also include testimony from Amtrak and the nation’s largest commuter rail agency, Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 

Witnesses:

• Ms. Susan Fleming, Director of Physical Infrastructure, Government Accountability Office
• Mr. Barry J. DeWeese, Assistant Inspector General, Department of Transportation OIG
• Mr. David L. Mayer, Chief Safety Officer, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
• Mr. Richard Anderson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Amtrak

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

10:30 a.m. (immediately after the conclusion of the 10 a.m. business meeting)

This hearing will take place in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 106. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Executive Session

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Wednesday, February 28, at 10:00 a.m. to consider the following legislative measure and nominations.

Click here for additional information on nominees.

Agenda:

1.    S. 1520, Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017, Sponsors: Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Deb Fisher (R-Neb.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Todd Young (R-Ind.)

2.    Nomination of Joseph Simons, of Virginia, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner, Chairman Designate

3.    Nomination of Noah Joshua Phillips, of Maryland, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner

4.    Nomination of Christine Wilson, of Virginia, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner

5.    Nomination of Rohit Chopra, of New York, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner

*Agenda subject to change

Executive Session Details:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Full Committee Markup
Senate Dirksen Building, Room 106
 
A live video of the markup and additional information will be available at www.commerce.senate.gov 

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Today we will be considering the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act.

This bipartisan bill makes targeted changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to enhance and improve the management of recreational fisheries in federal waters. 

Recreational fishermen in Florida have an annual economic impact of around eight billion dollars and supply over 100,000 jobs. This bill will directly benefit these fishermen and support this important industry.

I’m glad that we have been able to address many of our members’ concerns with the bill in the substitute amendment. However, I understand that a few members may have some outstanding concerns, and I look forward to continuing to work with them as this bill moves forward.

Switching gears to the nominations for the FTC. As we saw with nominations for other independent commissions, the White House has again chosen to give a Democratic nominee the shortest term possible, while giving Republican nominees longer terms. 

These commissions were set up to be balanced, and exercise professional – not political – judgements.  Sadly, this just takes us down the road to further polarization of these agencies and is truly disappointing.

Finally, it was very troubling to read in this morning’s Washington Post that four Commerce Department political appointees working on interim security clearances lost their jobs because their background checks revealed they should not be given access to classified information.  The department deals with a number of extremely sensitive issues.  It would be fitting for the committee to urge the Inspector General to investigate this serious matter and whether it impacted national security.

<p><font face="Calibri" size="3">Good

Good morning.  Thank you all for being here for what should be a very quick markup, as I know many of us are planning to go to the ceremony honoring Billy Graham.

First, we will consider four qualified nominees for the Federal Trade Commission – Joseph Simons, Noah Joshua Phillips, Christine Wilson, and Rohit Chopra. 

I was impressed with each of them at our recent confirmation hearing, and I am confident they will all work to protect consumers from anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices. 

We are still awaiting the nomination of the fifth and final Commissioner, but I am hopeful it will be coming soon and am committed to considering the nominee expeditiously. 

We will also consider Senator Wicker’s Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act today.  

Recreational fishing is enjoyed by Americans everywhere, even in South Dakota, and plays an important part in America’s economy and cultural heritage.

Overall, this bill recognizes the importance of recreational fishing and provides decision-makers the ability to take into account the needs of both recreational and commercial fishers in managing fish stocks that are important to both, while also improving data collection.

With that, I will turn to Senator Nelson for any opening remarks. 

Committee Announces Hearing to Examine Positive Train Control

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Implementation of Positive Train Control,” at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 (immediately following the conclusion of the 10:00 a.m. business meeting). The hearing will focus on the implementation of the safety technology known as positive train control (PTC), amid concerns that some passenger railroads could fall short of meeting legal safety obligations, as well as actions or steps that could be taken to ensure compliance with the statutory deadline of December 31, 2018.

“Railroad passengers expect railroads to follow safety laws and implement the necessary technology to do so, including positive train control,” said Thune. “After troubling reports that some commuter railroads are falling behind on implementation, this hearing will examine what needs to get done and what railroads need to do to meet their obligations.”

Earlier in the year, Chairman Thune sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an evaluation of PTC implementation among passenger railroads. The GAO will testify about the results ofits study at the hearing. Chairman Thune also asked the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG) to track Federal government funding and financing support for PTC, and spending among recipient railroads, and the DOT OIG will also testify about its findings. The hearing will also include testimony from Amtrak and the nation’s largest commuter rail agency, Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Susan Fleming, Director of Physical Infrastructure, Government Accountability Office
  • Mr. Barry J. DeWeese, Assistant Inspector General, Department of Transportation OIG
  • Mr. David L. Mayer, Chief Safety Officer, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Mr. Richard Anderson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Amtrak

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

10:30 a.m. (immediately after the conclusion of the 10 a.m. business meeting)

This hearing will take place in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 106. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

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