Thursday, September 24, 2009

Extensions? Continuations?

Congress has less than a week to do something. The current federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. None of the annual appropriations bills have become law. SAFETEA-LU also expires on Sept. 30. Expect lots of whirlwind activity from Capitol Hill, and even more rumors and speculation.

As of today, it looks and sounds like there will be a one-month continuing resolution on government spending, probably tied to the Legislative Branch appropriations measure, which is the closest to being ready to present to Pres. Obama for his signature. It's actually pretty likely that quite a few of the other appropriations bills, possibly even the DOT bill, could then be cleared for signature into law during October (By the way, if you're looking for a quick status of appropriations bills, bookmark the Library of Congress' THOMAS web site).

Less clear is what's to be done with extending SAFETEA-LU, although some kind of extension is virtually guaranteed. Yesterday, the House passed a bill, H.R. 3617, that would extend SAFETEA-LU for three months, to Dec. 31, 2009. However, it doesn't sound like the Senate is too keen on this idea, with Senate offices still buzzing about doing an 18-month extension of SAFETEA-LU. One of the latest rumors, which sounds logical, but is only a rumor, is that there may be a one-month SAFETEA-LU extension folded into the above-rumored continuing resolution. That's one way to keep the federal transit and highway programs moving forward, but there are many in this field who still blanch at the memory of the many 1/12 at a time funding allotments while waiting for what is now SAFETEA-LU to be completed.

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