During the Executive Session, Committee members will markup the following legislation, nominations, and other bills that may become available*: S.1274, the American Communities’ Right to Public Information Act S. 1451, the Federal Aviation Administration Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act A bill to extend programs authorized by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) Nomination of Polly Trottenberg, to be Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy of the United States Department of Transportation (PN 549) Nomination of Deborah A.P. Hersman, to be Chairman and Member (Reappointment) of the National Transportation Safety Board (PN 621 and PN 622) Nomination of Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr., to be Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission (PN 623) Nomination of Ms. Meredith Attwell Baker, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission (PN 669) Nomination of Ms. Mignon L. Clyburn, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission (PN 670) *Not necessarily in order of consideration
John D. Rockefeller, IVSenatorWe have three very important bills on today’s Executive Session.
First, the committee will consider, S. 1274 – the “American Communities’ Right to Public Information Act”, a bill I introduced that deals with so-called “Sensitive Security Information” (SSI) designations used by the Coast Guard, TSA and other agencies to protect sensitive information.
Last year, a chemical processing tank exploded at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute, West Virginia, tragically killing two workers.
A recent investigation into this accident found that Bayer officials attempted to use their SSI designation to improperly withhold valuable information about the accident from the public.
I want to make sure that something like this does not occur again, in West Virginia or anywhere across America. People have the right to know the full story when an accident like this happens in their community.
My bill changes the SSI statutes to clarify that an agency or a private company subject to SSI regulations cannot use the SSI designation to conceal misconduct, prevent embarrassment, or delay information that should be released to the public.
The power to withhold information from the public for security reasons is an important, but limited power and we cannot tolerate its abuse – especially when lives are at stake.
Next, the Committee will consider the FAA Reauthorization bill.
I believe that Senators Hutchison, Dorgan, DeMint and I have crafted a strong bill that reauthorizes the FAA, invests in our nation’s antiquated air traffic control system, improves safety, and provides small and rural communities better access to our nation’s air transportation network.
Under Senator Dorgan’s leadership, the Aviation Subcommittee held a number of hearings on the reauthorization over the last several months. During these hearings, the one common theme from all of the witnesses was the urgent need to modernize our aviation system in order to meet the growing surge of passengers and accommodate the enormous increase in general aviation. I believe this legislation responds to the challenges the FAA and the industry stakeholders outlined for the Subcommittee.
The FAA operates the world’s most complex airspace system. The nation’s economy depends on the FAA and the aviation industry efficiently moving millions of people and tons of cargo every day. I cannot over emphasize the importance of a vibrant and strong aviation industry. A healthy and modern aviation system is vital to the economic future of countless small communities that depend on being linked to the rest of the nation and world only through aviation.
Finally, we have a bill to extend the surface transportation programs under our Committee’s jurisdiction, which will expire at the end of the year. The bill we are marking up today is a clean 18-month extension of these programs. This extension will allow the Administration and Congress the time necessary to develop a comprehensive surface transportation bill that meets our country’s enormous transportation needs.
I know that some would have preferred that the Senate consider a long-term reauthorization of these programs, but I think we all recognize that the Senate does not have time this year to consider a comprehensive surface transportation bill.
I want to turn to Senator Hutchison for her opening remarks, and then ask Senator Dorgan to discuss the key provisions in the FAA bill.
Thank you. Senator Hutchison.###