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The Anatomy of Legislation

Date: May 4, 2021

Many of us remember the cartoon “I’m Just a Bill on Capitol Hill”. Although the fundamentals are correct, the reality of passing legislation into law is much more complicated. And when it comes to passing a massive transportation package, events, discussions, and proposals take on the appearance of a Gordian knot.

Last week I had the honor of representing MEMA before the Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee. During the two-hour hearing, we discussed everything from safety to supply chains – all elements of the transportation package. The witnesses, Senators, and staff all came away with a common impression – the issues associated with finalizing transportation legislation will take work from all of us.

Key Takeaways

  • Although the press is focused on electrification, the Senate Subcommittee focused on safety, safety, and safety.

  • There are divisions in Congress over the value of mandating motor vehicle safety technology.

  • The Senate laid the groundwork for the importance of U.S. competitiveness for technology development and deployment.

What I am Watching For?

  • Automated Vehicle (AV) Legislation – As I laid last week, members of the Senate are currently working to draft and pass a targeted AV bill. The bill would allow for increased testing by suppliers and vehicle manufacturers and create a national center for automation with the Department of Transportation. MEMA is working with members of the Senate and automakers to pass this legislation.

  • NCAP – MEMA has made it clear that one of our priorities in transportation legislation is updating NCAP to include pre-crash technologies. During the hearing, we had a good discussion about the benefits of these technologies and the NCAP approach. However, the work is far from over.

  • Impaired Driving – The hearing also focused on impaired driving and the immense personal loss of victims of these accidents. Although the vehicle manufacturers are committed to working to address these issues, there is still much work to do.

  • Supply Chain Crisis – The committee did discuss the impact the shortage of semiconductors, resins, and steel are having on the industry. MEMA will be pushing for further consideration of the impact that the slow down at our nation’s ports is having on our industry.

What Wasn’t Discussed?

Believe it or not, plenty! The committee did not delve into vehicle electrification since that jurisdiction falls to another committee.

In addition, the committee did not discuss the implications of safety legislation on the commercial vehicle industry.

The committee also did not address data access.

And, finally, the committee did not discuss the all-important issue of how the country will pay for the transformational plans.

So, What’s Next?

We expect the House to act first and pass safety legislation as part of the transportation package. MEMA staff are already working with the House staff to refine the current proposal. That package will also likely address financing, electrification, Buy America, and much more.

Next week, the Senate is set to consider a separate piece of legislation – the Endless Frontiers Act. Within that legislation, the Senate may take up AV legislation as well as proposals to address the long-term issues associated with the semiconductor shortage.

Somehow this summer these various pieces may be pulled together into one legislative package. But your MEMA team is prepared to address these issues as they come up – separately or together.

This will be a long and busy summer as we make our mark on the future of the industry.

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