While much attention is being paid to the Mueller report and the internal Democratic fight regarding impeachment procedures for President Donald Trump, the 116th Congress and its respective committees are trying to do their regular work in the meantime—including passing both authorization bills and appropriation bills for fiscal year 2020. Here are some key legislative developments relevant to the marine industry.
Maritime Administration Authorization Bill
On May 15, 2019, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation reported S. 1439, the “Maritime Administration Authorization and Enhancement Act for Fiscal Year 2020,” sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chairman of the Committee. S. 1439 hopes to accomplish a multitude of goals, including a 10-year reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program, a U.S.-flagged fleet of commercial ships deemed critical for defense sealift operations; and codifying President Trump’s “military to mariner” executive order (E.O. 13860), aimed at streamlining the transition of active duty and retired military into civilian maritime jobs. Additionally, the bill includes the Port Operations, Research, and Technology (“PORT”) Act, which authorizes $600 million for the secretary of transportation to make grants for port and intermodal infrastructure projects; the Maritime SAFE Act, aimed at combatting illegal fishing; increased funding—up to $40 million for FY2020—for the Small Shipyard Grant Program; and full funding ($33 million) for the Title XI maritime guaranteed loan program to support the maritime industrial base. The bill requires that all components used in grant-funded projects are American-made and American-bought (a Baldwin amendment). The bill also authorizes a program to support infrastructure development at Department of Defense-designated Strategic Ports, and enacts reforms at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy regarding sexual harassment and assault prevention. Continue reading “Congress at Work on Maritime Programs”