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 Oklahoman Editorial: Highway Bill “Worth Cheering”

Al Cardenas, American Conservative Union Op Ed: Conservatives should break transportation bill gridlock

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Rep James Lankford (R-OK-5) both members of the transportation conference, hailed Congressional bipartisan approval of the highway conference report as an enormous win for Oklahoma and the nation. The conference report passed today is based largely on the Inhofe-Boxer highway bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP 21), which contains important reforms from companion legislation that was passed in the House. The highway conference report passed overwhelmingly in the House today by a vote of 373-52, and in the Senate it passed by a vote of 74 – 19 with one member voting present.

Inhofe: “Today Congress came together with overwhelming bipartisan support to pass a responsible highway bill that provides significant conservative reforms, creates jobs and will help generate economic growth. Pure and simple, this bill is a victory for Oklahoma. I appreciate my friend Representative Lankford, who helped move this legislation through the House, and Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley, who partnered with us every step of the way as we worked to ensure Oklahoma and the nation has a responsible bill that will help create jobs and improve our economy. I look forward having this bill signed into law as soon as possible.”

Lankford: “The Highway Bill passed by the Congress today is a true, conservative victory. Senator Inhofe and I have worked tirelessly to craft a responsible transportation policy with a focus on lifting the burden of red tape on our state. The final product will provide much needed stability to transportation infrastructure across our nation. We were able to create a long-term solution, which will shorten construction permitting schedules, reduce costs, and increase state flexibility. It was essential to give primary transportation decision authority to Oklahoma leadership, rather than keeping the control in Washington, D.C. The 27-month reauthorization will last through two fiscal years and give solid ground on which to construct the next responsible transportation policy.”

Important provisions in the highway conference report:

- Reduces the number of programs by 2/3

- Eliminates or consolidates programs that are duplicative or don’t serve the national transportation goal

- Streamlines the lengthy and often duplicative environmental review process from an average of 15 years down to 7 years

Highway Bill a Victory for Farmers

Inhofe and Lankford further welcomed inclusion of a key provision Inhofe and Lankford have sponsored, along with Rep. Dan Boren (R-OK-2), H.R. 2414, the Farmers’ Freedom Act of 2011 – a bi-partisan measure that exempts farm trucks from the burdensome commercial vehicle regulations have made it extremely difficult for farmers to cross state lines while transporting crops. The Farmers’ Freedom Act fixes the problem by supplying farm trucks with a limited commercial vehicle exemption from these federal regulations when they travel within 150 air-miles of their farm. Senator Inhofe and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have been working to pass companion legislation since 2009 in the Senate. With the inclusion of this bill’s language in the highway conference report, Senator Inhofe and Representative Lankford were successful in their efforts.

Inhofe: “The inclusion of the Farmers’ Freedom Act in the highway bill is a victory for farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma and across the nation. Now, farmers will no longer be forced to comply with burdensome and unnecessary commercial vehicle regulations while transporting their crops from the farm to the marketplace, within a 150 air-miles range. As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, one of my top priorities is to do everything I can to alleviate the immense regulatory burden the Obama administration is putting on our agricultural community. I am very pleased that today we were able to make progress. I would like to thank Representative Lankford for his hard work and the conferees for their cooperation in achieving this great victory for famers.”

Lankford: “Initially I offered the Farmers’ Freedom Act as a stand-alone bill in the House, and after working with the Committee, it was included as part of the many reforms of the Committee-passed bill. We worked diligently to remove this burdensome restriction on farmers across our nation, so they could move freely. These hardworking citizens deserve the right to conduct their business in a fair and efficient manner.”

Boren: “The Farmer’s Freedom Act has been a priority on my agenda for many Congresses. I am grateful to Representative Lankford for his leadership and persistence in passing this important measure. Senator Inhofe has done a fantastic job of ensuring we do not over regulate those that provide nutrition to our families. I am pleased that our farmers and ranchers will be better able to transport their products across the country to provide us with an abundant marketplace."

Oklahoman Agricultural Community

Mike Spradling President of Oklahoma Farm Bureau (OFB) welcomed the inclusion of the provision in the conference report saying, "Oklahoma Farm Bureau appreciates the hard work of Senator Inhofe, Representative Lankford, and Representative Boren to protect farmers and ranchers in this transportation bill. They are true advocates for Oklahoma's agricultural producers." Terry

Detrick, President of the American Farmers and Ranchers, also welcomed the provision saying, “American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR) is extremely pleased that Congress is taking this crucial step towards protecting the ability of our members to haul their crops and livestock to market. We are especially grateful to our Oklahoma Congressional delegation, led by Sen. Inhofe, Rep. Lankford and Rep. Boren for their tireless work on this issue. They have been pursuing relief for farmers and ranchers faced with complicated and burdensome transportation regulations for many years and we sincerely thank them for their efforts.”