Two bills that could have had significant consequences for the supply chain died quietly as the 111th Congress adjourned Wednesday.
A bill that would have allowed local government to preempt federal laws governing motor carriers expired, as did one requiring 100 percent screening of all air cargo.
The Clean Ports Act of 2010, would have allowed local governments to preempt federal laws that govern routes, rates and service of trucks in interstate commerce.
The Air Cargo Security Act would have extended the 100 percent screening requirement for air cargo on passenger aircraft to all-cargo and package express airliners as well.
Had The Clean Ports Act, sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y, become law, the port of Los Angeles could proceed with its clean trucks program that barred independent owner-operators in favor of trucking companies with employee drivers.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and a large number of environmental groups lobbied hard for the bill. In addition to its clean-air aspect, the legislation also would have opened the door for Teamsters to organize port drivers, a high priority of the union. A coalition of trade groups vigorously opposed the bill saying that local preemption could create a national patchwork of trucking regulations that would be a barrier to commerce.
Had it passed, the clean ports bill would have overridden a federal lawsuit by the American Trucking Associations to have the franchise provision of the Los Angeles plan declared unconstitutional. Briefs will be filed with the 9th Circuit in the coming month, and the court will then set a hearing date.
Nadler's bill was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which took no further action.
The attempt by Yemeni terrorists to blow up aircraft with improvised explosives led Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., on Nov. 16 to file the Air Cargo Security Act. Markey was the author of legislation in 2009 that required that air cargo be screened before it was loaded aboard passenger aircraft. The new bill would have extended the 100 percent screening requirement to all-cargo and package express airliners as well.
Markey's bill was referred to the House Homeland Security Committee, which took no further action.
While the bills didn't make it through the last Congress, lawmakers are free to file them again in the 112th Congress. However, Democrat-sponsored bills are likely to find a less receptive audience in a House under Republican control.
Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation, who led the shipper coalition against Nadler's bill, said it's unlikely that supporters will try to push similar legislation in the future.
"It's still an issue that we're following and will probably continue until the court case is finally settled," Gold said recently. "I think the issue stays alive, but the focus might change now to how the drivers are classified, which is a much bigger issue for independent contractors."
-- Contact R.G. Edmonson at email@example.com.