Deeper river, more business
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, filed legislation this past week that he hopes will connect the Mississippi River to the expanded Panama Canal for commercial transit.
The new DREDGE Act of 2012, Dredging for Restoration and Economic Development for Global Exports, would give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authorization to dredge the Mississippi River to 50 feet so larger vessels transiting the expanded Panama Canal can access the Mississippi. That effectively means dredging the river about five feet deeper.
The bill also would create a pilot project to promote the rebuilding of wetlands using sediment dredged from the river.
“The Mississippi River is undoubtedly the most important river in the United States,” Richmond said in his announcement.
“Its proximity to the Panama Canal is vital to our nation’s economy and critical to supporting the president’s goal of doubling America’s exports.
“With the introduction of the DREDGE Act of 2012, we are preparing for the future while strengthening our wetland restoration efforts,” he added.
“By deepening the Mississippi River, we continue to remain effective and competitive in the global market while preparing the state of Louisiana to capitalize on an extremely valuable asset, our ports.”
The biggest issue is funding and the legislation would use existing corps maintenance funds for the dredging, but excess funds are in short supply and the demands are many.
The legislation would work in tandem with the RAMP Act by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, which would set aside more federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars for dredging and port projects.
Richmond the winning pitcher
Speaking of Richmond, he starred for the second consecutive year in the annual congressional baseball game.
Richmond, who is a freshman congressman, pitched all seven innings had several hits and runs batted in while leading the Democrats to a crushing 18-5 victory over the Republican team.
Richmond, who was a varsity pitcher at Morehouse College, was again chosen as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The game was played on a hot Thursday evening on a contentious day after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of President Barack Obama’s health-care law and House Republicans held U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
People in stands reportedly held signs, such as ones touting Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion on the health-care ruling, for MVP.
Scalise asks credential changes
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, successfully had the House approve his legislation by voice vote Thursday to relax red tape for the nation’s thousands of marine merchants and other similar professions.
The goal is to ease the application and renewal process for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential that must be obtained by such professionals.
Scalise said the issue is workers must often appear twice in person at regional offices in order to complete and renew the credentials.
This is particularly problematic, he said, when marine merchants are on ships far overseas and cannot immediately return to the country.
The rules are “unworkable,” Scalise said, and have “created a lot of complications for our transportation workers.”
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., also spoke in favor of the bill.
Thompson noted that President Barack Obama and the U.S. Coast Guard relaxed the credentialing requirements for TWIC renewals in December.
Approving the Scalise legislation would fix the bureaucracy problems long term, he said.
Landry’s amendment approved
U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, won approval Friday by voice vote of an amendment that would ban any federal mandate for the electronic tracking or recording of a passenger or commercial vehicle.
The so-called Black Box Amendment tacked onto a larger House bill would essentially ban the tracking of truckers and other vehicles.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is in the process of creating a rule to require passenger cars produced after model year 2014 to include “event data recorders.”
Landry and others have contended it is too costly and an invasion of privacy.
Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief
of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is email@example.com.