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Election Day: What's at Stake for Bicycling?
Election Day is here, and we've got the breakdown on what's at stake for bicycling at the ballot box.
In the U.S. Senate, a change of party control, which is looking likely, could spell trouble for bicycling at the national level. Here's why:
- We could be looking at a May 2015 vote to cut funding for bike projects and removed eligibility for bike and pedestrian facilities from the transportation bill
- Senate allies have successfully fought off amendments and legislative maneuvers on this in 2009, 2011 and 2012
- If Republicans have more than 55 seats, bicycling priorities will liekly face some opposition, and many of bicycling's strongest champions in the Senate will no longer be heading up the important committees making the decisions
So why does control of the Senate matter?
- Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will become chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the lead committee for setting transportation policy. He's made his distaste for funding bicycling and walking projects clear, and he'd be well positioned to kill the Transportation Alternatives program. TAP is a major resource for state and local leaders to implement biking and walking initiatives.
- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would become chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for funding the transportation bill. He's been open about disapproving of Highway Trust Fund money being used for transportation other than highways, including bike infrastructure.
- On a positive note, if the Republicans take over control of the chamber, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) will chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which writes the detailed budget for federal agencies. Cochran is one of the top allies to bicycling in the Senate, and he will be in a key position to push back against anti-bike efforts.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) received a Leadership Award from the League in 2012 for his leadership on bicycling issues in the Senate.
In the U.S. House, we're keeping our eye on a few key seats. Here's what's at stake:
- The Transportation Committee currently has 59 members, 33 Republicans and 27 Democrats.
- Depending on a few key elections, the committee make up could change to 35 Republicans and 25 Democrats, meaning, in most votes, six Republicans would have to vote for biking initiatives. What's more, Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) and Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) are retirning from office, two of bicycling's top Republican allies in the House.
- While these could be tough losses, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) will likely remain chair of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. He's fostered a spirit of bipartisanship and open dialogue in the committee.
We may not know the full results of this election for months, but we'll have a sense of where things are going. Starting tomorrow, we'll start to learn more about the new members of Congress and their connections to bicycling. If you have a new Representative or Senator, please share any insight to their transportation positions, or relationship to bicycling. Over the past two years, we've seen a number of new champions and allies in Congress -- and we look forward to working with you to gain new champs in this Congress.
Don't forget: The National Bike Summit is a great opportunity to educate these new legislators on the benefits and support for better bicycling!