Commission keeps close eye on bills

Officials at the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission [NCPRPDC] have been closely watching recent U.S. Senate and House activity.The Senate recently postponed consideration of the FY13 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill until possibly the middle of July; Senate leaders originally anticipated to debate the annual spending bill this month, according to North Central Executive Director Eric Bridges.A week ago, the House voted to instruct conferees to the House-Senate negotiations on the highway bill to finish their work by Friday, June 22."The vote is the latest attempt by House members to influence ongoing talks, although the move is non-binding," Bridges said. "Senator [Barbara] Boxer and Representative [John] Mica, respective chairs of the negotiating panel, have committed to talk until a deal is struck."Funding for federal transportation projects will expire June 20 without an accord."Without a long-term bill, lawmakers would have to approve the 10th short-term extension of the existing funding," Bridges said. "To date, the Senate has passed a 2-year, $109 billion transportation bill, while the House has been unable to approve a long-term extension."After the board meeting, Congressional leaders reportedly agreed on a tentative 2-year bill to overhaul federal highway programs that drops a requirement that the government approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, according to the Associated Press.The U.S. Senate also is currently debating a multi-year reauthorization for the farm bill. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is offering an amendment (No. 3445) that would provide $150 million in mandatory funding for four United States Department of Agriculture [USDA] rural development programs: two rural business development programs, a portion of the $3 billion backlog of already-approved USDA water/wastewater infrastructure projects, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.Pick up a copy of the Thursday, June 28, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.Next meetingNorth CentralWhen: Wednesday, July 25Where: North Central offices, 651 Montmorenci Rd., RidgwayTime: 9:30 a.m.