Submitted by: John Ostlund, Yellowstone County Commissioner, MACo Transportation Committee Chair & NACo Transportation Committee Member
The National Association of Counties recently met in Washington D.C. for the annual Legislative Conference. The Transportation Committee met on Saturday, March 2nd, to discuss priorities including policy statements, airport funding, highway/highway safety, ports, transit and rail, and approve resolutions.
Resolutions this year included a proposed resolution on Regulating Air Ambulances under the Airline Deregulation Act. This resolution got its start at the Montana Association of Counties annual meeting some years back as a way to deal with medical transport providers “ Helicopter Air Transport Operators” billing patients sometimes 60 or 70 thousand dollars for a single trip to the hospital. Air ambulances are not regulated in the same manner as commercial passenger service and it will take a congressional act to allow regulation of the industry. Thanks to Harold Blattie for bringing this to NACO’s attention several years ago.
Additional resolutions approved were support for funding the Assistance to local Emergency Response training or the ALERT Grant and a resolution supporting National Voluntary Registry of Persons
With invisible Disabilities when applying for a government issued Identification Document. This would be a program to list invisible disabilities on your driver’s license, for example if someone
Had a nervous disorder and struggled with the ability to respond when approached by a police officer listing it on the license would allow the officer some background on how to manage the citizen without feeling threatened. As you may imagine there was a healthy discussion about privacy and how much is to be disclosed on your I D. The resolution was passed only after the agreement was made to have any disabilities listed be on a voluntary basis.
Counties play a critical role in the national transportation system, we own and maintain 46 percent of the nation’s public roads and 38 percent of the nation’s bridges. Counties are also involved in 78 percent of the nation’s public transportation systems and one third of the nation’s airports. The White House is expected to submit a new infrastructure plan in the coming months that contains an increased federal investment. A robust infrastructure plan must be a part of any new legislation and should preserve the tax exempt status of municipal bonds, promote long term solvency of the highway trust fund, promote an environment for innovative financing and streamline the federal permitting process. Congress did approve 475 million dollars of new money for the bridge program and 875 million for essential air service of which 20 million is new money. A new transportation bill is years overdue and much needed to allow states to plan long term for critical road and bridge safety improvements.
Thanks for allowing me to chair MACO’s transportation Committee