WASHINGTON—Congressman Paul D. Tonko joined with a majority of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to advance H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a $1.5 trillion nationwide infrastructure package that invests in modern, sustainable upgrades and repairs while creating millions of good-paying jobs, combatting the climate crisis and addressing vital needs and disparities for communities throughout the country. Tonko featured several significant legislative advances he was able to secure in the bill including a full slate of limousine safety reforms, broadband legislation, investments in clean energy, drinking water funding including for PFAS cleanup, and much more.
“The time has come for us to make these necessary, transformational investments in our infrastructure, not only to improve America’s most critical systems but to do it in ways that will help us rebuild, create good-paying jobs and put us on the path towards a cleaner, more resilient and more just economy,” Congressman Tonko said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made addressing these challenges all the more urgent, and the investments we choose to make now will help us to build back stronger and help create a better future for every American. Whether in the form of vital limousine safety reforms, expanded broadband internet access, improved clean energy infrastructure that will help us combat climate change, or funding for safe drinking water systems for our Capital Region, these investments could not be more timely. I am proud to vote with my colleagues to advance this bill that inspires innovation and helps lift our nation at this critical moment.”
Tonko priorities in H.R. 2 include:
1. Limo Safety
“Even as we work to address the broad and urgent challenges we now face as a nation, we must not lose sight of the full scope of life-saving work that needs to get done,” Tonko noted. “Our continued progress with these vital and commonsense limousine safety measures is a credit to families from across our state who have shown a truly selfless resolve, turning tragic personal loss and into a resounding call for life-saving reform. The advancement of this package is a critical next step and my colleagues and I will not rest until limousine safety reforms are signed and enacted into law.”
“Today I proudly voted for the Moving Forward Act which makes critically important investments in our nation’s infrastructure and improves the safety of our roads and bridges. I am glad to see the House pass H.R. 2 which includes our bipartisan legislation that makes vital changes to safety regulations to take dangerous limos off the road, close safety loopholes, and keep drivers and pedestrians safe.” Rep. Antonio Delgado, a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure continued, “On October 6, 2018, our community experienced a tragedy that never should have occurred. We owe it to the families and communities affected, including the first responders who rushed to the scene of the accident, to make this bill the law of the land."
Tonko and Delgado introduced his package of federal limousine safety reforms last year in his hometown of Amsterdam, New York with and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and with the support of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) on the one-year anniversary of a tragic limousine crash in Schoharie, New York that took the lives of 20 people. That package includes:
- Take Unsafe Limos Off the Road Act, sponsored by Tonko, a subcommittee chair in the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, promotes funding to support states’ efforts to impound or immobilize vehicles that fail inspection for critical safety reasons. The act will incentivize states such as New York to take strong actions to keep unsafe limos that fail inspection off the road.
- Safe Limousines Act, also sponsored by Tonko, includes a full slate of new federal stretch limousine safety rules and standards for seatbelts, seat integrity, a federal definition for limousines and crash safety research.
- End the Limo Loophole Act, sponsored by Rep. Antonio Delgado, a member of the House Committee on Transportation closes the “limousine loophole” by reclassifying vehicles used to carry nine or more passengers as commercial motor vehicles. Current law only classifies vehicles designed for 15 or more passengers in this way, allowing many limousines to operate under less rigorous standards.
2. Broadband Internet Access
“Despite the importance of broadband access in our technology-driven world, there remain significant gaps across every state that are barring our students, teachers, workers, health care providers and emergency responders from accessing internet services,” Tonko said. “This crisis has exacerbated the many challenges Americans are already facing receiving this access. I am proud to support this comprehensive plan and to have the ACCESS BROADBAND Act included in this package. I will continue fighting to improve and expand broadband access so that our Capital Region and beyond are delivered the services they need.”
- Tonko’s ACCESS BROADBAND Act helps expand broadband access in underserved areas and create a simpler process for small businesses and local economic developers to access federal broadband resources.
- Tonko also worked to ensure that more than $100 billion in broadband funding would be included to expand high-speed internet access especially in areas that are currently underserved.
3. Clean Energy
“Even before this pandemic, our nation was falling behind the rest of the world in major areas, from manufacturing and economic productivity to the labor and environmental standards that are the cornerstones of healthy communities and thriving local economies,” Tonko noted. “The ongoing coronavirus epidemic has brought added suffering and hardship to millions of Americans. We have a responsibility to respond with strength and with characteristic American grit and vision. With this package, we have a tremendous opportunity to put Americans back to work in the short-term while modernizing our infrastructure to achieve a cleaner, more resilient, more competitive, and more just economy overall.”
As Chair of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment & Climate Change in the House, Tonko is a national leader in clean energy legislation, with several major bills that he authored included in H.R. 2, including:
- Weatherization—H.R. 2041, authored by Tonko, to reauthorize and improve the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program, the largest residential energy efficiency program in the country.
- EV Charging Infrastructure—H.R. 5530, authored by Tonko, to establish a new DOE rebate program to support deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure at multi-family homes, workplaces, and other publicly accessible locations.
- Other Tonko clean energy priorities include:
- $3.5 billion to support investments in grid modernization
- $1 billion in grants supporting renewable energy
- $27 billion to support building modernization
- $38 billion invested in clean vehicles
- Extending and expanding tax incentives to support renewable energy, energy efficiency, and zero-emission vehicles
4. Clean Water & Community Revitalization
“No American should be exposed to dangerous contaminants or denied access to clean, safe drinking water,” said Tonko. “Sadly we have seen countless water systems across our state and nation contaminated by dangerous and even deadly pollutants, with far too little being done to help those affected. I am proud of our bipartisan work in the last Congress to add billions in funding to restore America’s drinking water systems, but even that significant funding pales in comparison to the needs of these failing systems across the nation. Delivering these basic resources and upholding clear safety standards for our drinking water systems are the very least the American people should be able to expect of us.”
The infrastructure package includes massive investments in drinking water systems, PFAS grants, getting lead out of schools, brownfields and more. Tonko has worked in Congress for years to ensure Americans have access to safe drinking water. Earlier this year, he celebrated the advance of major PFAS legislation—spearheaded by his Environment & Climate Change Subcommittee—out of the House of Representatives.
5. Other significant high-value investments!
- Rebuilds our highways, bridges, transit, rail, airports, ports and harbors by investing nearly $500 billion to improve safety, reduce gridlock and put the U.S. on a path toward zero emissions from the transportation sector, all while protecting American jobs with strong Buy America provisions and labor protections.
- Modernizing the nation’s health care infrastructure by investing $30 billion to upgrade hospitals to increase capacity and strengthen care, help community health centers respond to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies, improve clinical laboratory infrastructure, support the Indian Health Service‘s infrastructure, and increase capacity for community-based care.
- Modernizing and strengthening the United States Postal Service by investing $25 billion to modernize postal infrastructure and operations, including a zero emissions postal vehicle fleet, processing equipment and other goods.
- Promoting investments in our communities by spurring private investment through the tax code, through a revitalized Build America Bonds program, expansions of Private Activity Bonds, and significant enhancements to the New Markets Tax Credit and the Rehabilitation Tax Credit.
A fact sheet on the Moving Forward Act is available here.