- Innovative Solutions to Fund and Strengthen U.S. Infrastructure: Senator Fischer, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, introduced a legislative proposal to fund and build new infrastructure projects across the country. The bill, known as the Build USA Infrastructure Act, would address future infrastructure funding shortfalls and provide states with greater flexibility to navigate regulatory burdens that have long delayed critical projects. This legislation is modeled after Senator Fischer’s legislative success in developing innovative, sustainable transportation funding solutions in the Nebraska Legislature, including the Build Nebraska Act and the Federal Funds Purchase Program.
Welcomed Secretary Chao to Nebraska: Senator Fischer welcomed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao to Omaha, Nebraska, in August. Chao traveled to Omaha to hear from Nebraska transportation stakeholders and listen to their concerns and suggestions related to infrastructure and regulatory reform. Senator Fischer also discussed her commitment to long-term infrastructure policy and funding.
Supported Nebraska Essential Air Service Program Waivers: Senator Fischer, joined by Senator Ben Sasse and Representative Adrian Smith, led a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao voicing concerns about the department’s plan to terminate the Essential Air Service support for Nebraska communities. The EAS program is crucial to the continuation of air service to rural Nebraska. Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced plans to end EAS eligibility for Western Nebraska Regional Airport in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Kearney Regional Airport in Kearney, Nebraska. On December 29, 2017, DOT reversed its position and decided to continue EAS support for the airports in Kearney and Scottsbluff.
Chaired Western Nebraska Transportation Field Hearing in Scottsbluff: In her capacity as the Chairman of the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, Senator Fischer convened a hearing titled: “Keeping Goods Moving in America’s Heartland” in May 2016. The hearing, which took place at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, focused on the transportation needs of our rural communities. Witnesses included Kyle Schneweis, Director of the Nebraska Department of Roads; Don Overman, Chairman of the Western Nebraska Regional Airport Authority Board; Deb Cottier, Executive Director of Northwest Nebraska Development Corporation; David Freeman, Senior Vice President of Transportation for BNSF Railway; Kevin Kelley, President of the Kelley Bean Company; and Brent Holliday, Chief Executive Officer of Nebraska Transport Company.
Championed a Highway Bill for Nebraska. On December 3, 2015, Congress passed a five-year highway bill. Over the next five years, it will provide Nebraska with 1.5 billion dollars to update and maintain our roads, highways, and bridges for years to come. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and an active member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Fischer was deeply involved with this legislation since her first year in the U.S. Senate. She also served on the conference committee charged with resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Because of this critical legislation, transportation projects across the state will now be up and running at a faster pace. The influx of resources for Nebraska means existing roads can be made safer. Moreover, new projects are on the horizon to accommodate growing communities.
Through a new freight program established in the bill, critical transportation dollars will be funneled to rural Nebraska projects like the Heartland Expressway. Urban areas will benefit too. In Lincoln and Omaha, buses and other transit facilities will receive more dollars for important updates.
- Voted for Long-Term Highway Funding: Senator Fischer cosponsored legislation that would authorize important surface transportation projects over the next six years. This multi-year bill, known as the DRIVE Act, passed the Senate in July 2015. Senator Fischer fought to include several key provisions in this legislation, which would enhance project flexibility for states and streamline the environmental review process. These provisions were drafted in consultation with key transportation stakeholders in Nebraska, including officials from the Nebraska Department of Roads.
- Introduced transportation bill modeled on Nebraska successes: With many of our nation’s core infrastructure projects at a standstill due to excessive regulations and a lack of transportation funding, Senator Fischer proposed an innovative solution to get American moving again. She introduced the Build USA Act, a new bill that would create American Infrastructure Bank, offering states new financing and funding for transportation projects. This is approach has had proven results in Nebraska.
- Fought for Funding for Small Airports: Senator Fischer became an original cosponsor of The Small Airport Regulation Relief Act. The legislation, which was introduced by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), would ensure that small airports can continue to receive Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds.
Chaired Surface Transportation Hearing Featuring Three Nebraska Companies: Senator Fischer convened the first hearing of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation for the 114th Congress entitled “Improving the Performance of our Transportation Networks: Stakeholder Perspectives.” The hearing featured testimony from representatives of three Nebraska companies: Werner Enterprises, Union Pacific Railroad, and Cabela’s.
- Worked to Improve America’s Maritime Transportation System: The Senate passed legislation introduced by Senator Fischer and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J) to reauthorize the Maritime Administration (MARAD) at the U.S. Department of Transportation. The bill recognizes the important role of America’s maritime transportation system and takes critical steps to improve the management of MARAD. It would also strengthen sexual assault prevention programs at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
- Enhanced the Safety of Our Nation’s Extensive Pipeline Transportation System: Senator Fischer championed major pipeline safety legislation, which has been signed into law. The bill, known as the PIPES Act, will create a safer liquid and gas pipeline transportation network across our country through strengthening congressional oversight and increasing collaboration between stakeholders and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The legislation provides greater resources for state and local pipeline safety officials, including better mapping and information tools to address incidents like the Omaha Old Market explosion which occurred in January 2016.
- Restored funding for Nebraska's rural and community airports: Congress passed legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through September 2017. The bill, which was signed into law by President Obama, included provisions that restored important funding for airports in Scottsbluff, Kearney, and North Platte.
- Enhanced construction flexibility for states. Senator Fischer worked to include in the 2014 highway legislation, two key provisions to enhance project flexibility for states and streamline the environmental review process. These provisions were drafted in consultation with key transportation stakeholders in Nebraska, including officials from the Nebraska Department of Roads.
- The first provision allows states to provide their own certification regarding the appropriate level of environmental review of certain projects, rather than wasting time waiting for the federal government to provide the assessments.
- The second provision establishes procedures – based on a template developed by the Transportation Secretary – allowing states, in addition to the federal government, to determine which state or federal agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Historical Society, etc.) must be consulted prior to beginning an infrastructure project.
Called on FAA Administrator to address pilot shortages in rural parts of Nebraska: On January 15, 2014 Senator Fischer questioned FAA Administrator Michael Huerta about new requirements for pilots that have resulted in fewer flights available in some communities in Nebraska. Fischer called on the Administrator to work with Congress to provide more regulatory flexibility, especially for rural pilots.
Fought to keep air safety a priority: On April 24, 2013, Senator Fischer became an original cosponsor of the Dependable Air Service Act of 2013. This bill would give the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the flexibility to transfer funds between accounts in order to address air traffic controller furloughs and avert mounting passenger delays and flight cancellations at America’s airports. It also gives the Department of Transportation (DOT), which administers the FAA, the authority to move funds if necessary from other areas of the DOT budget to the FAA to prevent delays.