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House panel backs ban on state regulation of pay, breaks

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 11 approved legislation (H.R. 4441) that includes controversial language that would prohibit state or local governments from regulating commercial drivers' meal or rest breaks or from regulating driver pay as long as the pay is at least what the driver would have made if paid minimum wage for hours worked.

The provision, which is included in a bill to authorize programs for the Federal Aviation Administration, is the same as an amendment sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-California) that the House passed in November as part of the highway bill. The final version of the FAST Act, however, did not include that provision.

As in November, the controversial language pits two powerful trucking interests against each other.

Supporting the provision, which is Section 611 of H.R. 4441, is the American Trucking Associations, which argues that actions by states and courts are threatening the uniform system of motor carrier rules adopted in the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, also known as F4A.

Opposing the provision is the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, which it argues could thwart states' efforts to ensure fair pay for drivers and allow large carriers to reduce driver wages. OOIDA also believes Section 611 would undermine states' ability to regulate important items like payment for detention time.

Section 611 likely faces an even greater hurdle than the Denham amendment did because unlike the FAST Act, H.R. 4441 itself is controversial. The legislation would privatize the air traffic control system, which the Democrats on the committee opposed. The T&I Committee approved H.R. 4441 on a party-line vote. On the other hand, ATC privatization could become a bargaining chip that would allow Republicans to give up in order to win other controversial items such as Section 611.

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