Coast Guard Authorization Act headed for signature

Capitol dome daylightDECEMBER 14, 2012 — The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012 (H.R. 2838) has passed the Senate and is headed to the President for signature. The bill was first introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.).

The original bill initially passed the House in November 2011, while the Senate subsequently revised the bill in September 2012.  Last week, the House approved a compromise measure resolving differences between the earlier bills.  The Senate's action on the compromise enabled the bill to now go to the President.

The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012 authorizes $8.6 billion in fiscal year 2013 and $8.7 billion in fiscal year 2014 for the activities of the Coast Guard.

The bill includes provisions that will give the Coast Guard, its service members and dependents greater parity with their counterparts in the other Armed Services. The bill further aligns Coast Guard's authorities with those granted to the Department of Defense.

H.R. 2838 also enhances operations while reducing costs by reforming and improving Coast Guard administration and eliminating obsolete authorities.

Regulatory relief provided by this bill includes eliminating the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requirement for maritime workers to make multiple trips to a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) enrollment center to receive the TWIC ID card; extending deadlines for compliance with new Coast Guard regulations on fishing vessels to ensure the service can enforce them fairly and properly; and extending the duration of medical certificates so mariners can continue to work while the Coast Guard reduces its backlog of applications.

H.R. 2838 also extends for an additional year the current moratorium for fishing vessels and small commercial vessels' compliance with EPA regulations governing vessel incidental discharges, such as rain water runoff and air conditioner condensate.

Finally, the bill enhances the security of U.S. vessels and crew transiting high risk waters, reauthorizes the national security aspects of the Maritime Administration for fiscal year 2013, and makes several important improvements to NOAA's marine debris program.

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