Infrastructure is a core responsibility of government. In the Nebraska Legislature, I served as the Chair of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee for six years. During that time, I was proud to pass the Build Nebraska Act, which continues to support infrastructure construction and development across our state.
While we often think of roads and bridges when we hear the word infrastructure, it includes much more. Broadband development and deployment, in both urban and rural areas, is critical to connecting us to the world. Railroads, trucks, barges, and ports ensure our quality products get to markets, both domestically and abroad. Airports enable the quick movement of passengers and freight, and our water and energy sources are vital for our lives.
The White House recently released an infrastructure proposal that will guide Congress as we work together on national infrastructure proposals. The president’s plan includes a number of ideas that will benefit Nebraska. For example, it would expand the permitting approval authority of states, which will give local leaders the ability to advance projects quickly. Additionally, the president’s proposal would simplify the permitting process by codifying the “One Agency, One Decision” policy, which streamlines the regulatory process for states by allowing them to work with one federal agency for the final decision about infrastructure projects.
Now that the proposal is out, Congress is tasked with filling in many of the details of this infrastructure package. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I am committed to bringing common-sense solutions to the process of fixing our infrastructure. Nebraska’s voice will be heard.
The president’s focus on infrastructure has opened the door to implementing some of the policies I have worked on for years. For example, my Build USA Infrastructure Act is modeled after legislation that has provided sustainable transportation funding and permitting solutions in Nebraska, including the Build Nebraska Act and the Federal Funds Purchase Program. These laws, passed during my tenure in the Unicameral, have allowed Nebraska to initiate and complete projects at a faster pace.
The Build USA Infrastructure Act would bring these same common-sense solutions to the federal level. Instead of raising taxes and fees, which would harm families and businesses, my proposal uses existing funds to build and maintain infrastructure. It would streamline infrastructure projects, giving states greater authority to approve the design, permitting, and construction of highway projects.
Rural broadband proposals should also be included in an infrastructure package. Making broadband more accessible and affordable for Americans in rural communities is critical to keeping them connected to the world. It will help Nebraska continue to grow.
I also will work to include my Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act. This bill would allow municipalities to prioritize investments in storm and wastewater projects needed for Clean Water Act compliance. It would also establish an Office of Municipal Ombudsman at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist cities in complying with federal environmental laws. Most importantly, our bill requires the EPA to revise this regulation to make it more affordable. This bipartisan bill has already passed with unanimous support in the Senate.
During the past year, I have worked closely with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, including hosting her in Nebraska to meet with infrastructure stakeholders. Most recently, I questioned the secretary about the administration’s proposal during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. During that hearing, we discussed the need to streamline infrastructure projects, and the importance of consistent, long-term funding for both rural and urban infrastructure.
I also addressed the need for freight corridors in rural areas to get our agriculture products to market, such as the Heartland Expressway in the panhandle.
I look forward to continuing to work with the administration and with my Senate colleagues to produce legislation to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.