The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration conducted a markup of the Fiscal 2019 Appropriations Bill draft.  The bill would include $23.27 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2019, a $14 million increase from Fiscal 2018 levels, with $3 billion dedicated to rural development and infrastructure.  

Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) noted that $620 million of the infrastructure funding is dedicated to expanding rural broadband and closing the digital divide.  The Subcommittee Chairman stated: “Access to high speed internet is now just as important to a high quality of life as electricity, water, and sewer.  As a country we cannot allow large sections of the population to be cut off from the rest of the world and therefore, be cut off from economic opportunities.”

Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt and Ranking Member Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia) endorsed the bill which was submitted to the Full Committee for a markup that is yet to be scheduled.

In the Senate, the Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing to examine America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA), also known as the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA).  The bill seeks to modernize America’s irrigation systems and inland waterways, and reauthorize the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WFIA).  This would be the third WRDA bill since 2014.  The bill was introduced by Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and Ranking Member Thomas Carper (D-Delaware).

WRDA programs are often the source of criticism due to the backlog of projects under the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) worth of $90 billion.  Representatives Barrosso and Carper argue this bill would address the backlog by providing the Corps with flexibility at the local project management level. Barrasso says this proposal would give “local stakeholders a greater role in prioritizing Army Corps projects” and update the Corps’ cost-benefit analysis.

The bill has bipartisan support but negotiations are ongoing in several areas which will be addressed in a manager’s amendment before the bill is voted on.  The Committee has yet to set a date for a markup and there is no definitive timeline for a companion bill in the House.