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Thompson supports rail and mass transit legislation

(The following article was posted on Port Security News.com on February 6.)

WASHINGTON -- House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) stated last week (January 29) that rail and mass transit legislation will be at the forefront of the Committee’s concerns this year. He said he plans to introduce a bill this month that would “federalize” public rail and mass transit security, with Committee markup likely in mid-March.

In a speech before the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute, Thompson said that “the biggest dilemma that I think that we have is that we don’t have a real federal mandate,” noting that there is a big discrepancy between the amount spent for security per passenger on commercial airliners and the amount spent per passenger on public rail and transit.

He said that his bill would focus on “vulnerability assessments and security plans, ways to share strategic information, the development of security training programs and funding for various initiatives.” The legislation, he said, would create some uniformity among cities and states that currently control security for the nation’s tracks.

Thompson also said he intends to revisit language in the F.Y. 2007 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security which gives the Department authority to regulate chemical plant security. He said he doesn’t think the language goes far enough, and said the most controversial issue is pre-emption of state laws.

Other issues the Committee is likely to address, according to Thompson, are border security, the US-VISIT program, the Department’s organization, and cargo screening.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

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