Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Tuesday, August 10, 2021
As the U.S. Senate voted to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package Tuesday that appears to have attracted a degree of bipartisan support, some conservatives are warning about some controversial aspects of the bill, which some argue have little to do with infrastructure.
However, not all GOP senators share their colleagues’ enthusiasm for the package, which is described as a bill “to authorize funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs, and for other purposes.”
Some Republican senators and conservative activists are shining a light on some provisions tucked away in the 2,702-page legislation.
The bill must pass the House of Representatives before it is sent to President Joe Biden’s desk.
In the following are three unexpected aspects of the infrastructure package.
1. Ban on sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who voted against invoking cloture on the infrastructure bill and thereby ending debate on its contents, pointed out that the infrastructure package includes a reference to “gender identity.”
Last week, Hawley tweeted out: “Now gender identity is infrastructure. Can’t wait to see what else is in this bill.”
Hawley’s tweet was accompanied by a screenshot of the bill, which includes a declaration that “the term ‘gender identity’ has the meaning given the term in section 249(c) of title 18, United States Code.” The mention of gender identity is included in Title III of Division F of the bill, which deals with broadband distribution and outlines a legislative initiative called the Digital Equity Act incorporated into the infrastructure package.
The Digital Equity Act also includes a nondiscrimination provision proclaiming that “no individual in the United States may, on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that is funded in whole or in part with funds made available to carry out this title.”
The inclusion of the language drew the ire of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group. Hawley shared a screenshot of a letter written by Quena Gonzalez, the Family Research Council’s senior director of government affairs, to members of the U.S. Senate. Gonzalez expressed concern that the infrastructure bill would advance “a radical agenda on marriage and sexuality,” specifically highlighting the elevation of “sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to a specially protected class status.”
“SOGI should never be elevated in this manner; doing so is unnecessary, has numerous tangential consequences, and is coercive,” she wrote.
“This particular clause is in reaction to access to broadband and is clearly agenda-driven, mirroring prior efforts to implement a comprehensive law (like the Equality Act) piecemeal,” Gonzalez added.
The Equality Act is a bill championed by Democrats to enshrine nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community into federal law. While the bill passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, it has stalled in the Senate.
2. Advanced drunk and impaired driving technology
The infrastructure bill also calls for the inclusion of “advanced drunk and impaired driving technology” as “standard equipment in all new passenger motor vehicles.” It would require the secretary of transportation to issue a rule three years after the passage of the infrastructure bill requiring all new vehicles in the U.S. to contain such equipment. The rule would give car manufacturers two to three years to comply unless the secretary extended the deadline, meaning the technology would likely be required in all new cars by the end of the decade. It is part of Title IV of the infrastructure bill, which outlines priorities for enhancing “vehicle safety.”
According to the definition laid out, “advanced drunk and impaired driving technology” can “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.” The technology should “prevent or limit motor vehicle operation if an impairment is detected” or “passively and accurately detect whether the blood alcohol concentration of a driver of a motor vehicle is equal to or greater than” the legal limit. The technology should “prevent or limit motor vehicle operation if a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit is detected.”
While the infrastructure bill does not explicitly outline what “advanced drunk and impaired driving technology” consists of, Fox News host Tucker Carlson elaborated on the type of technology that may soon become commonplace in American vehicles on his show last week.
“This bill requires all new vehicles in the United States to come with monitoring technology such as eye scanners or breathalyzers,” he said.
Carlson expressed concerns about the implications of this technology.
“Going forward, you will need the express permission of your federal overlords before you start your car in the morning because it’s their car now,” he quipped.
3. Clearinghouse for marijuana research
The infrastructure bill calls for the establishment of a “national clearinghouse to collect and distribute samples and strains of marijuana for scientific research that includes marijuana and products containing marijuana that are lawfully available to patients or consumers in a state on a retail basis.”
The clearinghouse would enable researchers in states that have not yet legalized recreational marijuana to obtain “access to samples and strains of marijuana” for “purposes of research on marijuana-impaired driving.”
The would package require the secretary of transportation to collaborate with the attorney general and the secretary of health and human services to release a report with recommendations for “increasing and improving, for scientific researchers studying impairment while driving under the influence of marijuana, access to samples and strains of marijuana and products containing marijuana that are lawfully available to patients or consumers in a State on a retail basis.”
The report on marijuana research is one of several provisions introduced in Title V of Division B, which focuses on “Research and Innovation.”
Division B consists of the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021, one of several smaller pieces of legislation featured in the larger, comprehensive infrastructure bill.
Reports and studies, some of which have little to do with what is commonly understood as infrastructure, are consistently woven throughout the bill.
According to Fox Business, “the word ‘study’ appears more than 300 times in the legislation” while the word “‘report’ appears more than 500 times.”