President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the Route 66 Centennial Commission Act into law, giving the forthcoming commission a few years to plan for Route 66’s centennial in 2026.
The U.S. House advanced it by voice vote earlier this month, and the U.S. Senate passed it by unanimous consent in August.
The president issued this boilerplate statement about the bill he enacted into law:
Today, I have signed into law S. 1014, the “Route 66 Centennial Commission Act” (the “Act”). The Act provides for a Commission made up of individuals appointed by the President, in certain cases based on the recommendations of Members of Congress, with responsibility to conduct a study on ways to honor the centennial anniversary of Route 66 and to provide recommendations exclusively to the Congress. To avoid concerns regarding the separation of powers, my Administration will consider this Commission to be located in the legislative branch. I also expect that the General Services Administration (GSA) will be able to fulfill the intent of section 7(d) that the GSA provide to the Commission, on request and on a reimbursable basis, the administrative support services necessary for the Commission to carry out the Act. Consistent with the separation of powers, however, a directive from a legislative branch entity cannot be understood as binding on an executive branch entity like the GSA.
According to an aide to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Trump’s signature came near or on the last day he could act on the measure.
Bill Thomas of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership helped shepherd the bill into Congress. U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the bill in April 2019, and it gained co-sponsorships from Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
According to the measure, 15 commissioners will be appointed by the president on the recommendation of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Senate and House majority leaders and governors of the eight states Route 66 traverses.
Appointees must demonstrate a dedication to educating others about the importance of historical figures and events and substantial knowledge and appreciation of Route 66.
The commission will study and recommend in a report to Congress activities that would be “fitting and proper” to celebrate the anniversary “in a manner that appropriately honors the Mother Road of the United States,” according to the bill.
Centennial activities include:
- The issuance of commemorative coins, medals, certificates of recognition and postage stamps;
- Ceremonies and celebrations commemorating specific events;
- The production, publication, and distribution of books, pamphlets, films, electronic publications and other educational materials.
A final report on the recommendations must be issued within two years after the commission is appointed.
The Route 66 Centennial Commission Act measure began its journey in 2017 when Davis introduced HR66 at the recommendation of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership. That bill passed unanimously under suspension rules on July 16, 2018, but failed to advance before that congressional session ended.
Another substantial bill, the Route 66 National Historic Trail Designation Act, hasn’t budged since its introduction in the U.S. House in September. According to Skopos Labs, it has only a 4% chance of becoming law before the congressional session ends in January.
The chances of Route 66 becoming a National Historic Trail appear to be better during the 2021-2022 congressional session. Here’s an overview of the advantage of a Route 66 National Historic Trail.
We’ll update you with more information about the new Route 66 centennial commission law as it becomes available.
UPDATE 12/24/2020: Bill Thomas at the partnership put out a statement in a news release Thursday:
“The Road Ahead thanks everyone who helped introduce and move legislation through Congress to establish the Route 66 Centennial Commission. Their efforts have given Route 66 a very welcomed Christmas present!
“Now, our attention turns to making plans that will celebrate the road’s 100th anniversary and focus on ways to improve the lives of the 5+ million people living and working along Route 66,” explains Thomas. “We’ll do so, by working on projects that promote, preserve and economically develop Route 66.”
(Image of the White House in Washington, D.C., by dog79209 via Flickr)