Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Conference report filed in House (06/24/1998)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Reorganization of Structure and Management of the

Internal Revenue Service

Subtitle A: Reorganization of the Internal Revenue

Service

Subtitle B: Executive Branch Governance and Senior

Management

Subtitle C: Personnel Flexibilities

Title II: Electronic Filing

Title III: Taxpayer Protection and Rights

Subtitle A: Burden of Proof

Subtitle B: Proceedings by Taxpayers

Subtitle C: Relief for Innocent Spouses and for

Taxpayers Unable to Manage Their Financial Affairs

Due to Disabilities

Subtitle D: Provisions Relating To Interest and

Penalties

Subtitle E: Protections for Taxpayers Subject to Audit

or Collection Activities

Subtitle F: Disclosures to Taxpayers

Subtitle G: Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics

Subtitle H: Other Matters

Subtitle I: Studies

Title IV: Congressional Accountability for the Internal

Revenue Service

Subtitle A: Oversight

Subtitle B: Century Date Change

Subtitle C: Tax Law Complexity

Title V: Additional Provisions

Title VI: Technical Corrections

Title VII: Revenue Provisions

Title VIII: Identification of Limited Tax Benefits Subject

to Line Item Veto

Title IX: Technical Corrections to Transportation Equity Act

for the 21st Century

Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 - Title I: Reorganization of Structure and Management of the Internal Revenue Service - Subtitle A: Reorganization of the Internal Revenue Service - Directs the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service to develop and implement a plan to reorganize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which shall: (1) supersede any organization or reorganization of the IRS based on any statute or reorganization plan applicable on the effective date of this Act; (2) eliminate or substantially modify the existing organization of the IRS which is based on a national, regional, and district structure; (3) establish organizational units serving particular groups of taxpayers with similar needs; and (4) ensure an independent appeals function within the IRS, including the prohibition in the plan of ex parte communications between appeals officers and other IRS employees to the extent that such communications appear to compromise the independence of appeals officers.

(Sec. 1002) Directs the IRS to review and restate its mission to place a greater emphasis on serving the public and meeting taxpayers' needs.

Subtitle B: Executive Branch Governance and Senior Management - Amends the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to replace provisions providing for the appointment of a Commissioner of Internal Revenue with provisions establishing, within the Department of the Treasury, an Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board (the Board) which shall have nine members (appointed for five year terms) consisting of: (1) six non-Federal employees appointed by the President; (2) the Secretary of the Treasury or the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury; (3) the Commissioner of Internal Revenue; and (4) a full-time Federal employee or a representative of employees who is appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Directs the Board, in general, to oversee the IRS in its administration, management, conduct, direction, and supervision of the execution and application of the internal revenue laws and tax conventions. Directs the Board, in addition to: (1) ensure that the organization and operation of the IRS allows it to carry out its mission; and (2) ensure that appropriate confidentiality is maintained in the exercise of its duties. Prohibits the Board from having responsibility with respect to: (1) the development and formulation of Federal tax policy; (2) IRS law enforcement activities; (3) specific IRS procurement activities; or (4) specific personnel actions, except with respect to the matters listed in clause (3) of the next sentence. Sets forth the specific responsibilities of the Board, including: (1) reviewing and approving the strategic plans of the IRS; (2) reviewing the operational functions of the IRS; (3) recommending a Commissioner to the President, reviewing the Commissioner's selection, evaluation, and compensation of senior IRS personnel, and reviewing and approving any plan of the Commissioner for any major IRS reorganization); (4) reviewing and approving the IRS budget request; and (5) ensuring the proper treatment of taxpayers by IRS employees.

Amends the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit the disclosure of any return information to any Board member, subject to exceptions.

(Sec. 1102) Directs the President to appoint, for a term of five years (currently, there is no specified term limit), an IRS Commissioner who shall: (1) administer, manage, conduct, direct, and supervise the execution and application of the internal revenue laws and tax conventions; and (2) recommend to the President an IRS Chief Counsel, and recommend to the President the removal of such Chief Counsel.

Directs the IRS Chief Counsel to report directly to the Commissioner, subject to stated exceptions.

Reestablishes, within the IRS, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate which shall be under the direction of the National Taxpayer Advocate. Provides for a National Taxpayer Advocate and at least one local taxpayer advocate for each State. Directs such Office to: (1) assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the IRS; and (2) identify and propose changes to the IRS to mitigate the problems of taxpayers. Sets forth reporting requirements and additional responsibilities. Permits the National Taxpayer Advocate to issue a Taxpayer Assistance Order in cases of significant hardship (as defined).

Establishes reporting and auditing duties for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

(Sec. 1103) Amends the Inspector General Act of 1978 to establish, in the Department of the Treasury: (1) an Office of Inspector General of the Department of the Treasury; and (2) an Office of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Limits authority of the Secretary of the Treasury with respect to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Grants the Treasury Inspector General for Tax administration sole authority under the Inspector General Act of 1978 to conduct an audit or investigation of the IRS Oversight Board and the Chief Counsel for the IRS. Sets forth additional duties of such Inspector General, including conducting an audit or investigation relating to the IRS upon the request (requires a written explanation of any denial of such a request) of the IRS Commissioner or Oversight Board. Terminates the current Office of Chief Inspector of the IRS and provides for the transfer of personnel.

(Sec. 1104) Authorizes the Commissioner, unless otherwise prescribed by the Secretary, (currently, the Secretary) to employ the number of persons as is proper to administer and enforce the internal revenue laws.

(Sec. 1105) Prohibits any applicable person (defined as the President, Vice President, or an employee of either and any Level I Executive Schedule employee, except the U.S. Attorney General) from requesting any IRS employee to conduct or terminate any audit or investigation of a taxpayer. Requires any IRS employee receiving any such request to report to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Sets forth exceptions.

Subtitle C: Personnel Flexibilities - Amends Federal law concerning Government organization and employees to set forth special personnel flexibility provisions concerning the IRS which provide, among other things, for: (1) streamlined pay authority for critical positions; (2) recruitment, retention, relocation incentives, and relocation expenses; (3) performance awards for senior executives; and (4) a "broad-banded system" of classification and pay grouping for the general IRS workforce.

(Sec. 1202) Establishes voluntary separation incentives, effective through December 31, 2002.

(Sec. 1203) Requires termination of the employment of an IRS employee upon the final determination that such employee has committed certain acts or omissions, including: (1) failure to obtain required approval prior to a seizure; (2) making a false statement under oath concerning a material matter involving a taxpayer; (3) violating the constitutional or civil rights of a taxpayer; (4) falsifying or destroying documents to conceal mistakes; (5) assaulting a taxpayer; (6) threatening a taxpayer for the purpose of extracting personal gain; and (7) specified willful violations of the Internal Revenue Code.

(Sec. 1204) Prohibits using records of tax enforcement results to evaluate or set production quotas for IRS employees.

(Sec. 1205) Requires the IRS to implement an employee training program in customer service.

Title II: Electronic Filing - States that it is the policy of the Congress that paperless filing: (1) should be the preferred form of filing; (2) that by the year 2007, at least 80 percent of all returns should be filed electronically; and (3) should be encouraged by the IRS through cooperation with the private sector. Sets forth plans to achieve such goals and reporting requirements.

(Sec. 2002) Provides, with respect to electronic filing, for specified studies and reports.

(Sec. 2003) Set forth provisions concerning, among other things: (1) electronic signatures; (2) Internet availability of tax forms; (3) disclosure; (4) a return-free system for appropriate individuals; and (5) access to account information.

Title III: Taxpayer Protection and Rights - Taxpayer Bill of Rights 3 - Subtitle A: Burden of Proof - Places the burden of proof in any court proceeding, with respect to any factual issue relevant to ascertaining the income tax liability of a taxpayer, on the Secretary, but only if: (1) the taxpayer has complied with applicable substantiation requirements; (2) the taxpayer has maintained all required records and has cooperated fully with the Secretary with respect to an issue; and (3) in the case of a partnership, corporation, or trust meets the IRC definition of the term prevailing party.

Subtitle B: Proceedings by Taxpayers - Revises provisions concerning the awarding of reasonable attorney's fees to, among other things, increase from $110 to $125 the hourly rate cap on such fees.

(Sec. 3102) Permits civil damages (of up to $100,000) if any IRS employee, in connection with any collection activity, negligently disregards the IRC. (Currently, damages (of up to $1 million) are allowed only if the employee recklessly or intentionally disregards the IRC.) Permits such damages for an individual other than the taxpayer who is harmed by unauthorized collection activities.

(Sec. 3103) Increases, from $10,000 to $50,000, the amount in controversy permitted on the small case calendar.

(Sec. 3104) Sets forth provisions concerning actions with respect to certain estates which have elected the installment method of payment.

(Sec. 3105) Directs the IRS to amend its administrative procedures to provide that if, upon examination, the IRS proposes to an issuer that interest on previously issued obligations of such issuer is not excludable from gross income as interest on any State or local bond, the issuer of such obligations shall have an administrative appeal of right to a senior officer of the IRS Office of Appeals.

(Sec. 3106) Sets forth provisions concerning civil actions for the release of an erroneous lien.

Subtitle C: Relief for Innocent Spouses and for Taxpayers Unable to Manage Their Financial Affairs Due to Disabilities - Limits an electing innocent spouse's tax liability, if the election is found to have been validly made.

(Sec. 3202) Provides for the suspension of the statute of limitations for claiming a refund or credit during periods of a medically determined physical or mental impairment.

Subtitle D: Provisions Relating To Interest and Penalties - Establishes a net interest rate of zero on equivalent amounts of overpayment and underpayment existing for any period.

(Sec. 3302) Increases, by one percent, the overpayment rate payable to taxpayers other than corporations.

(Sec. 3303) Mitigates the penalty on an individual's failure to pay if an installment agreement is in effect.

(Sec. 3304) Permits a taxpayer (generally an employer) to designate the period to which each payroll tax deposit is to apply, thereby mitigating the current penalty for missing a deposit.

(Sec. 3305) Suspends interest and certain penalties if, one year after a return is filed or a return is due, the IRS has not sent the taxpayer a deficiency notice.

(Sec. 3306) Sets forth provisions concerning: (1) procedural requirements for imposition of penalties and additions to tax; (2) personal delivery of notice concerning failure to collect and pay over tax, or attempt to evade or defeat tax; (3) notice requirements concerning interest; and (4) abatement of interest on underpayments by taxpayers in a presidentially declared disaster area.

Subtitle E: Protections for Taxpayers Subject to Audit or Collection Activities - Requires notice of the filing of a lien no more than five business days after filing the notice of the lien. Grants a taxpayer up to 30 days following the five-day period to request a hearing. Requires any hearing to be conducted by an impartial officer. Requires notice and opportunity for a hearing before any levy is made.

(Sec. 3411) Extends the attorney-client privilege to tax communications between a taxpayer and a federally authorized tax practitioner.

(Sec. 3412) Prohibits the use of financial status or economic reality examination techniques to determine the existence of unreported income, unless there is a reasonable indication of unreported income.

(Sec. 3413) Prohibits, as a general rule, issuing a summons in a tax matter for any computer software source code.

(Sec. 3414) Prohibits threatening to audit a taxpayer in an attempt to coerce the taxpayer into a Tip Reporting Alternative Commitment Agreement.

(Sec. 3415) Sets forth provisions concerning: (1) permitting taxpayer motions to quash third-party summonses; (2) service to third-party recordkeepers by mail; and (3) requiring notice to third-parties prior to the IRS contacting such parties.

(Sec. 3421) Requires a supervisor's approval of before an IRS employee can file a lien.

(Sec. 3431) Increases to: (1) $6,250 the value of personal effects exempt from levy; and (2) $3,125 the value of books and tools of a trade exempt from levy.

(Sec. 3432) Requires the IRS to release as soon as practicable an uncollectible wage levy upon agreement that the levy is not collectible.

(Sec. 3433) Prohibits an IRS levy if there is a pending refund proceeding. Sets forth other provisions concerning an IRS levy.

(Sec. 3441) Prohibits the IRS from selling seized property at less than the minimum bid price.

(Sec. 3442) Sets forth provisions concerning: (1) an accounting to the taxpayer of the sale of the taxpayer's seized property; (2) implementation of a uniform asset disposal mechanism; and (3) codification of IRS administrative procedures requiring investigation of the status of property before seizure.

(Sec. 3445) Prohibits seizure of real property used as a residence by the taxpayer or any real property of the taxpayer (other than rented real property) used by any other individual as a residence if the amount of the levy does not exceed $5,000. Permits the seizure of principal residence if a judge or magistrate of a U.S. district court approves. Permits the seizure of business assets only: (1) with the approval of a district or assistant IRS district director; or (2) the collection of the tax is in jeopardy. Permits approval of a levy under clause (1) only if the official determines that the taxpayer's other assets (including future income which may be derived by the taxpayer from the commercial sale of fish or wildlife under a State permit) subject to collection are insufficient to pay the amount due.

(Sec. 3461) Repeals the current IRC provision permitting the IRS and a taxpayer to agree to extend the statute of limitations on collections, except in connection with an installment agreement.

(Sec. 3462) Directs the Secretary to: (1) prescribe guidelines for IRS officers and employees to determine whether an offer-in-compromise is adequate; and (2) in prescribing such guidelines, to develop and publish local and national allowances schedules designed to provide that taxpayers entering into a compromise have an adequate means to provide for basic living expenses. Prohibits, as specified, an IRS levy if there is a pending offer-in-compromise. Provides for the review of rejected offers-in-compromise.

(Sec. 3463) Requires each deficiency notice to specify the last date on which a taxpayer can file a petition with the Tax Court.

(Sec. 3465) Requires IRS procedures by which any taxpayer may request early referral of unresolved issues from the examination or collection division to the IRS Office of Appeals.

(Sec. 3466) Provides for the application of certain Fair Debt Collections Practices Act procedures to the IRS.

(Sec. 3467) Requires the IRS to enter into installment payment agreements in specified instances, including that the liability is $10,000 or less and full payment will be made within three years.

(Sec. 3468) Prohibits any U.S. employee from requesting a taxpayer to waive the taxpayer's right to bring a civil action against a U.S. employee or against the United States for any action taken in connection with the internal revenue laws.

Subtitle F: Disclosures to Taxpayers - Requires the establishment of procedures to clearly alert married taxpayers of their joint and several liabilities on all appropriate publications and instructions.

(Sec. 3502) Requires a revision of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights contained in IRS Publication No. 1 so that it more clearly informs taxpayers of their rights to be represented at interviews and to suspend an interview. Requires: (1) the inclusion in such publication of a statement which sets forth in simple terms the procedure and criteria for selecting taxpayers for examination; and (2) the submission of drafts of such statement to specified congressional committees.

(Sec. 3504) Requires the inclusion, with any first letter of deficiency allowing a taxpayer an opportunity for administrative review in the IRS Office of Appeals, of an explanation of the appeals process with respect to such proposed deficiency.

(Sec. 3506) Requires: (1) annual balance statements to taxpayers with installment agreements; (2) notification of the selection of a tax matters partner; and (3) an explanation to taxpayers of when return information may be disclosed to any party outside the IRS.

(Sec. 3509) Provides for the public inspection of Chief Counsel advice. Defines such advice. Sets forth privacy provisions.

Subtitle G: Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics - Authorizes the Secretary, subject to the availability of appropriated funds, to make grants to provide matching funds for the development, expansion, or continuation of qualified low income taxpayer clinics.

Subtitle H: Other Matters - Requires the cataloging of taxpayer complaints of misconduct by IRS employees on an individual employee basis.

(Sec. 3702) Permits the disclosure of return information to the National Archives and Records Administration to determine if such information should be retained or destroyed.

(Sec. 3705) Requires any IRS notice sent to a taxpayer to include the name and telephone number of an IRS employee for the taxpayer to contact.

(Sec. 3707) Prohibits the designation, by the IRS, of a taxpayer as an illegal tax protester.

(Sec. 3709) Requires the listing of local IRS phone numbers and addresses.

(Sec. 3711) Provides for the payment of legally enforceable past-due State income tax obligations from Federal tax overpayments.

(Sec. 3712) Sets forth provisions concerning reporting requirements in connection with the education tax credit.

Subtitle I: Studies - Provides for studies and the reporting of findings concerning: (1) penalty administration; (2) taxpayer confidentiality; (3) noncompliance (including willful noncompliance and noncompliance due to tax law complexity or other factors) by taxpayers with tax laws; and (4) payments made for the detection of underpayments and fraud.

Title IV: Congressional Accountability for the Internal Revenue Service - Subtitle A: Oversight - Directs the Joint Committee on Taxation to review all requests for investigations of the IRS by the General Accounting Office and approve such requests when appropriate. Provides, for a six-year period, for joint (including majority and minority members from specified committees) annual reviews of the strategic plans and budget of the IRS.

(Sec. 4002) Revises the duties of the Joint Committee on Taxation to require a report: (1) at least once every Congress on the overall state of the Federal tax system; and (2) annually, for a six-year period, concerning the plans, objectives, service, and other matters related to the IRS.

Subtitle B: Century Date Change - Expresses the sense of the Congress that the IRS: (1) should place a high priority on resolving the century date change computing problems (Year 2000 - Y2K problems); and (2) efforts to resolve the century date change computing problems (Year 2000 - Y2K problems) should be fully funded.

Subtitle C: Tax Law Complexity - Expresses the sense of the Congress that the IRS should provide the Congress with an independent view of tax administration, and that during the legislative process, the tax writing committees of the Congress should hear from IRS experts with respect to pending IRC amendments.

(Sec. 4022) Directs the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to annually conduct a study of the sources of the complexity in administration of the Federal tax laws.

Title V: Additional Provisions - Makes property held for more than one year (instead of 18 months) eligible for the 10, 20, and 25 percent capital gain rates.

(Sec. 5002) Permits the exclusion from an employee's income of meals furnished to such employee by an employer on the business premises of the employer only if more than one-half of the employees to whom such meals are furnished on such premises are furnished meals for the convenience of the employer.

(Sec. 5003) Expresses the sense of the Congress that: (1) the language used in the U.S. laws, treaties, agreements, executive orders, directives, and regulations should more clearly reflect the underlying principles of U.S. trade policy; and (2) the term "normal trade relations" should be substituted for the term "most-favored-nation." Amends various Acts to reflect such policy.

Title VI: Technical Corrections - Tax Technical Corrections Act of 1998 - Amends the IRC, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (which primarily amended the IRC), and other tax legislation to revise provisions concerning, among other things: (1) credits for children; (2) education incentives; (3) savings and investment incentives; (4) the alternative minimum tax; (5) estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes; (6) incentives for the revitalization of the District of Columbia; (7) excise taxes; (8) financial products; (9) corporate organizations and reorganizations; (10) foreign investments and tax credits; (11) pensions and employee benefits; and (12) unused business credits.

Makes such revisions effective as if included in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, with exceptions.

Title VII: Revenue Provisions - Provides that no amount shall be treated as deferred compensation until it is actually received by the employee.

(Sec. 7002) Revises provisions concerning the treatment of a stapled real estate investment trust (REIT) structure.

(Sec. 7003) Makes certain trade receivables ineligible for mark-to-market treatment.

(Sec. 7004) Modifies the method of determining the adjusted gross income limit for a Roth IRA.

Title VIII: Identification of Limited Tax Benefits Subject to Line Item Veto - Amends provisions of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (added by the Line Item Veto Act) to declare provisions of such Act which permit the President to cancel any limited tax benefit (upon making specified determinations) inapplicable to provisions of the following sections of this Act: (1) 3105 (concerning the administrative appeal of an adverse IRS determination of the tax-exempt status of a bond issue); and (2) 3445 (concerning State fish and wildlife permits).

Title IX: Technical Corrections to Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century - TEA 21 Restoration Act - Amends the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century to increase the authorization of appropriations for FY 1998 through 2003 for the High Priority Projects Program. Increases the FY 1998 authorization of appropriations for Highway Use Tax Evasion Projects.

(Sec. 9002) Increases obligation ceilings for FY 1999 through 2003 for Federal-aid highway programs. Declares that such obligations shall remain available for a period of three fiscal years.

Sets a $1 million minimum for State apportionments for Interstate maintenance, national highway system, bridge, congestion mitigation and air quality improvement, surface transportation, metropolitan planning, minimum guarantee, high priority projects, Appalachian development highway system, and recreational trails programs.

Directs the Secretary of Transportation: (1) on October 15 of FY 2000 and each fiscal year thereafter, to allocate for such fiscal year an amount of funds determined under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act), for distribution if the determined amount for such fiscal year is greater than zero; and (2) if the determined amount for such fiscal years is less than zero, to reduce proportionately, on October 1 of the succeeding fiscal year, the amount of sums authorized to be appropriated from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) (other than the Mass Transit Account) to carry out each of the Federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs (other than emergency relief) by an aggregate amount equal to the determined amount.

Postpones from April 1, 1998, to August 1, 1998, the deadline for the Secretary to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the development and maintenance by the IRS of an excise fuel reporting system.

Amends the Secretary's mandate to reserve funds for projects to replace and rehabilitate deficient Indian reservation road bridges to specify, as an alternative to applying calcium magnesium acetate or sodium acetate-formate, any other environmentally acceptable, minimally corrosive anti-icing and de-icing compositions.

(Sec. 9003) Directs the Secretary to: (1) collect and disseminate information, foster educational programs, and conduct research, and study techniques, on protecting historic covered bridges from rot, fire, natural disasters, or weight-related damage; and (2) make grants to applicant States demonstrating a need for assistance to rehabilitate or repair, or preserve, one or more historic covered bridges. Authorizes appropriations.

Authorizes the Secretary, upon request by the Mayor of the District of Columbia, to approve Interstate System (IS) substitute highway and transit projects (with an 85 percent Federal share of costs) in lieu of construction of the Barney Circle Freeway project.

Amends Federal law to repeal the requirement that State bond interest be included in the Federal share of costs on the construction of Interstate and National Highway System projects.

Requires any Federal-aid highway funds released by the final payment on a project (or by modification of the project agreement) to be credited to the same program funding category previously apportioned to the State and be immediately available for expenditure.

Repeals the requirement that the Secretary advance to a requesting State 100 percent of the cost of construction of a toll bridge or toll tunnel that is necessary to complete an essential gap in the IS.

Repeals the requirement that Federal aid for highway construction be extended only to States that use their motor vehicle registration fees, licenses, gasoline taxes, and other special taxes on motor-vehicle owners and operators for the construction and maintenance of State highways.

Repeals the extension of the winter home heating oil delivery program.

Requires the Texas State Highway 99 (also known as "Grand Parkway") to be considered as one option in the I-69 route studies performed by the Texas Department of Transportation for the designation of I-69 Bypass in Houston, Texas.

Authorizes appropriations from the HTF (other than the Mass Transit Account) for: (1) the High Priority Las Vegas Intermodal Center in Las Vegas, Nevada; and (2) certain seismic design and engineering and deployment projects.

Sets forth a certain formula for the apportionment of Federal aid to the Puerto Rico highway program.

Authorizes appropriations from the HTF (other than the Mass Transit Account) for: (1) implementing traffic calming measures in Fauquier and Loudoun Counties, Virginia; (2) a pedestrian bridge over U.S. Route 29 at Emmet Street in Charlottesville, Virginia; (3) construction of the Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway interpretive center located on the Roanoke River Gorge in Virginia; and (4) the renovation and preservation of the Missouri Route 66 Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Earmarks specified amounts to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission with respect to the six-year suspension of toll collection for travel between specified points along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Earmarks specified amounts to the Secretary to make grants for the research and development of low-speed superconductivity magnetic levitation (MAGLEV) technology for public transportation in urban areas to demonstrate energy efficiency, congestion mitigation, and safety benefits. Authorizes appropriations for specified related noncontract authority.

Allows transportation assistance to State and local governments hosting an official venue of the Special Olympics International.

(Sec. 9004) Directs the Secretary to establish criteria and a selection process (conforming, to the extent practicable, to Executive Order No. 12893 with respect to infrastructure investment) for discretionary programs funded from the HTF (other than the Mass Transit Account) that at a minimum apply to: (1) the intelligent transportation system deployment program; (2) the national corridor planning and development program; (3) the coordinated border infrastructure and safety program; (4) the construction of ferry boats and ferry terminal facilities; (5) the national scenic byways program; (6) the Interstate discretionary program; and (7) the discretionary bridge program.

Directs the Secretary to develop and implement a coordinated environmental review process for mass transit projects.

(Sec. 9005) Requires each State to have in effect a law that prohibits the possession of any open alcoholic beverage container, or the consumption of such beverages in the passenger area of motor vehicles on public highways. Requires the Secretary, if a State has not enacted or is not enforcing such a law, to transfer specified increasing percentages of a State's National Highway program, surface transportation program, and IS apportionments to its highway safety program apportionment to be: (1) used for alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures; (2) directed to State and local law enforcement agencies for enforcement of laws prohibiting driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence and other related laws; or (3) at the election of the State, used for hazard elimination programs.

Sets forth analogous requirements for States which have not enacted or are not enforcing minimum penalties for repeat offenders for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence.

(Sec. 9006) Directs the Secretary to award a grant to the Minnesota Historical Society for the establishment of the Minnesota Transportation History Network to include major exhibits, interpretive programs at national historic landmark sites, and outreach programs with county and local historical organizations. Authorizes appropriations.

Decreases the authorization of appropriations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to pave the entrance road to the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.

(Sec. 9009) Amends the Federal Transit Act of 1998 to direct the Secretary to: (1) establish with the Federal land management agencies that have jurisdiction over land in the Lake Tahoe region a transportation planning process for the region; and (2) coordinate the transportation planning process with the State and local government planning process. Grants congressional consent to California and Nevada to designate by interstate compact a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the region. Requires the MPO's policy board to include a representative of each Federal land management agency that has jurisdiction over land in the Lake Tahoe region.

Permits the use of up to one percent of Nevada's apportionment for public lands highways to carry out the transportation planning process (including highway projects developed in transportation plans) for the Lake Tahoe region.

Amends Federal transportation law to allow an MPO's long-range metropolitan area financial plan to include, for illustrative purposes, additional projects that would be included in the adopted long-range plan if reasonable additional resources beyond those identified in the financial plan were available. Requires the MPO and the State cooperatively to develop estimates of funds that will be available to support long-range plan implementation. Declares that a State or MPO shall not be required to select a project from the illustrative list of additional projects.

Requires an MPO, public transit agency, and the State, for purposes of developing a transportation improvement program, to cooperatively develop estimates of funds that are reasonably expected to be available to support program implementation.

Amends the Federal Transit Act of 1998 to revise transportation project selection procedures to require MPOs to consult with affected public transit operators when selecting such projects from an approved transportation improvement program.

Authorizes the Secretary to make grants for FY 1998 to finance the operating cost of equipment and facilities for use in mass transportation in an urbanized area with a population of at least 200,000.

Earmarks up to eight percent of capital project funds for new fixed guideway systems and extensions to existing fixed guideway systems for activities other than final design and construction.

Earmarks specified funds for capital projects in Alaska or Hawaii for new fixed guideway systems and extensions to existing fixed guideway systems that are ferry boats or ferry terminal facilities, or that are approaches to ferry terminal facilities.

Directs the Comptroller General (currently, the Secretary of Transportation) to report to specified congressional committees on the dollar value of mobility improvements and their relationship to the overall transportation justification of a new fixed guideway system or extension to an existing system.

Makes specified advanced technology pilot project funds available from the HTF for transportation research, training, and curriculum development at specified institutions of higher learning.

Renames the National Mass Transportation Institute program as the National Transit Institute program.

Requires the pilot program to determine the benefits of using funds from the HTF Mass Transit Account for intercity passenger rail to be confined to a single State (Oklahoma).

Requires a mass transportation grant recipient, when awarding a procurement contract, to maximize efficiencies of administration by accepting nondisputed audits conducted by other government agencies.

Increases from 600,000 to 900,000 the maximum number of total bus revenue vehicle-miles operated in or directly serving an urbanized area with a population of at least 200,000 to make such area eligible for a formula grant to finance the operating costs of equipment and facilities for use in mass transportation.

Renames the urban block grant program as the urban formula grant program.

Revises authorization of appropriations for FY 1998 through 2003 for various mass transit programs.

Earmarks specified sums of university transportation research grant amounts for each fiscal year for specified named university transportation centers.

Decreases the authorization of appropriations for FY 1999 through 2003 for capital projects for new fixed guideway systems and extensions to existing fixed guideway systems.

Authorizes specified additional projects for final design and construction and alternative analysis and preliminary engineering for specified new fixed guideway systems and extensions to existing fixed guideway systems under the New Starts program.

Authorizes appropriations for the rural transportation accessibility incentive program for FY 1999 through 2003 for operators of over-the-road buses used substantially or exclusively in intercity, fixed-route over-the-road bus service (including operators of other over-the-road bus service) to finance the incremental capital and training costs of DOT's final rules regarding accessibility of over-the-road buses.

Revises obligation ceilings for FY 2000 and 2002.

(Sec. 9011) Amends the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century to decrease the FY 1998 through 2003 authorization of appropriations for university transportation research.

Revises obligation ceilings.

Authorizes the Secretary to use up to 25 percent of certain transportation funds to make available loans, lines of credit, and loan guarantees for projects that are eligible for assistance and that have significant intelligent transportation system elements.

Makes West Virginia University Institute of Technology, the College of West Virginia, and Bluefield State College eligible to receive grants to establish university transportation centers.

Revises the authorization of appropriations to the Oklahoma State University for FY 2001 and 2002 for certain bridge projects.

Authorizes appropriations for FY 1998 through 2003 for continuation of certain studies of the fundamental properties of asphalt and modified asphalts.

(Sec. 9013) Decreases outlays for FY 1999 and 2000 for nondefense and discretionary spending categories.

(Sec. 9014) Amends Federal law relating to veterans' benefits to provide that a veteran's disability or death shall not be considered service-connected on the basis that it resulted from injury or disease attributable to the use of tobacco products by the veteran during active duty.

Increases (by 20 percent) the rates of survivors and dependents educational assistance.