Two-person freight crew safety legislation is one step closer to becoming law in Colorado with the state Senate’s passage of House Bill 1034 (H.B. 1034).
After its 19-15 passage on Feb. 25 in the Senate, the bill is on the desk of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis for consideration after a successful March 4 reconciliation vote in the House.
Polis has three options — signing the bill to make it state law, vetoing the bill or not signing the bill. If he chooses not to sign the bill, it will then become law after 10 days of inaction.
“We need to let the governor know that this is a grassroots effort with the safety of the public in mind,” Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith said.
Through the process, members in the state, as well as their families and friends, have been instrumental in supporting the efforts of the Colorado State Legislative Board to get the two-person crew bill through the Legislature and onto the governor’s desk.
Help is needed one more time for that final push. Members, their families and friends in Colorado all can voice their support for the legislation by following the link below:
Smith said that he is optimistic that Polis, who as a U.S. representative was a co-sponsor of the 2017 Safe Freight Act legislation, will support the bill once he hears from SMART members, their families and anyone else in the state who is concerned about rail safety.
H.B. 1034 first passed the Colorado House on Feb. 5 by a 39-23 vote.
Amtrak has informed federal, state and local officials along the route of the daily Chicago-to-Los Angeles Southwest Chief that it will provide matching funds to enable a federal grant to be awarded for safety and reliability upgrades in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, the carrier said in a news release Feb. 27.
The funds available to upgrade the route came after Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the FY2019 Appropriations Act, which included funding for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail, earlier in the month.
The legislation set aside at least $50 million of its National Network grant for improvements to the Southwest Chief route. Amtrak is using $3 million of these funds to match a $16 million grant successfully sought by these states, counties and cities and awarded to Colfax County, N.M. The grant and matching funds from the partners will result in an investment of more than $26 million in preserving the daily route from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Amtrak and BNSF Railway began community discussions regarding safety and other infrastructure improvements in 2011. Since then, more than $80 million has been committed from U.S. Department of Transportation grant programs, state and local governments, Amtrak and BNSF.
As reported in prior articles published on the SMART Transportation Division website and in the SMART TD News, Amtrak has been considering “bus bridges” on portions of the route or the potential discontinuation of the route altogether.
“We’re glad it’s getting funds to go through Colorado,” said Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith. “We’re supportive of all measures to continuing the Chief’s service through our state.”
Amtrak said in the release that it will use the newly available federal capital funding to continue needed work on the next route segment in New Mexico.
The carrier said in its release it is working on a long-term financial plan with state and local partners to address the unique challenges of the Southwest Chief route, particularly where Amtrak is the only user of BNSF tracks in Colorado and New Mexico.
State Legislative Director Carl Smith is urging all members from Colorado to contact their state representatives and ask them to support the state’s two-person crew bill, H.B. 1034. Smith says that members, their families and friends are encouraged to visit www.corailsafe.com to contact their legislators about supporting this bill.
Better yet, union members can come out in person to express their support, Smith said.
The bill, which was introduced Jan. 4 by state Reps. Tom Sullivan and Daneya Esgar, is set to be heard by the House Transportation Committee at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the Colorado State Capitol, 200 East Colfax, Denver.
“We will meet in the basement at 11:30 a.m.,” Smith said. “You and everyone you know that cares about railroad safety must contact your state legislator by phone, letter or email before this date to tell them to support H.B. 1034. We need everyone! You, your family, your friends and neighbors.
On Jan. 9, the Colorado State Legislative Board released the results of a survey that showed strong support among Coloradans for a law requiring two-person crews. The survey, conducted Jan. 2 – Jan. 5, 2019, asked 550 random Colorado residents older than 18 using both cell phones and landlines about issues centered around railroad safety. The results showed that 77 percent of Coloradans said that, given the chance, they would vote in favor of a two-person crew law.
“More than three of four respondents to this poll understand the safety benefits of having more than one person operating a freight train. Safety is a top priority for them and requiring all trains in the state to be operated by a crew of at least two people, no exceptions, makes perfect sense,” Smith said in a press release about the survey results.
To keep the state’s rails safe, legislators need to hear about the importance of keeping two people operating freight trains. Now is your chance to make your voice heard!
The goal of this type of legislation ultimately is to reduce your wages – to take money out of your pocket and to further line the pocketbooks of businesses at your expense. Right to Work For Less bills are falsely portrayed by their corporate-friendly backers as anti-discriminatory or as preserving individual rights. In reality, this kind of legislation is a thinly-veiled attempt to bust unions, to jeopardize union members’ livelihoods by making workplaces more dangerous and to maximize business profits by paying you less.
In 2008, Colorado voters were on our side and overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative that tried to install Right to Work For Less legislation in the state.
But since then, Smith said, misguided anti-union legislators have continued to introduce Right To Work For Less bills.
In this latest attempt, Colorado Rep. Justin Everett and state Sen. Tim Neville, both Republicans, are the primary sponsors. Everett’s office phone number is 303-866-2927. Neville’s is 303-866-4873.
Ten additional representatives and two additional senators also are signed on as sponsors of HB18-1030.
Once we have come together to crush this legislative attack on our union and others, SMART TD members in Colorado are encouraged to remember this betrayal and to vote accordingly the next time they see these politicians’ names on the ballot.
Joanne Mary Johnson, 65, the wife of former Colorado State Legislative Director Rick Johnson, died September 8, 2015. Joanne is survived by her husband, brothers Dan and Bob Badger, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by brother David Badger.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 11 a.m. at Horan & McConaty funeral home, 3101 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood, CO 80227.
Rick has been a member of Local 202 (Denver) since June of 1975 and has held many positions within the union until his retirement in September of 2012.
Click here to view Joanne’s obituary and to leave condolences for the family.
Funding to save the Southwest Chief did not make it into the budget proposed by the Colorado legislature this week, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith reports.
“We must now seek support from Gov. Hickenlooper and the Joint Budget Committee, which will review appropriation requests beyond the current proposed budget,” Smith said. “We need to get their attention and approval as soon as possible. Please call the governor and the following legislators and ask them to fund the Southwest Chief Commission.
“This train is essential to Colorado’s transportation system,” Smith said. “You might also remind Gov. Hickenlooper that he committed to finding funding for the train at the bill signing last year.”
Hickenlooper’s office phone number is (303) 866-2471.
For funding to pass, the bill needs the support of the following members from the state’s Joint Budget Committee:
Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith asks that all members from the state call or email key legislators to pass the bill funding Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.
“A bill to save the Southwest Chief will be heading to the Colorado Legislature’s Senate Appropriations Committee very soon. We need you to contact key legislators today to help save Amtrak service in Colorado,” Smith said.
“As you may know, SMART Transportation Division and our partners have been working over the past several years to save passenger rail in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. After a lot of hard work, we now have a bill that gets the fight to preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief over the line in Colorado. State Sens. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) and Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) have introduced Senate Bill 176, a bill that will fund the remaining portion of Colorado’s share of capital costs to save Amtrak for Colorado’s passengers. The bill was endorsed by the Transportation Committee last month, but now it needs to pass the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can reach the full State Senate.
“Your voice will make the difference! Following negotiations, advocates for rail service have managed to cut Colorado’s total share of costs to rehabilitate the Southwest Chief’s tracks from $40 million to $8.9 million. This is a huge victory for passengers, and it only happened because of the federal grant that Southeastern Colorado communities successfully applied for in 2014 in collaboration with Kansas, Amtrak, and BNSF Railway.
“Please take a moment today and contact the following senators via email and phone (it’s fine to leave a message):
Armed with polling data obtained by SMART?Transportation Division?political consultant Dean Mitchell of DFM?Research, Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith and Assistant Legislative Director Charlie Skidmore Sept. 14 presented community leaders from Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico, convened in Pueblo, with data showing large support for funding of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service.
“With the knowledge that state and local politicians from Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico would be attending this event, Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo and myself had discussions with Dean Mitchell at the Anaheim regional meeting about doing a survey to show the politicians from our respective states the support the public has for Amtrak, even in the most conservative districts,” Smith said.
The surveys were conducted in Colorado’s 4th District and Kansas’ 1st and 2nd Districts, home to traditionally conservative voters between September 3 and September 10. About 800 adults responded to the survey, 400 in Colorado and 200 in each of the Kansas districts polled.
The survey found that people had a favorable view of Amtrak and high speed rail, with 44 percent of people polled stating that passenger service should increase and 40 percent stating that it should remain the same. Only four percent of those polled stated that the service should be eliminated, while 12 percent were unsure of what should happen.
Seventy-one percent of those interviewed said they would support additional service in the cities of Denver and Kansas City.
Forty-five percent of those polled said that their state governments should provide some funding for Amtrak and 49 percent were in favor of keeping the current levels of government funding. Of the 45 percent that said their state should contribute to the funding of Amtrak, 83 percent stated that they supported their states providing up to one third of one percent of the state transportation budget to keep daily Amtrak service.
“The survey was well worth the expense and will be a valuable tool for the state directors of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico to present to state legislatures and governors when discussing funding for Southwest Chief service,”?Smith said.
Smith also presented the findings to attendees at the Labor Initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party event held Sept. 18.