Posts Tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

Legislative update: Where national bills of importance stand

Here’s a quick update on where legislation important to SMART Transportation Division members stands on a national level:

The Safe Freight Act in the U.S. House (H.R. 1748), national two-person crew legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young in March, has 60 co-sponsors consisting of 56 Democrats and 4 Republicans. It has been referred to the House’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act has versions in both the U.S. House (H.R. 1139) and in the U.S. Senate (S. 436). It is intended to protect bus and transit operators from assault through various strategies and requires that both rail and bus transit agencies (those not covered by the FRA) create risk-reduction plans to protect operators and that the agencies submit those plans to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval. The Senate version has 13 co-sponsors since its introduction in February, while the House version has 145 co-sponsors since its February introduction. The Senate version has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, while the House version has been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

The Railroad Yardmaster Protection Act of 2019 (H.R. 2449), which covers yardmaster hours of service, was introduced in early May and has two co-sponsors. It has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

Remember that your elected officials need to hear from you about these issues that matter to your safety in the workplace. An easy way to do this is by emailing your legislators through the SMART TD Legislative Action Center, but phone calls and face-to-face meetings help drive the point home even more.

Amtrak, transportation benefit from omnibus spending bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress passed and President Trump signed into law Friday a bipartisan spending agreement also known as the “omnibus” spending bill that provides a massive boost toward several of our union’s priorities, including transportation infrastructure projects, the Railroad Retirement Board and the National Mediation Board.

With the growing demand by our nation’s leaders to address infrastructure needs, the omnibus provides a major boost to funding passenger rail and transit projects such as $1.9 billion for Amtrak, including $650 million for projects in the Northeast Corridor.

This will provide much-needed funding for the Gateway Project that will double passenger train service between New York and New Jersey to reduce congestion while making repairs to tunnels and tracks that are long overdue. For our bus and transit members, the bill provides $2.6 billion to fund major transit capital investments, including heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars and bus rapid transit projects nationwide.

In addition, the Railroad Retirement Board received a $10 million boost that will allow the agency to phase out its decades-old hardware systems with modernized Information Technology services to provide and disburse benefits to our railroad retirees in a timely manner. Lastly, the omnibus provides the National Mediation Board with $13.8 million that includes the sustained $570,000 funding increase to address the arbitration backlog.

“The SMART TD National Legislative Office continues to inform lawmakers about the importance of funding transit and passenger rail that are vital to our union membership and the nation’s transportation workforce at large. We will continue working to ensure that Congress addresses the full needs of our rail workers by increasing resources for the National Mediation Board and Railroad Retirement Board so that our members receive the services they earned and deserve,” SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch said.

ACTION NEEDED: Tax bill takes away from unemployment fund

The Republican tax bill would result in millions of dollars in cuts to the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and take funds away from out-of-work employees. Tell your senators and representatives to VOTE NO.

Next week, the House and Senate are expected to vote on a tax bill that is expected to add $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion to the federal deficit in the form of corporate and individual tax cuts. According to estimates, the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund could lose as much as $9 million without any subsequent action by Congress under a 2010 budget process known as sequestration.

“Required spending reductions would significantly exceed the total resources available to be sequestered,” said Michele Neuendorf, a Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) labor member counsel, in an email. “This would have the practical result of a 100% sequestration of all non-exempt direct spending accounts including the funds from the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund which is used to pay unemployment and sickness benefits.”

Under the federal “Pay-As-You-Go” (PAYGO) Act of 2010, federal spending is required to balance or offset any increases to the federal budget deficit (also known as sequestration). As a result, the tax bill would trigger automatic budget cuts across all federal programs including the RRB’s Railroad Unemployment Trust Fund, which is targeted for a 6.6 percent cut or approximately $9 million in the 2018 fiscal year by the administration.

“This tax proposal is Robin Hood caught in reverse,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch. “It would take from the poor and give to the rich. If the tax bill becomes law, the railroads will still be able to deduct money that they spend on union-busting lawyers while our members will no longer be able to deduct their union dues. The corporate tax rate for the big railroads will go from 35% to 21% while ours will stay the same with fewer deductions.”

It also means that $9 million intended for ailing and unemployed rail workers doesn’t go where it was supposed to. Instead it will go into the pockets of corporations and the well-to-do.

“Every person in America should be outraged that the Republican tax bill will borrow $1.5 trillion to $2.5 trillion to fund tax cuts for the wealthy while leaving no room for future federal investments toward infrastructure projects such as airports, transit systems, and passenger railroads,” Risch said. “I’ve been in the business of government policy since the 1980s and this is simply the worst tax proposal I have ever seen. Economists across the political spectrum are condemning this plan and the Republicans are so desperate for some sort of ‘win’ they are moving forward with little to no transparency or accountability to their constituents.”

Time is running out. A vote is planned for next week. Call your senators and representatives and urge them to vote against the tax bill.

Find out who your members of Congress are by accessing the SMART-TD Legislative Action Center or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.