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CA Sues Trump Admin over High-Speed Rail Funds

The Trump Administration stopped federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project. Now the state is suing to get that money back.

 

Earlier this decade, California voters approved $10 billion in funding for a statewide high-speed rail system. In the intervening years, the price tag for this system has skyrocketed to over $75 billion. The Obama Administration had promised $3.5 billion in federal stimulus funding for this project. Last week, the Trump Administration revoked over $900 million that has been unspent, citing what it called mismanagement by the state.

 

Today California filed suit, seeking an injunction to prevent the federal government from revoking these funds. The state says it is being punished by the Trump Administration because state officials have taken stances opposing the president on issues such as immigration. Critics of the state say, however, that there is clear evidence that California has indeed mismanaged these funds and that the rail project is a boondoggle.

 

Should the government build high-speed rail projects? Do you think the Trump Administration removed high-speed rail funds to punish California officials for opposing the president on other issues?

California Kills High-Speed Rail Plans

A high-speed rail system was supposed to connect the state’s two major cities and places in between. But with the cost skyrocketing and prospects for completion years in the future, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he was scaling back the state’s efforts to build an expansive high-speed rail network.

 

In 2008, voters approved an initiative that set aside $10 billion dollars for a network of high-speed trains that run from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Promised federal money largely failed to materialized, and the cost of the system rose to $77 billion (with projections that it could possibly cost more). Completion of the total system would not occur until 2029.

 

Governor Newsom announced that the state should focus on the section connecting Bakersfield and Merced, which has already been started. He made vague promises of continuing to look at completing the rest of the project, but he has criticized the plan in the past for being too expensive.

 

Supporters of this high-speed rail network say that it is necessary to provide affordable public transit for people in California. They say the state could serve as a model for a more environmentally-friendly mode of transportation. Critics point out that high-speed rail lines are very expensive to build and are unlikely to attract the projected number of users. They also say that these would have to be heavily subsidized to continue operation.

 

California’s experience with high-speed rail resonated nationally because proponents of the “Green New Deal” have touted this mode of transportation as a way to reduce air travel.

 

Do you think that high-speed rail lines should be built in the U.S.? Are the high costs of high-speed rail worth it? Is rail a more environmentally-friendly way to get around the U.S.?

Idea to End Gasoline-Powered Cars Floated in Massachusetts

In 2040, there will be no more gasoline-powered cars or light trucks in Massachusetts. At least, that is what a state commission is recommending as a goal for state transportation policy.

 

Governor Charlie Baker assembled the group to examine the future of transportation in the Bay State. This panel recently released a host of recommendations to reshape the state’s transportation policy with an eye on reducing carbon emissions.

 

One of the proposals is to phase out the use of cars and light trucks that are powered by gasoline and instead phase in the use of electric vehicles. The state could do this by offering financial incentives for people to purchase these vehicles. They group also recommended more electric charging stations around the state as well as converting the state government fleet into electric vehicles.

 

Supporters of the increased use of electric vehicles argue that only by moving away from burning fossil fuels can the U.S. combat climate change. They say that with cars and trucks emitting large amounts of carbon, it only makes sense to use electric vehicles if the state is going to get serious about lowering carbon emissions. Skeptics of the plan say that it will be very expensive to make this type of change. They also note that the electricity that powers electric vehicles may be produced by burning coal, which also emits carbon.

 

The goal of the commission is to consider ways to reduce congestion as well as to lower the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Among the group’s recommendations to deal with congestion is to impose congestion pricing for drivers into Boston, which would mean drivers entering at more popular times would pay higher tolls.

 

Governor Baker has not endorsed any of the report’s recommendations.

 

Do you think that states should set a goal to phase out the use of gasoline-powered cars? Should the government offer subsidies for people who purchase electric cars?

New York Fails to Renew Speed Cameras

 

Speed cameras in New York City school zones will soon be shut off. Legislators failed to approve a bill to renew these cameras’ authorization. Community activists and the city’s mayor have pushed for these cameras to be continued, but lawmakers left Albany at the end of their legislative session without acting. Unless they return for a special session, the speed camera experiment in the Big Apple will be over.

 

Five years ago, the state legislature authorized the operation of speed cameras in 20 New York City school zones. This number was later expanded to 140 school zones. These cameras automatically ticket drivers going over 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in streets around schools. They operate during school days, one hour before school starts and one hour after school ends.

 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a vocal proponent of these cameras, but he had no authority to put them in place. That authority rests with the state, and legislators had to act to renew the program this year. They did not do so.

 

Some members of the community where these cameras are located lobbied legislators for reauthorization. They say that the cameras make school zones safer, pointing to a reducing in accidents over the past five years. Opponents of the cameras contend that cameras should not enforce the law. One legislator who opposed renewal of the program instead wants better signage and more police presence.

 

Besides the differences of opinion on the merits of speed cameras, this issue was also caught up in larger political issues in the legislature. It is possible that this program could be renewed if legislators meet in a special session later this year.

 

Do you support speed cameras?

 

Paying a Fee to Enter NYC

 

Manhattan’s streets are busy – especially during weekdays, when commuters swell the island’s population. Governor Andrew Cuomo would like to make commuters who drive to the city pay for the privilege. Legislators, however, are cool to this idea.

 

Governor Cuomo supports what is called “congestion pricing,” which would impose a fee on drivers going into Manhattan during certain times. He appointed a task force that recently proposed charging drivers $11.52 to drive into parts of Manhattan during peak hours. The task force also called for per-ride fees ranging from $2 to $5 on for-hire services such as Uber and Lyft. The money would go to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s subway and bus systems.

 

Legislators did not include this proposal in their budget. They have been wary of embracing proposals that would charge some commuters more fees to enter Manhattan. They say it is not fair to place even more financial hardship on the residents of other boroughs who work on the island. They also point out that not everyone has easy access to transit, so some people must drive to their jobs.

 

Proponents of congestion pricing say that it will raise money to beef up transit services. They also note that charging people for entering the city during peak hours will discourage some people from driving, thus reducing congestion for those who do.

 

This idea has been discussed for many years in Albany, but it has never gained serious traction. Governor Cuomo has supported it throughout his term, but some transit advocates say that he has not been a very strong supporter. It remains to be seen what, if any, congestion pricing plan may emerge during budget negotiations.

 

Do you think that drivers should pay a fee for entering Manhattan during busy times? Or is charging commuters a fee to enter the city unfair to those who live outside of Manhattan?

Michigan Key Votes – Automotive Laws

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Michigan earlier this year, and go to www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 5013, Adopt auto insurance reforms and price controls: Failed 45 to 63 in the House on November 2

To allow vehicle owners to purchase auto insurance policies with personal injury protection (PIP) coverage below the currently mandated unlimited coverage; cap the amount that hospitals, doctors and long-term care providers could charge to treat people injured in crashes; and more. Among other things, the bill would require insurance companies to lower rates if these provisions lowered the cost of treating crash victims, which reportedly are much higher in Michigan than any other state.

 

 House Bill 5040, “Bad driver tax” repeal and amnesty: Passed 103 to 5 in the House on November 2

To repeal the “driver responsibility fees” that are assessed for various violations, effective Sept. 30, 2018. The bill would also clear any outstanding liability an individual may have to pay these fees. These very expensive fees were originally adopted in 2003 to increase state revenue collections. The Senate has passed a repeal that only clears liabilities older than six years.

 

Senate Bill 609, Repeal “driver responsibility fees” and give partial amnesty: Passed 37 to 0 in the Senate on October 19

To repeal the driver responsibility fees (“bad driver tax”) that are assessed for various traffic violations, effective Sept. 30, 2018. Individuals who lost their driver's license for nonpayment of these fees could get it back (on payment of a $125 fee). Fees that have been owed for more than six years would be forgiven, but not more recent ones. These very expensive fees were originally adopted in 2003 to increase state revenues.

 

House Bill 4215, Repeal rule banning car running in driveway: Passed 30 to 6 in the Senate on June 13 and 77 to 30 in the House on May 2

To repeal a ban on leaving an unattended vehicle running other than on a public street or highway. This would allow warming up the car in the driveway in winter.

 

Senate Bill 163, Authorize “Choose Life” license plate: Passed 65 to 43 in the House on May 25

To require the Secretary of State to develop a “Choose Life” license plate, with the profits from its sale spent on "life-affirming programs and projects."

 

West Virginia Senate Bill 174

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in West Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 174, Exempt Home Movers From Certain Regulations: Passed 29 to 3 in the state Senate on February 17, 2017.

 

To exempt the transportation of household goods from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.

 

Comment below to share what you think of West Virginia Senate Bill 174!

 

 

West Virginia House Bill 2099

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in West Virginia, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 2099, Make Leaving the Scene of a Car Crash Involving Death or Injury a Felony.: Passed 96 to 0 in the state House on 17 February, 2017.

 

To make leaving the scene of a car crash crash involving death or personal injury a felony, commonly referred to as "Erin's Law."

 

Comment below to share what you think of West Virginia House Bill 2009!

 

 

Nevada Senate Bill 440

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Nevada, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 440, Require transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, to obtain written agreements from major hotels before drivers may pick up passengers at these locations: Passed 32 to 8 in the state Senate on June 1, 2015.

Require transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, to obtain written agreements from major hotels before drivers may pick up passengers at these locations

 

Comment below to share what you think of Nevada Senate Bill 440!

 

 

Arizona Senate Bill 1080

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Arizona, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 1080, Ban young drivers using cell phones: Passed 24 to 6 in the state Senate on February 13, 2017

 

To prohibit instructional permit holders from operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless communication device and prohibit provisional licensees under age 18 from using those devices other than for audible navigation.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Arizona Senate Bill 1080!

 

Missouri: House Bill 130: Regulate ride sharing services

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Missouri, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 130, Regulate ride sharing services: Passed 140 to 16 in the state House on January 26, 2017

 

To establish a regulatory framework that would enable “transportation network companies” like Uber and Lyft to operate in this state, including a preemption on local government regulations or bans.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Missouri House Bill 130!

 

Iowa House Bill 312: Let motorists leave a car running unattended

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Iowa, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 312, Let motorists leave a car running unattended: Passed 98 to 1 in the state House on February 22, 2017

 

To remove language in state law that forbids motorists from leaving a car running unattended. The law continues to require motorists to engage the parking brake in such circumstances.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 312!

 

No Gold in Hosting the Olympics

Have you been enjoying Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and the other American athletes as they compete in the summer Olympics? As you cheer on these Olympians, you may also want to cheer the fact that these games are being held in Brazil and not in the United States. While there may be prestige in hosting the Olympics, cities that do so generally pay a hefty price.

It may sound strange to be glad that such an important international event is not being held in the U.S. But the history of how host cities have fared financially in the wake of the Olympics shows that, indeed, one of the best things that can happen to a city is not to host these games.

In 2009, Chicago was doing all it could to attract this year’s Olympics to the city. As Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh recently concluded, the day the International Olympic Committee removed Chicago from the competition, “It was the day the IOC saved Chicago from itself.”

Why?

"Finding a way to pay for the Olympics would have been hard to accept in a city that barely can pay its teachers. Chicago's bid came in at $4.8 billion, an unrealistically low number. Rio already has gone at least $100 million above its $14.4 billion estimate. London, host of the 2012 Games, budgeted $4 billion but spent $14 billion. According to tax returns, Chicago's unsuccessful bid cost $70.6 million and we can feel fortunate the sea of debt went no deeper."

Whole nations may even suffer from hosting the games. In Greece, the massive expense of the 2004 Olympics played a role in pushing that nation towards fiscal crisis: “Hosting the event cost almost €9 billion ($11 billion at today’s exchange rate), making the 2004 Games the most expensive ever at that point. Greek taxpayers were on the hook for €7 billion, which did not include the cost of extra projects such as a new airport and metro system.”

As Eric Boehm of Reason magazine notes, “Of the 17 Summer Olympics held since the end of the Second World War, only the 1984 event in Los Angeles turned a profit.”

Of course, cities host the Olympics for many reasons. They may want to see a financial boost, but they also like the prestige that comes with the eyes of the world focused on them. However, the facts are pretty clear: for all the things that the Olympics may offer a host city, they generally turn out to bring financial problems in their wake. Do you think the trade-off is worth it?

Legislature grants special license plate fundraising privileges to select nonprofits

One of the methods lawmakers use to associate their names with certain interests or causes: granting select nonprofits the privilege of using specialty license plate sales to raise money. Here is a list of the bills from the current legislative session authorizing this for certain groups or causes:

 

House Bill 5586: Authorize autism specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Tom Barrett (R), to authorize a specialty license plate promoting autism awareness, and give the profits to a private advocacy organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 808: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to MADD

Introduced by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R), to authorize a new specialty license plate, with the profits given to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5349: Authorize a no-kill animal shelters license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Charles Brunner (D), to authorize a specialty license plate promoting animal shelters that don’t use euthanasia, and give the profits to a private organization campaigning for this. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5224: Authorize a prostate awareness license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Paul Muxlow (R), to authorize a prostrate cancer awareness specialty license plate, and give the profits to a particular foundation named in the bill (PCUPS Foundation). Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5204: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to libraries

Introduced by Rep. Edward McBroom (R), to authorize a new libraries specialty license plate, with the profits delivered public libraries. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5108: Authorize a snowsports industry license plate; give profits to industry group

Introduced by Rep. Lee Chatfield (R), to authorize a snowsports industry specialty license plate, and give the profits to a trade and lobbyist organization called the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5083: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to Knights of Columbus

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a new Knights of Columbus specialty license plate, with the profits delivered to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5082: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to Lions Club

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a Lions Club specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the Lions Club. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4932: Authorize a Kiwanis specialty license plate; give profits to Kiwanis Club

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a Kiwanis Club specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the Kiwanis Club. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 367: Authorize a Thin Blue Line specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Sen. Mike Nofs (R), to authorize a Thin Blue Line specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the “Thin Blue Line” organization, to be used solely to assist and support the families of injured or deceased law enforcement officers within the state. Reported from committee, pending before full Senate.

Senate Bill 308: Authorize black Greek letter organizations specialty license plate; give profits to United Negro College Fund

Introduced by Sen. Coleman Young, II (D), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring several African American fraternities and sororities specified in the bill, with the premium revenue going to the United Negro College Fund. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 264: Authorize wild turkey specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring the National Wild Turkey Federation, with the premium revenue going to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 223 and House Bill 4360: Authorize Women’s Health license plate; use profits for government programs

Introduced by Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D) and Rep. Pam Faris (D), respectively, to require the Secretary of State to develop a Women’s Health license plate, with fees collected from its sale added to amounts spent for government programs to reduce unintended pregnancies, reduce child obesity, reduce sexually transmitted diseases and more. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4348: Authorize Girl Scouts specialty license plate; give profits to Scouts

Introduced by Rep. Pam Faris (D), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring the Girl Scouts of America, with the premium revenue going to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 186: Authorize professional sports teams specialty license plates; give profits to team charities

Introduced by Sen. Jim Stamas (R), to authorize a specialty license plate for professional sports teams, including the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Lions, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Tigers and the Michigan International Speedway. Proceeds from the sale of the license plates would go to charitable organizations created by these entities. Passed 35 to 1 in the Senate on May 26, 2015, referred to House committee.

Senate Bill 76: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to private organization

Introduced by Sen. Vincent Gregory (D), to authorize a new women veterans specialty license plate, and turn over the profits to the American Cancer Society. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5447: Cap the number of fundraising specialty license plates

Introduced by Rep. Peter Pettalia (R), to cap the number of specialty fundraising license plates at 10, and revise details of this program including the amount an interest must pay to get this privilege, and how many of their plates must sell each year to keep it. Passed 90 to 18 in the House, referred to committee in the Senate.

Gov. Tom Wolf, Pittsburgh-area officials want $11.4M fine on Uber cut

The state government recently fined Uber $11.4 million for operating in the state without approval from the Public Utility Commission. Even Gov. Wolf contends this fine is too high. Is it fair for the state to impose such a heavy penalty on Uber when the state’s rules are ambiguous and the company is now operating legally in Pennsylvania?

http://www.delcotimes.com/article/DC/20160503/NEWS/160509917

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