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2 counties sue Mississippi governor over bridge closures

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By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS

JACKSON, Miss. — Supervisors in two Mississippi counties filed a lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Phil Bryant (above), saying he overstepped his authority by ordering the closure of more than 100 bridges across the state.

The bridges he closed are locally maintained. In issuing his executive order last month, Bryant said they were structurally unsafe.

The lawsuit against Bryant was filed by supervisors from Jasper and Smith counties in south Mississippi.

“The alleged conditions of the bridges on the county roads do not constitute a state of emergency or ‘state of disaster’ so as to suspend the constitutional jurisdiction of the board of supervisors of Jasper County and Smith County over the county roads and bridges,” the lawsuit says.

In response, Bryant said independent inspectors found the bridges to be unsafe.

“I refuse to sit idly by and risk loss of life,” Bryant said in a statement Thursday. “Had counties done their job, I would not have had to exercise my authority, which will protect the very people who elected these supervisors.”

The closures came roughly two weeks after Mississippi legislators ended their nearly three-month session without agreeing on a long-term plan to put more money into improving highways and bridges. Bryant has said he will call lawmakers into special session if House and Senate leaders can agree on a funding plan.

The lawsuit was filed in Hinds County Chancery Court because the capital city, Jackson, is in Hinds County. It is also against the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

The lawsuit says the transportation and public safety departments “without notice to the board of supervisors, used various methods to block access to the bridges on the closing list. Some of the bridges were blocked by dumping piles of dirt on both sides of the bridges.”

The suit also says the methods of closing the bridges and the signs posted do not comply with the state Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

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Mexican officials uncover smuggling ring using truck disguised as freight companies

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Some trucks used in the smuggling ring had air conditioning units, but didn't use them when carrying migrants. (FOTOSEARCH)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials said Monday they have uncovered an industrial-scale migrant smuggling ring using tractor-trailer rigs disguised as freight deliveries for major companies.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said authorities found a tractor-trailer disguised with the logo of a major grocery store chain. But instead of groceries, it was carrying about 150 migrants.

‘The (grocery) company has filed a complaint, because it was fake, it was camouflage to transport migrants,” Lopez Obrador said.

In June, Mexico detected five freight trucks carrying 925 migrants, almost all from Central America. Some of those trucks bore the logos of well-known firms, though it was not clear if those trucks were also fakes or had been used illegally by drivers without the companies’ knowledge.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that four or five of the freight trucks found in June belonged to the same independent trucking company, based in central Mexico.

Ebrard said the company operated trucks equipped with air conditioning units, but didn’t turn on the ventilation when carrying migrants.

That led officials to believe it was just a matter of time before migrants would die aboard the overcrowded vehicles.

“The biggest concern is that there is going to be a tragedy, that is what we don’t want,” said Lopez Obrador.

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3 Estes Express employees steal $23,000 worth of water heaters

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland County Sheriff’s Department says they have arrested three employees of a delivery company, after discovering $23,000 worth of stolen inventory in one of their homes.

Officials became suspicious when some retail stores reported that not all of the products supposedly being shipped from Home Depot’s West Columbia distribution center were reaching their final destination.

An investigation by the Sheriff’s Department and officials from Home Depot and Estes Express Line led authorities to get a search warrant for the home of Cody Bessinger. That is when they found more than $23,000 worth of stolen water heaters that Bessinger and two other thieves reportedly accumulated over one years time.

Authorities arrested Bessinger, along with Joe Gunter and Chris Shumpert, who were both managerial employees for Estes Express Line.

This begs the question…”why water heaters”?

Could it be that besides working for Estes Express Line, these guys had a clandestine plumbing operation on the side?

You might even say these three men are in hot water.

 

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FMCSA seeks comments on definitions of agri, livestock commodities in HOS rules

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The FMCSA has received several requests recently from agricultural and livestock haulers seeking exemption from certain aspects of the Hours of Service rule. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)  

WASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Monday said it is seeking public comment on revising agricultural commodity or livestock definitions in Hours of Service regulations.

The agency said it worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on this effort to provide clarity for the nation’s farmers and commercial drivers.

The FMCSA has received several requests recently from agricultural and livestock haulers seeking exemption from certain aspects of the HOS rule.

“The agriculture industry is vital to our nation and we look forward to receiving input that will help clarify these definitions, improve safety and offer additional flexibility to farmers and commercial drivers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“The current regulations impose restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Chao on revising these regulations.”

Currently, during harvesting and planting seasons as determined by each state, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, are exempt from the HOS requirements from the source of the commodities to a location within a 150-air-mile radius from the source.

The advanced rule (ANPRM) authored by FMCSA was prompted by indications that the current definition of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the HOS exemption applies.

“FMCSA has worked closely with the agriculture industry and USDA in crafting this advanced notice. We have heard concerns from the industry, and we are acting,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez.  “We encourage all CMV stakeholders, especially those involved in transporting agricultural commodities and livestock, to provide valuable feedback on how the current definitions impact safety, compliance, and enforcement.”

FMCSA continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eliminate confusion and align the agencies’ agricultural commodity definitions.

The American agriculture industry contributes more than $1 trillion annually to the nation’s economy.

The FMCSA said in a news release that the Trump administration has been working to strengthen the agriculture industry by streamlining regulations, bolstering farm programs, and renegotiating the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to improve access to Canadian and Mexican markets.

Additional information on the ANPRM, including how to submit comments to the Federal Register docket, is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/hours-service-drivers-definition-agricultural-commodity.

In June 2018, FMCSA announced regulatory guidance for transportation of agricultural commodities. Learn more at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/regulatory-guidance-concerning-transportation-agricultural-commodities.

 

 

 

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