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Florida legislators may push for new toll roads, election changes

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A Florida legislator said new roads would be part of an effort to revitalize some of Florida's rural areas that he says have been neglected. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — New toll roads. Election law changes. School safety. A possible rollback of health care regulations.

Florida’s top legislative leaders and Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined some of their top priorities Wednesday during the annual Associated Press legislative planning meeting. During the 60-day-session, which begins March 5, legislators are also expected to debate everything from texting while driving to private school vouchers.

Senate President Bill Galvano announced that the Senate will work on legislation to speed up development of three major toll roads, including the extension of the existing Suncoast Parkway from north of the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border. He also wants to look at a new road that would connect the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway as well as another toll road that would run from central Florida to southwest Florida.

The Bradenton Republican said the new roads would be part of an effort to revitalize some of Florida’s rural areas that he says have been neglected while the state has focused on urban centers.

“So often those communities get forgotten economically and otherwise,” said Galvano.

But past talk about extending the Suncoast Parkway has generated opposition from some counties that lie along the route.

DeSantis, who was sworn into office less than a month ago, has already outlined some of his main priorities for the upcoming session, including boosting the amount of state money spent on Everglades restoration. He is expected to roll out his overall budget recommendations later this week. But the new governor said he wants to alter a current teacher bonus program that links bonuses to teacher scores on college entrance exams and he said he wants to set aside money for training teachers for computer science.

DeSantis, who suspended the Palm Beach county elections supervisor earlier this month, also said he wants to ensure that the 2020 elections aren’t “any type of circus once the votes are in.” Florida had a mandatory recount in three statewide races and Republicans sharply criticized the job performance of two South Florida election officials during the recount.

While DeSantis has not yet specified what he plans to do, he said he’s open to giving more authority to the Secretary of State to issue binding orders to local elected supervisors.

“The election stuff is not rocket science, it just needs to be done transparently and it needs to be done openly,” said DeSantis. “I think if people follow what is laid out we will have a smooth election.”

DeSantis and legislative leaders did say on Wednesday they plan to act on recommendations from a commission that investigated the high school massacre in Parkland where 17 people were killed. The commission recommended that teachers who volunteer and undergo training be allowed to carry guns.

House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, contended that some hospitals in Florida act as “monopolies” and he wants to trim back some of the regulations that now limit the location and type of health care services that can be provided. Oliva contended that a “free market” approach would curb the rising cost of health care.

“If you are the only game in town, you don’t have to negotiate,” Oliva said. “We have to bring in some real market forces into it so that people have to compete for that business.”

It’s not clear if the Senate will go along with the push. Galvano said that he considers health care a “unique animal” that does not “fit neatly” into a free-market system.

 

 

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FMCSA seeks driver, carrier comments on delays loading, unloading

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Delays at shippers and receivers has long been a frustration for both drivers and carriers. Both groups have been asking the FMSCA to look into the matter. (FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration is seeking comments from carriers and driver on how much time is spent at shippers and receivers loading and unloading.

In a notice to published in the Federal Record Monday, the FMCSA said a number of studies have examined the issue of CMV driver delays in the loading and unloading process, and what their potential impact may be on roadway safety and the economy.

The agency noted that the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in its report “More Could Be Done to Determine Impact of Excessive Loading and Unloading Wait Times on Hours of Service Violations, recommended that “FMCSA examine the extent to which detention

time contributes to hours of service violations in its future studies on driver fatigue and detention time.”

In response to the GAO report, FMCSA sponsored a study among a sample of carriers which generated estimates of driver delay times.

Among the sampled carriers, the study found that drivers experienced detention time during approximately 10 percent of their stops for an average duration of 1.4 hours beyond a commonly accepted two-hour loading and unloading time.

Most recently, in a 2018 report titled “Estimates Show Commercial Driver Detention Increases Crash Risks and Costs, but Current Data Limit Further Analysis,” the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General recommended that FMCSA collaborate with industry stakeholders to develop and implement a plan to collect and analyze reliable, accurate, and representative data on the frequency and severity of driver detention.

“Although the above referenced studies estimated overall wait times, they were not able to separate normal loading and unloading times (e.g., the time it would usually take to load and unload a CMV under typical schedules) from detention time (delays in the start of the loading and unloading process which disrupt the driver’s available driving and/or on-duty time). This is a critical data gap in our understanding of the detention issue,” the FMCSA said.

Specifically, FMCSA requests information that addresses the following questions:

  • Are data currently available that can accurately record loading, unloading, and delay times?
  • Is there technology available that could record and delineate prompt loading and unloading times versus the extended delays sometimes experienced by drivers?
  • How can delay times be captured and recorded in a systematic, comparable manner?
  • Could systematic collection and publication of loading, unloading, and delay times be useful in driver or carrier business decisions and help to reduce loading, unloading, and delay times?
  • What should FMCSA use as an estimate of reasonable loading/unloading time? Please provide a basis for your response.
  • How do contract arrangements between carriers and shippers address acceptable wait times? Do these arrangements include penalties for delays attributable to a carrier or shipper?
  • What actions by FMCSA, within its current statutory authority, would help to reduce loading, unloading, and delay times?

To submit a comment online, go to , put the docket number, FMCSA-2019-0054, in the “Keyword” box, and click “Search.” When the new screen appears, click on the “Comment Now!” button and type your comment into the text box on the following screen. Choose whether you are submitting your comment as an individual or on behalf of a third party and then submit.

 

 

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FTR analysis confirms tonnage surplus in U.S. trade with Mexico

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A truck crosses the border between Mexico and the United States in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. FTR estimates that truck loads into and out of Mexico make up just 1.5% of all U.S. truck loadings, but that share has risen by about 50% since 2009. (Associated Press: HANS-MAXIMO MUSIELIK)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Although the U.S. goods trade deficit with Mexico is about $80 billion, the U.S. has a longstanding trade surplus with Mexico in terms of rail tonnage and a growing truck tonnage surplus over the past three years, according to just-completed analysis by FTR.

Using the Freight•cast forecasting model, FTR translated value-based trade data published by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics into transportation tonnage and loadings to and from Mexico and Canada.

The forecasting firm’s analysis of cross-border trade data has been ongoing for several months and happened to conclude around the time President Trump announced tariffs on all imports from Mexico, effective June 10.

“With China continuing to be problematic, we know that there had been some shifting of sourcing to Mexico, so potential tariffs on Mexican imports raise important questions,” said Eric Starks, chairman and CEO of FTR. “Either we lose this freight, see increased costs, or both.”

The U.S. rail sector has run a significant surplus of tonnage into Mexico for years, but U.S.-Mexico truck tonnage had been more balanced until 2016, when the U.S. trucking sector posted its first meaningful surplus since 2008. The picture looks a bit different regarding loads into and out of Mexico. Rail loadings are volatile year to year, but the U.S. runs a deficit of truck loads to the tune of about 800,000 a year.

Rail movements into and out of Mexico represent about 3.2% of all U.S. rail moves, and that portion has grown steadily since 2009. Excluding intermodal, U.S.-Mexico traffic represents about 5.5% of total U.S. rail moves, and that number has nearly doubled since 2009.

FTR estimates that truck loads into and out of Mexico make up just 1.5% of all U.S. truck loadings, but that share has risen by about 50% since 2009.

“Rail is more exposed than truck even though it has a smaller portion of overall crossborder freight,” Eric Starks said. “Changes in freight would be felt quicker by the rail sector. If we assume a retaliation by Mexico, rail could be hit further because Mexico potentially has other ready sources for some of the most important rail exports to Mexico, such as fuel and grain.”

With truck, while the share of overall truck volume dedicated to Mexico is small, a big piece of that are parts for vehicles, computers, and machinery.

“If the trucking freight went away, that in itself would not be a death knell for trucking, but the broader issue is the exponential impact on U.S. manufacturing,” Starks said.

FTR will discuss some of its top level findings during a complimentary State of Freight webinar on Key Issues in Transportation, scheduled for June 13.

To register, visit http://www.ftrintel.com/webinars. A more comprehensive analysis will also be available later this month to subscribers of FTR’s State of Freight INSIGHTS series.

For information on how to subscribe to State of Freight INSIGHTS and other FTR products, visit or contact FTR by email at [email protected] or by phone at 888-988-1699, ext. 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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House Appropriations Committee approves FY2020 transportation budget

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The FY2020 THUD appropriations bill includes $677 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee Tuesday approved the fiscal year 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill on a vote of 29-21.

The legislation funds the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies, including the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

In total, the legislation provides $137.1 billion in budgetary resources, an increase of $6 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $17.3 billion above the President’s budget request. The bill includes $75.8 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $4.7 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $17.3 billion over the President’s 2020 budget request.

“This year’s Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development funding bill represents a positive, inclusive vision for our country,” said House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Chairman David Price. “It makes forward-looking investments in our housing and transportation infrastructure, while ensuring concerted attention to safety, the needs of the most vulnerable, and resilience.  It will benefit all American communities — urban and rural — and lays the foundation for economic growth and opportunity. I’m thankful for the collaborative effort by all our members to pass the bill through committee and look forward to working together to enact it into law.”

“The Department of Transportation should prioritize safety, and this bill would equip the Department to fund safety upgrades on our roads and rails as well as safety research,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey. “The bill also would provide adequate funding for the federal share of one of the most important transportation projects in our country to advance commuter safety and the economy – the Gateway tunnel between New Jersey and New York. Additionally, robust investments in the bill, such as increases to CDBG, HOME, and Lead and Healthy Homes, would make our communities heathier and safer, and critical language would protect the most vulnerable, including undocumented individuals and their U.S. citizen children and LGBTQ youth, against eviction. With this bill, we have the opportunity to invest in our infrastructure and fundamentally improve the lives of our constituents.”

For the Department of Transportation, the bill provides a total of $86.6 billion in total budgetary resources, $167 million above the 2019 enacted level and $3.7 billion above the President Donald J. Trump’s budget request.

Of this amount, some of the items the bill includes are:

  • $677 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, $10 million above the 2019 enacted level and $1 million above the President’s budget request. None of the funds can be used to enforce the use of ELDs by carriers transporting livestock.
  • $48.9 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $404 million below the 2019 enacted level and $1.7 billion above the President’s budget request.
  • $1.75 billion for discretionary Highway Infrastructure Programs, $1.5 billion below the 2019 enacted level and $1.45 billion above the President’s budget request.
  • $1 billion for the Newsal Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $44 million above the 2019 enacted level and $81 million above the President’s budget request.

 

 

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