Federal judge: Voters without ID may vote in November by signing affidavit

Posted by Anthony Dimond on July 22, 2016

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman issued a preliminary injunction order Tuesday in a case challenging the state’s law requiring voters to have photo identification, granting a request from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU’s request called for an affidavit option for voters who face a “reasonable impediment” to obtain a valid photo ID.
Adelman’s order will allow the affidavit option for voters in the general election on Nov. 8. The ACLU’s original request was to have the option in place for people seeking to vote in the Aug. 9 primary election.
While most voters either have an ID or can get one easily, “a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” Adelman wrote in the order. “The plaintiffs’ proposed affidavit option is a sensible approach that will both prevent the disenfranchisement of some voters during the pendency of this litigation and preserve Wisconsin’s interests in protecting the integrity of its elections.”
Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is defending the law, said he was disappointed with the court’s decision.
“We will decide the next course of action after (the Department of Justice) attorneys have had time to fully review and analyze the court’s decision,” Schimel said in a statement.
Sean Young, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said the ruling was a “strong rebuke of the state’s efforts to limit access to the ballot box.”
“Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been a mistake from day one,” Young said in a statement. “It means that a fail safe will be in place in November for voters who have had difficulty obtaining ID.”
Voters must show a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card, a U.S. passport, military ID card, a college ID meeting certain requirements, a naturalization certificate or ID issued by a state-based American Indian tribe in order to vote.
Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Elections Commission, said the board will talk to DOJ attorneys about the decision to prepare for the November election.
“It is too early to discuss the details of how the affidavit procedure will be implemented, however, it will affect a relatively small number of voters,” he said
The ACLU filed the motion in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee after a federal appeals court in April ruled that the ACLU and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty could seek such an order as they challenge the state’s law.
Voter ID was made law in Wisconsin in 2011 but, due to a string of legal challenges, didn’t take effect in a statewide election until this year.
In Wisconsin and other states that have implemented voter ID, it has been politically explosive. The law’s supporters argue it’s a reasonable step to prevent voter impersonation, though such cases are rare. Critics decry it as an attempt to suppress voting by groups that tend to vote for Democrats, such as the very poor, college students and minorities.
The ACLU and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed the federal lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law in 2011. The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the law in 2014.
But the groups pressed the suit, saying that some people face special obstacles to obtain the ID needed to vote under the law.
The state DOJ previously asked Adelman to put the lawsuit on hold because a similar lawsuit brought by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Institute made its way through the courts, challenging elements of the Voter ID law and other election-related measures implemented since 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker took office and Republicans gained control of the Legislature.

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Feds weigh minimum train crew sizes

Posted by Anthony Dimond on July 16, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration is considering a rule that would require most trains to have a minimum number of crew members.
During a Friday public hearing on the proposal, union groups, policymakers and stakeholders weighed in on whether most rail operations
should be staffed with at least two qualified workers.The regulation, proposed in March, would establish crew-size standards for most
main line freight and passenger rail operations. Currently, only a two-member crew is required for trains carrying crude oil.
The FRA reopened the public comment period in order to get feedback from Friday’s hearing.
Union groups argued that the step is essential for protecting against the human error and fatigue that can lead to deadly accidents, pointing
to an Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia last year and a deadly oil train explosion in Quebec in 2013.
“Safely operating a train is no easy task. In fact, operating a train has long been the job of a team of workers,” said Edward Wytkind, president
of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. ‘This team also works together during emergencies, such as dangerous rail accidents, when
timely action and quick thinking can save lives and prevent destruction.”
The trade group supports the proposal but called on the FRA to make the final rule stronger by requiring that two-person crews consist of a
certified engineer and certified conductor. Industry leaders say that there is no evidence that having an additional crew member on board would
improve safety. Instead, they maintain that the rule would stifle innovation and harm productivity.
“The proposed rule is a textbook example of unnecessary regulation,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and chief executive officer of the
Association of American Railroads. “The Department of Transportation… is backing a rule that would freeze rail productivity and chill innovation.”
But Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) testified that her state witnessed the benefits of a multiperson train crew first hand during a derailment in
Casselton in 2013, when several crew members on board were able to help pull crude oil cars away from the fire.
“Having two crew members on board won’t necessarily prevent derailments, but it will help mitigate accidents when they occur,” she said.

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RRB announces change in service hours for field offices

Posted by Anthony Dimond on May 2, 2016

http://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/newsflash.asp?id=5831

(Source: U.S. Railroad Retirement Board press release)

CHICAGO, April 26 — Effective at noon on June 1, 2016, U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) field offices around the country will be closed to the public on Wednesday afternoons. Field office representatives will not be available to assist walk-in customers or to answer the phones during Wednesday afternoons only. All RRB offices will remain open from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, and during their usual hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the remaining weekdays, except for Federal holidays.
The change is necessary due to reduced staffing levels, coupled with increased workloads in several key areas, and will allow the staff in the RRB”s nationwide network of 53 field offices to focus on processing applications for benefits, conducting necessary verifications for pending applications or claims, resolving complex cases and reducing backlogged workloads.
RRB customers will continue to have the opportunity to conduct most business through the agency website (http://www.rrb.gov) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or by calling the RRB”s nationwide toll-free telephone number, (877) 772-5772, and speaking with a field office representative during regular business hours.
Current railroad employees can use the www.rrb.gov website to apply for and claim unemployment benefits, file a claim for sickness benefits, check the status of their unemployment or sickness claim, view their statement of account under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, view their service and compensation history, or get an annuity estimate. Annuitants currently receiving benefits can request a letter verifying the amount of their annuity, a duplicate tax statement, a replacement Medicare card or a copy of their service and compensation history. All services are accessible through the “Benefit Online Services” section of www.rrb.gov or by calling the RRB”s toll-free number at (877) 772-5772.

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The Hill — FRA rule gives us chance to bar most one-person crew trains

Posted by Anthony Dimond on March 30, 2016

Mar 23, 2016 MoveAmerica Blog

The Hill — FRA rule gives us chance to bar most one-person crew trains

As published by John Previsich and Ed Wytkind in The Hill

The freight railroads would have the public believe that operating massive freight trains with a single crew member is perfectly safe. We know those claims are not true and fortunately so does our government which just issued proposed regulations establishing a two-person crew minimum on most trains. We applaud those rules and will push to make them as tough and rigid as possible.

If former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was alive today, he would probably tell the railroads, “you’re entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts.” Despite erroneous claims by the industry lobby that there is a lack of “conclusive statistical data” to support a two-person crew standard, we know from data gleaned from reports on accidents, crashes and fatalities as well as the real-life experiences of frontline employees, that the arguments in favor of a two-person crew standard are compelling.

The railroads rely on skewed statistical analysis to argue that a lack of accidents from the use of one-person crews means that this two-person train crew rule isn’t needed. The reality is that almost all trains in America operate with two crew members and thankfully, one-person crew operations are still the rare exception. Of course there is not a great deal of data available. More to the point, the safety statistics in today’s industry are a product of the skill and professionalism of the two-person and three-person crews that operate trains across America today.

Read more in The Hill.

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Rail Workers: Deadly Tired….but Still Working

Posted by Anthony Dimond on March 30, 2016

Rail Workers: Deadly Tired…but Still Working

by ntsbgov

By Georgetta Gregory The rail business is an industry full of tired, stressed workers. It is an epidemic. I know this first-hand because, before coming to the NTSB several years ago, I spent more than 30 years working in the freight railroad industry. While freight railroad managers and crews count on reliable schedules to make … Continue reading Rail Workers: Deadly Tired…but Still Working

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WISLB Urgent Notice

Posted by Anthony Dimond on February 18, 2016

wis blet

*URGENT NOTICE*

 

Call all of the following State Senators on SB734 Relating to: pedestrians crossing railroad right of way. This committee needs to allow the concerned citizens and railroads work out their issues using the process put in place by The Office of the Commissioner of Railroads, pedestrian crossings. For additional information please visit the WISLB.org website.

2015 Senate Committee on judiciary and Public Safety

Senator Wanggaard (Chair) (608)266-1832 or 866-615-7510

Senator Vukmir (Vice-Chair) (608)266-2512

Senator Lasee (608)266-3512

Senator Risser (608)266-1627

Senator L. Taylor (608)266-5810

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*WISLB NOTICE*

Posted by Anthony Dimond on February 10, 2016

wis blet

*URGENT NOTICE*

 

Call all of the following Assembly Representatives and request a NO vote on AB876 Relating to: pedestrians crossing railroads. This committee is having a public hearing on Thursday February 11, 2016 urgency is of the utmost importance. For additional information please visit the WISLB.org website.

2015 Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety

Representative Kleefisch (Chair) Phone (608)266-8551 – (888)534-0038

Representative Kremer (Vice-Chair) Phone (608)266-9175 – (888)534-0059

Representative Spiros Phone (608)266-1182 – (888)534-0086

Representative J. Ott Phone (608)266-0486 – (888)534-0023

Representative Rodriguez Phone (608)266-0610 – (888)534-0021

Representative Horlacher Phone (608)266-5715 – (888)529-0033

Representative Novak Phone (608)266-7502 – (888)534-0051

Representative Born Phone (608)266-2540 – (888)534-0039

Representative Duchow Phone (608)266-3007 – (888)534-0099

Representative Goyke Phone (608)266-0645 – (888)534-0018

Representative Kessler Phone (608)266-5813 – (888)534-0012

Representative Zamarripa Phone (608)267-7669 – (888)534-0008

Representative Johnson Phone (608)266-5580 – (888)534-0017

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2015 AB876

Posted by Anthony Dimond on February 10, 2016

wis blet

2015 Assembly BILL 876

February 8, 2016 – Introduced by Representatives Nerison, R. Brooks, Kleefisch, Kulp, Skowronski and Tauchen, cosponsored by Senators Marklein, Miller and Vukmir. Referred to Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

AB876,1,2 An Act to create 192.32 (1) (c) of the statutes; relating to: pedestrians crossing railroads.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

Under current law, with certain exceptions, no person may enter or remain on railroad tracks. The prohibition does not apply, among other things, to the use of public highways or to a person driving across a railroad from one part of the person’s land to another.

This bill provides that the prohibition on entering or remaining on railroad tracks does not apply to a person walking directly across the tracks or right-of-way of a railroad.

 

The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:

AB876,1 Section 1. 192.32 (1) (c) of the statutes is created to read:

AB876,1,5192.32 (1) (c) To prevent any person from walking directly across the tracks or right-of-way of any railroad.

AB876,1,6(End)

 

192.32 Trespassing on railroad.

192.32(1) (1) No person, other than a licensee, authorized newspaper reporter or person connected with or employed upon the railroad, may walk, loiter or be upon or along the track of any railroad. The provisions of this subsection shall not be construed to do any of the following:

192.32(1)(a) (a) To interfere with the lawful use of a public highway by any person.

192.32(1)(b) (b) To prevent any person from driving across any railroad from one part of that person’s land to another part thereof.

192.32(1)(d) (d) To interfere with the use of the right-of-way or track by any person in connection with, either directly or indirectly, the shipping, loading or unloading of freight, seeking employment, the investigation or securing of evidence with respect to any accident or wreck or in conducting or transacting any other business for or with the railroad.

192.32(1)(e) (e) To interfere with the entry of any employee during or on account of labor disputes by employees.

192.32(2) (2) Each railroad corporation shall post notices containing substantially the provisions and penalties of this section, in one or more conspicuous places in or about each railroad station.

192.32 History History: 1993 a. 482, 490; 1997 a. 254; 2001 a. 38; 2005 a. 179.

 

 

Date Committee Notice Items
Thu Feb 11 Assembly – Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety REVISED: Public Hearing
9:15 AM
328 Northwest
Items: AB839; AB876
Thu Feb 11 Assembly – Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety REVISED: Executive Session
9:30 AM
328 Northwest
Items: AB273; AB604; AB621; AB670; AB671; AB776; AB839; AB876

 

 

An Act to create 192.32 (1) (c) of the statutes; Relating to: pedestrians crossing railroads.

Status: Criminal Justice and Public Safety

Important Actions (newest first)

Date / House Action Journal
2/9/2016 Asm. Senator Nass added as a cosponsor

 

 

History

Date / House Action Journal
2/8/2016 Asm. Introduced by Representatives Nerison, R. Brooks, Kleefisch, Kulp, Skowronski and Tauchen; cosponsored by Senators Marklein, Miller and Vukmir 584
2/8/2016 Asm. Read first time and referred to Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety 584
2/9/2016 Asm. Senator Nass added as a cosponsor

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2016 Iowa Caucuses

Posted by Anthony Dimond on February 4, 2016

 

Brothers, FYI
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz led the Republican field in the Iowa caucuses, claiming 28 percent of the vote Monday night and beating out national front runner Donald Trump in a victory fueled by a strong turnout from evangelical voters.
In what Iowa party leaders are calling the closest Democratic caucus ever, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders were locked in a virtual tie for most of the evening. Early Tuesday morning, the state party announced that Clinton achieved a slight edge in delegate counts, with just one precinct still out. The third Democratic candidate, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, received less than 1 percent of the vote and suspended his campaign.
On the Republican side, Trump’s populist insurgency fell short in the face of Cruz’s political organizing across Iowa. Trump won 24 percent of the vote, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made a surprisingly strong showing at third, with 23 percent.
Iowa Results“Tonight is a victory for the grassroots,” Cruz said as he claimed victory. “Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and for courageous conservatives across this great nation.”
Rubio was clearly delighted with his share of the caucus votes, higher than that predicted in the polls. “This is a night they said would never happen,” he told supporters.
A more subdued Trump congratulated Cruz, and said “We finished second, and I want to tell you something, I’m just honored.”
None of the remaining GOP candidates received more than 10 percent of the caucus votes. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa contest in 2008, announced Monday night he was suspending his campaign.
On the Democratic side, the state party reported early Tuesday morning that Clinton was awarded  699.57 state delegate equivalents,   Sanders was awarded 695.49 state delegate equivalents, and O’Malley received 7.68 state delegate equivalents
In a Monday night speech, Clinton commended Sanders and O’Malley for “a real content of ideas.” She pledged to continue to expand access to health care, address climate change, enhance gun safety, improve the education system and make college more affordable.
“I am a progressive who gets things done for people,” Clinton said, standing on stage with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and her daughter. “I am honored to stand in the long line of American reformers who make up our mind that the status quo is not good enough, that standing still is not an option.”
Sanders followers chanted “Feel the Bern,” and they cheered wildly as Sanders declared the evening a “virtual tie” against the “most powerful political organization in the United States of America. He hit on his campaign themes of college affordability, income inequality and campaign finance reform.
“The people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment and to the media establishment, and that is given the enormous crises facing these country it is just too late for establishment politics,” he told supporters.

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Teamsters Rail Conference opposes hostile takeover of NS

Posted by Anthony Dimond on January 22, 2016

CLEVELAND, January 19 — The Teamsters Rail Conference is adding its voice to the dozens of elected officials, shippers and labor unions that strongly oppose an apparent attempt at a hostile takeover of Norfolk Southern (NS) by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).

The Rail Conference represents more than 70,000 active railroad workers whose constituent unions are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED). The group stated its opposition to the forced takeover attempt in a letter from Rail Conference President Dennis R. Pierce to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) dated January 18, 2016.

Instead of the “substantial value creation” identified by CP in its December 16, 2015 presentation to investors, the Rail Conference predicts the opposite. CP’s hostile takeover of NS would trigger a round of additional Class I rail mergers, eventually reducing the industry to just two transcontinental railroads, “which is not in the best interests of our members, U.S. shippers or the public.” It could lead to a “death spiral” of job cuts and deferred plant and equipment maintenance industry wide, resulting in the loss of vital service — similar to the crisis that crippled rail service in the Northwest and Midwest between the 1960s and late 1970s.

Pierce, who is also National President of the BLET, raised questions about CP’s reliance upon a voting trust to move ahead with the forced takeover outside of the STB’s standard rail merger approval process. “At the very least, the Board should immediately make clear to CP that it will not tolerate any attempt to short-circuit the process set forth in the law and accompanying STB regulations.”

President Pierce concluded: “CP’s proposal — while it may be good for Wall Street, hedge funds and certain investors — is bad for the shippers, bad for the railroads’ workers, and bad for the public. I urge the Board to reject any and all attempts at this hostile takeover, and thank you in advance for your most serious consideration of our position.”

The Teamsters Rail Conference represents more than 70,000 rail workers employed as locomotive engineers, trainmen and maintenance of way workers across the United States as members of the BLET and BMWED. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Vice President John Murphy serves as Director of the Rail Conference. Teamsters Vice President at Large Freddie N. Simpson is National President of the BMWED.

A PDF copy of the Rail Conference letter is available from the BLET National Division website:
http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/Rail_Conf_STB_CP_NS_Letter.pdf

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