LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – NOVEMBER 2009
High Speed Rail
The Federal Railroad
Administration (FRA) must figure out how the $8 million stimulus money
allocated in the Recovery Act will be distributed. They have received a total
of $57 billion in applications for these funds from various states. The FRA had
planned to distribute the funds in October, but they are taking a few more
months to make sure the monies are invested in the right places. FRA Administrator
Joseph Szabo stated: “We want to pick projects that will
be successful; success breeds success.” He believes that high-speed rail lines
will bring balance to the
Virgina Railway Awards Contract to Foreign Rail Company
Virginia Railway Express (VRE) recently ended its 17-year
relationship with Amtrak when a five-year, $85.7 million contract was awarded
to Keolis Rail Services America, which is the
Hours of Service Interpretations
The BLET and UTU have asked the FRA to reconsider its interpretation portions of the interim statement of agency policy and interpretation with regard to the hours of service laws enacted as a result of the passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA). The RSIA amended the statutory off-duty period be 10 consecutive hours, with the exception of intercity passenger and commuter service.
Under the existing FRA method (the
“fresh start look back” analysis), a railroad is required to look back at the
last 24 hours of the employee’s on-duty time and determine if that employee had
10 hours of undisturbed rest during that 24-hour period. If yes, then the
employee can work for 12 hours. However, this method, which has been in effect
for almost 40 years, has been replaced with the “continuous look back
analysis,” which requires the railroads to look back at every moment during a
duty tour to determine if the employee has had 10 consecutive hours of
undisturbed rest during the 24 hours that precede that
particular moment. “This would prohibit an employee from working the full 12
hours that are permitted by the law if they have more than a two-hour call,
thereby adversely impacting the employee’s earnings as well as interfering with
the railroad’s need to maximize employee productivity.
The “continuous look back” approach could also result in employees being forced to remain at away-from-home terminals rather than returning home, which affects family life and imposes greater costs on the railroads. The BLET and UTU assert that a better solution would be to require a 10-hour call, which would permit 12-hour on-duty shifts. In a joint statement signed by BLET Acting National President Paul Sorrow and UTU International President Mike Futhey, the FRA is asked to “reaffirm the ‘fresh-start look back’ analysis, which has served both the industry and the safety of its employees and the public, and reject the proposed “continuous look back.” To read the joint BLET/UTU submission, go to: http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/continuouslookback.pdf.
National Mediation Board Making Progress on Backlog of Cases
last year, the National Mediation Board (NMB) closed the largest number of
cases since the year 2000, and ended FY 2009 on September 30 with the lowest
number of pending cases in the agency’s history. The board has received
supplemental funds during the past two years which helped to reduce the backlog
of 5,551 cases pending as of
Video Monitoring in Metrolink Locomotive Cabs
response to the fatal Metrolink collision last
has filed lawsuits in federal and state courts in
Railroad Antitrust Legislation
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, stated in early October that they are still working on a rail regulatory reform bill in the Senate. He and his staff have been meeting for months with railroads and shippers to come up with changes that are acceptable to both sides. The bill is expected to instruct the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to give more weight to shippers’ complaints about rail rates and service disputes, and to add more STB staff.
I received the following
As Medicare Advantage and Drug Benefit
Open Enrollment Period nears, new resources analyze
2010 options, premiums and gap coverage for beneficiaries. Beginning November
15, Medicare’s 46 million beneficiaries will have an opportunity to sign up for
coverage under a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare stand-alone Part D drug
plan, or change plans if they are already enrolled in either type of plan. The
Kaiser Family Foundation is issuing a collection of new and updated analyses
examining critical elements of the private plan options available to Medicare
beneficiaries in 2010.
Medicare beneficiaries continue to have a wide range of options to choose from, with an average of 33 Medicare Advantage plans and 46 stand-alone Part D drug plans available to seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries.
For both types of plans, beneficiaries could face substantial increases in their premiums if they stay in the same plan for 2010. For example, for Medicare Advantage enrollees who stay in the same plan in 2010, monthly premiums will increase by 32 percent on average, with a steeper 78 percent average increase for enrollees in private fee-for-service plans who do not switch plans.
Among the stand-alone Part D plans, relatively few help beneficiaries with the costs of their medications while in the coverage gap, or “doughnut hole,” and those that do usually cover only generics, or a small number of brand-name drugs. One third of the few plans that offer gap coverage charge more for generic drugs in the gap than they do for the same drugs in the initial coverage period. Health reform legislation now pending in both chambers of Congress includes provisions aimed at easing the potential impact of the coverage gap on Medicare beneficiaries.
Kaiser’s new and update resources include:
* Medicare Advantage 2010 Data Spotlight: Plan Availability and Premiums, http://www.kff.org/medicare/8007.cfm, authored by a team of researchers at Mathematica Policy Research Inc. and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
* Medicare Part D 2010 Data Spotlight: The Coverage Gap, http://www.kff.org/medicare/8008.cfm, authored by a team of researchers at
* Updated fact sheets on Medicare Advantage, http://www.kff.org/medicare/2052.cfm, and on the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, http://www.kff.org/medicare/7044.cfm.
These new and updated resources build on the Foundation’s wide range of reports, analysis and other resources related to the Medicare drug benefit available online at http://www.kff.org/medicare/rxdrugbenefit.cfm.
For additional information, please contact: Craig Palosky at (202) 347-5270 or firstname.lastname@example.org