With our country facing numerous serious issues that require thoughtful, vibrant leadership, our Congress is in deep trouble. We need a Congress that will enact effective and transformative legislation. Instead we have a Congress that is gridlocked. Both Republicans and Democrats need help reaching across the aisle to engage in meaningful debate and turn important bills into sound laws. Perhaps, as suggested in a June 18 article from the Washington Post by L. Michael Hager, president emeritus of the Education for Employment Foundation, when senators or representatives find themselves locked into irreconcilable positions on issues of national importance, we need some form of third-party mediation to help overcome the stalemate. It’s definitely something to think about.


High Speed Rail

On July 1, the House Appropriations Subcommittee approved the FY 2011 appropriations bill, which contains $1.4 billion for high speed and intercity passenger rail grants. This amount is $400 million more than the President’s request; however, it is much less than the $2.5 billion provided last year.

The American High Speed Rail Alliance (AHSRA), whose board is chaired by former Rep. Al Swift (D-Wash), who is known as the “Father of High Speed Rail,” recently named a dozen prominent figures and leaders of the transportation industry to the board. Amongst those appointed to serve on this board is our own BLET Vice President & National Legislative Representative John Tolman. The mission of AHSRA is to advocate for the development and implementation of a high speed passenger rail network in the United States. Vice President Tolman will serve as a persuasive advocate for the interests of the BLET and all of rail labor. One of the goals of the group is to ensure that workforce development initiatives that identify, train, and support American workers to design, build, operate, and maintainAmerica’s high speed and regional passenger network. Additionally, the Alliance will leverage its resources and relationships to:

  • Support the proposed $50 billion authorization for High Speed Rail in the SAFETEA-LU re-authorization legislation, and work with Congress to
    identify a dedicated source of funding to appropriate towards this authorization;
  • Modify existing federal funding and financing programs such as RRIF, TIFIA, and Build America Bonds to ensure eligibility for High Speed Rail
  • Promote innovative tools that incentivize private sector participation in High Speed Rail financing including public/private partnerships and the
    development of a national infrastructure investment bank;
  • Support enactment of freight rail investment tax credits that benefit the development of High Speed Rail;
  • Advocate for a $4 billion annual appropriation from the Transportation Appropriations account for High Speed Rail development;
  • Develop a dedicated, and predictable funding source for High Speed Rail to allow effective long-term planning and develop a sustainable market for High Speed Rail vendors and service providers;
  • Support full funding of Amtrak; and
  • Be a partner in industry efforts to sensibly and cost-effectively implement safety regulations, such as Positive Train Control (PTC), while
    advocating for funding to meet these mandates and transparency in the development of critical technology.

New Chairman Appointed for National Mediation Board

Harry Hoglander has been appointed as the Chairman of the National Mediation Board, effective July 1, 2010. Mr. Hoglander has been a member of the Board since August 2002 and served as Chairman twice before (July 1, 2004 – June 30, 2005 and July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008). Chairman Hoglander, a former pilot for TWA, has an extensive background in the aviation industry and labor relations.

Final Rule Reissued by NMB Regarding Representation Election Procedure

Effective July 1, the National Mediation Board’s voting procedure for representation was changed to add a “No” option and to provide that the majority of votes cast will determine the outcome of an election. The new procedure applies only to applications received on or afterJuly 1, 2010. Previously, the NMB had published its final rule in the Federal Register regarding its Representation Election Procedure on May 11, 2010. However, due to litigation, the effective date of the rule change was changed to July 1.