Friday, July 31, 2009

It’s just a bill – 167,000 of ’em

The fine people at StateNet recently sent me a copy of the 2010 state legislative sessions calendar. To most folks that probably doesn’t mean a whole mess of a lot. But to those of us who enjoy keeping track of what’s going on at statehouses, it is kind of like Christmas in late July.

Checking out the calendar is a good excuse to crack open a nice carbonated beverage, find online the ol’ Schoolhouse Rock tune “How a Bill Becomes a Law” to set the mood, and kick back and study exactly when and for how long I’m going to need to keep my eye on activities in places from Carson City to Concord.

Some of the information provided is jaw-dropping. Honestly. What jumped out at me are the 167,000 bills that are estimated to be brought up for consideration. A number that is even more astounding after taking into consideration that six states (Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Texas) don’t even meet for regular sessions next year.

The states that are expected to be churning out the highest volume of proposals are New Jersey with 6,400; Tennessee with 5,400; Illinois with 5,000; and New York with 4,400. The foursome accounts for nearly 13 percent of the bills for all statehouses.

The states that treat paper like premium parchment are Wyoming with an estimated 300 bills expected to be offered, Alaska with 400, Maine with 450, and Delaware with 550.

No real surprise that states with heavy populations have a tendency to produce the biggest stacks of legislation while less populated states typically have shorter piles.

Other notables:

Hawaii is estimated to offer 3,800 bills – more bills than Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin are expected to offer combined.

Puerto Rico is expected to consider more bills than any state except New Jersey. The U.S. territory is estimated to offer 6,000 bills.

While in session for only one month, New Mexico lawmakers are expected to roll out a whopping 1,650 bills. On the other hand, Wyoming lawmakers are estimated to introduce 300 bills during their one-month session.

With all this legislation and the time and money (oh no, we cannot forget the greenbacks involved), you have to wonder how much change we’ll notice by the time StateNet sends out its 2011 calendar.

It got me to thinking about the money taxpayers shell out to have lawmakers putting in all the time to offer so much legislation, and often with limited results.

I came across some information published recently in the Houston Chronicle that shows the annual cost for legislative sessions in four of the most populated states. California leads the way with a $244 million price tag to run the show in Sacramento. In New York, it costs $209 million; Florida’s expenses are $186 million while Texas comes in at $171 million.

That’s $810 million with only four states accounted for. I cannot think of a better reason than our own pocketbooks to make sure we keep the lines of communication open with our elected officials.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Start spreading the news

In only a couple of weeks, Land Line readers will receive their August/September magazine in the mailbox.

As usual, the August/September book is loaded with information on anti-idling devices.

But this year, as you’ll see, marks a new chapter in trucking. Many more states, counties and cities are limiting or outright banning truck idling.

The premise is simple. Running diesel trucks for hours at a time uses more diesel and can emit more particulate matter than running an APU or other idling alternative.

The emissions aren’t good for anyone to breathe, especially the truck drivers who sit closer to engines than anyone. Of course, that’s overlooking many of the practicalities of idling, which I’ll get to in a minute.

But truckers understand the premise, and thousands of OOIDA members have purchased idling alternatives or sweated out hot afternoons in order to comply with local regulations.

Guess who isn’t buying in?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently made headlines when an Associated Press report detailed the news service’s investigation into Bloomberg’s mayoral fleet.

According to The AP, Bloomberg’s fleet flouted the city’s one-minute idling limit around schools, with his Chevy SUVs idling for between “10 minutes and an hour” all over New York.

Read the story here.

Since that story went public, Bloomberg has publicly apologized and told the NYPD to shut off his fleet’s engines when parked.

Apparently Bloomberg’s fleet is classified as emergency vehicles, which were technically exempt from idling restrictions.

Bloomberg has taken credit for Gotham’s environmental gains, but before being outed, seemed to think he was more important than any truck drivers who are unfortunate enough to have to make Big Apple deliveries.

Besides being a massive contradiction, this story bothered me because I’ve heard from more than 100 Land Line readers since I’ve worked here who have detailed long afternoons and nights of surviving in their sleeper without heat or air conditioning.

Follow some of the truckers who follow Land Line on Twitter at twitter.com/land_line_mag, and you’ll get an idea. All winter and into the spring, many truckers on Twitter wrote about problems with idling, within the social networking site’s 140-character limit, of course.

Owner-operators have to contend with technology that sometimes breaks down, and company drivers face an ever smaller number of idling hours allowed per week, leading to some potentially dangerous situations.

Extra blankets and thick sweats don’t keep drivers warm during 30 and even 40 degree nights. Try working a full day after sleeping in a pool of sweat during the summer.

And contrary to popular images of truckers in movies like “Smokey and the Bandit,” they’re not crisscrossing the country to win friendly wagers or spend time with Sally Field.

Instead, they’re required to comply with these regs as RV users, mayors and other elite can legally idle the night away.