SMART Transportation Division LO-021
                      429 Government St.
                    Baton Rouge LA 70802

Early Voting - 9/17/2018

As railroaders we have a very unstable schedule so early voting is a great way to know that your vote will be counted. Early voting in the 2018 primaries will begin on Oct. 23-30 (except Sunday, Oct. 28) from 8:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Get out and Vote. 

>>>
Voter Registration - 9/17/2018

If you have not registered to vote or don’t know your voting status please visit Geaux vote under the links page to find out   

  • The deadline to register to vote through the GeauxVote Online Registration System is Oct. 16.
>>>
2018 Elections - 7/19/2018

Qualifying for the 2018 Elections are this week. The Primary and General elections are coming up fast and we as Union Members need to have our voice heard. We need to get the word out to vote and take back our State. Our Unions are being attacked every day, therefore nothing is more important than changing the culture of Louisiana's Politics. Let's be sure our friends, family members, co-workers and ourselves are registered to vote, I have provided a link below to check ones voteing status and register if not already registered. 

 

http://www.congressweb.com/smart_transportation/voterinformation/

>>>
Trade disputes are putting Nations healthy economy at risk - 7/12/2018

Trade disruptions are putting nation's healthy economy at risk, Union Pacific's CEO says

Lance Fritz at the press club

Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz speaking Thursday at the National Press Club.

JOSEPH MORTON/THE WORLD-HERALD

WASHINGTON — From the threat of NAFTA withdrawal to the ongoing tariff battles, trade disruptions are threatening to undermine an otherwise robust economy, the head of Union Pacific said Thursday. 

“The decisions made here in Washington about trade affect my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and all of our citizens,” Lance Fritz said at the National Press Club. “It affects the 7,300 communities that Union Pacific serves.”

The chairman, president and CEO of the Omaha-based freight rail behemoth has been publicly and pointedly making the case this year for free trade, which is fundamental to the company’s bottom line.

About 40 percent of Union Pacific traffic originates or ends outside the United States. And the railroad handles 70 percent of the business going in and out of Mexico. 

Pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement would "be disastrous" and jeopardize millions of jobs tied to trade with Mexico and Canada, Fritz said.

He spoke vividly about trade’s positive impact on American workers from Ohio factory employees making auto parts to Iowa soybean farmers.

“Those soybeans are shipped by us down to Mexico,” Fritz said. “They get crushed into oil and meal. And the oil comes back across the border as vegetable oil sold in our grocery stores.”

Fritz cited the case of a Union Pacific customer who has had a load of steel sitting on a boat outside the port of Long Beach for weeks over a dispute about who will pay the 25 percent tariff.

President Donald Trump has sought to reassure Americans about his trade moves, insisting that they will be better off in the end.

He tweeted Wednesday from the NATO summit in Brussels that he’s “always thinking about our farmers” and that soybean prices were declining even before his election.

“I will open things up, better than ever before, but it can’t go too quickly," he wrote. "I am fighting for a level playing field for our farmers, and will win!”

Fritz said he applauds the administration for its attempt to level the trade playing field and said China’s bad practices have to be addressed.

But the best way to confront China, he said, is as a united front with allies, and is achieved by modernizing trade agreements and working together rather than tariffs and trade wars.

“If the United States of America doesn’t write the rules of global trade, I’m sure China would be more than happy to write them for us,” Fritz said.

The railroad serves more than 10,000 customers, operating in 23 states over 32,000 miles of track. It employs 42,000, including 8,300 in Nebraska (more than half of those in the Omaha metro area).

It’s an economic bellwether, Fritz noted, with overall trends showing up in their carloads before they’re reflected in official statistics. From his perspective, he said, it’s clear the economy is going strong.

An easing of government regulations and corporate tax overhaul have spurred companies to make capital investments, he said, and consumer confidence is up.

Union Pacific itself has used excess cash to increase its capital investment by more than $150 million, he said, in addition to rewarding shareholders with dividends and stock buybacks.

But trade disruptions threaten to up-end positive economic trends.

Cratering soybean prices are making it tough for farmers to turn a profit while lumber tariffs are driving up the cost of housing, Fritz said.

He cited studies indicating manufacturing job losses are due more to automation than trade and talked about the need for a climate in which businesses have the confidence to invest.

“But the recent trade policies have done the opposite by creating uncertainty that’s going to cause capital investment to slow down,” he said.

Union Pacific has seen a direct impact from by the trade situation. It imports long sections of steel track from Japan. The company has sought a tariff waiver for those imports but is still awaiting a decision from the Commerce Department.

The first shipment of rails from Japan post-tariffs came in May and that boat sat in the San Francisco harbor for weeks because of a dispute over who would pay the tariff.

The tariff involved with that one boat amounted to $6 million — and there are up to half a dozen such shipments a year.

“That’s real money,” Fritz told The World-Herald in an interview before his speech.

Nebraska and Iowa lawmakers are largely on the same page with Fritz when it comes to trade, but their objections to the administration’s policies thus far have come via speeches, letters and this week's support for a nonbinding Senate resolution.

Asked whether Congress is acting aggressively enough, Fritz praised the resolution and said its overwhelming passage sends a message to the president.

“I do see Congress thinking about what their role could be, should be and taking action on it,” Fritz said. “I’d always like to see more.”

>>>
President Trump SCOTUS nominee - 7/9/2018

President Trump has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of The United States. 

Judge Kavanaugh will now go through the confirmation process. 

>>>
Tax Bill Passes Senate - 6/24/2018

After a brief discussion, the state Senate has given final passage to a sales tax proposal meant to shore up the state's finances at least through 2025, after years of uncertainty.

The Senate, in a 33-6 vote agreed to set the state sales tax at 4.45 percent on July 1. House Bill 10 now heads to Gov. John Bel Edwards for approval. Edwards backs the bill. 

>>>
Louisiana Legislature is one step closer to a budget - 6/23/2018

A last-ditch effort to shore up the state's finances has crossed another hurdle, setting the stage for the Senate to take up a sales tax measure and budget bill on the floor Sunday afternoon.

If all goes according to legislative leaders' plans, the Senate is likely to give final approval to a bill that would set the state sales tax rate at 4.45 percent on July 1 by extending nine-twentieths, or .45, of a 1 percent tax hike that would otherwise expire.

The tax hike would run through 2025 to finally put an end to what had become a constant cycle of special sessions and rejected proposals to address the fiscal cliff the state faces when more than $1 billion in temporary tax measures expire at the end of the month.

 

A related appropriations bill's path to final passage may not be as certain if a Senate committee amendment that has drawn the ire of House Republicans remains attached to it.

The current special session, which must end by 6 p.m. Wednesday, is the third this year and the seventh since Gov. John Bel Edwards took office. Special sessions cost taxpayers about $60,000 a day.

With little discussion and without objection during a Saturday morning hearing, the Senate Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Committee advanced House Bill 10 to the chamber floor. Senate leaders have said they plan to pass the House version of the bill, which means the tax renewal could be final with the Senate's vote Sunday night if no changes are made.

"Hopefully that's the end of it, that day," Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, told members before they finished up work on Saturday.

Though the tax deal has been deemed a "compromise" all around, legislators and other stakeholders have carried an almost celebratory tone since the House busted through a long-standing impasse and passed HB10 in a bipartisan 74-24 vote on Friday.

"We're not over the goal line today but we are so much closer," Edwards, a Democrat, said after the House vote.

Not all are happy with the proposal. Anti-tax advocates and some conservatives have decried the decision to extend a portion of what would have been an expiring tax.

"If only legislators worked as hard on fulfilling their promise of enacting tax reform as they have been on trying to raise taxes these special sessions, taxpayers would be rejoicing instead of feeling burnt by the legislators sworn to represent their interests," Americans for Prosperity-Louisiana state director John Kay said after the House vote Friday

On the other side, some had hoped that the Legislature would keep half of the expiring tax.

"I wish we would have raised enough money so we could have taken care of all the needs," said Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge.

Without the $480 million in revenue that HB10 is expected to generate, state funding for higher education, public safety and other programs would have faced deep cuts under the budget that lawmakers adopted earlier this month.

The Senate Finance Committee, which also met Saturday morning, advanced House Bill 1 to outline where the new revenue will be spent.

Deal brokered: Louisiana House advances sales tax bill; here are next steps

The proposal would fully fund the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships, colleges and universities, social services, district attorneys and support for private and parochial schools, among other priorities. An earlier budget proposal spared health care from cuts in the $29 billion budget that takes effect July 1.

"It's enough to meet everybody's needs and the missions of those departments, we hope," said Senate Finance Chair Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte.

But the House Republican Delegation quickly excoriated a change that the Senate panel made to the bill, signaling that its fate may not be as clear cut as the tax bill on Sunday and hopes for an early end to the session may be overly optimistic.

The Senate panel altered the House proposal to allow the $43 million in remaining unfunded priorities be covered if the state sees higher-than-anticipated tax collections. That change would mean HB1 must return to the House before it can be finalized.

The House GOP Caucus released a statement accusing Edwards and his allies of attempting to "circumvent the legislative process and allow the governor to spend additional money on pet projects if the state's revenue is greater than expected."

House Republicans want any additional revenue to go through the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, rather than being automatically plugged in to fund the list of unfunded priorities.

House Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry, a Metairie Republican who is the bill's sponsor, said he plans to reject the bill if it comes back with the Senate amendment.

LaFleur said he wanted to ensure that other priorities, including the state inmate housing program and juvenile justice facilities, could be funded if money becomes available.

Inmate housing through local sheriffs faces a $10.5 million hit, though the rates paid to sheriffs can't be cut.

Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said that he accepted that the department may have to return next year to ask for more money to fill the gap, which he often does. "I don't think there's been a year when I've been in this department that we haven't had a supplemental," he said.

The Office of Juvenile Justice is slated to take a $14.8 million hit as the state raises the age of adult prosecution from 17 to 18 years old next year.

Without that money, the state still won't be able to open a long-delayed juvenile detention center in Bunkie, and officials said it could put some strain on existing facilities. 

"If we don't have that facility open, we're going to have a capacity issue where we may be having to send those kids home," said James Bueche, the head of OJJ.

>>>
website updates - 6/22/2018

I will be working to keep the website updated so that any information that is needed to be spread will be available here. If anyone has something that you may want posted please feel free to cantact me. Fraternally Chris Christianson

>>>
2 Man Crew Bill - 6/22/2018

If you have not done so yet please go to the website below and write your Senator and Representatives to co-sponsor the 2 Man Crew bills. These bills will ensure that 2 men will be on all locomotives and could save thousands of jobs in the future. thank you

http://www.congressweb.com/smart_transportation/

>>>