Brown Bailout Vote Coming Up Next Week

(Note: I’ve written extensively about the Brown Bailout, which is embedded into the FAA Reauthorization Act, on ColoradoPols previously. You can find my entries on the subject HERE and HERE)

The buzz around town is that Senator Reid will be bringing a version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill to the floor for a vote next week. Either he’ll bring a version of the bill with the Brown Bailout provision included in it or he’ll put forward the Brown Bailout as a stand-alone bill.

In order to pass this bailout, Senator Reid will need 60 votes, so our Colorado senators will have a chance to stand up for their constituents and fight the kind of anti-business political favoritism which the Brown Bailout represents.

For anyone who is interested in making sure Senators Bennet and Udall do the right thing for Colorado’s economy, you can tell them to oppose the Brown Bailout HERE.

Radio Stations and the Performance Rights Act

Radio stations, especially those in small communities, are one of the few sources left that provide listeners with a shared communal experience.  Local stations connect people across divides of race, gender, and income.  If there’s a local rock or country or pop station, at some time or other we all tuned in.  These stations are often not only locally owned and operated, but locally focused.

 

They make airtime for local bands, circulate local news, and publicize local events and organizations.  They are like a collective water cooler.  They’re the soundtrack for generations on end growing up in the same neighborhoods, going to the same high schools, honoring the same heroes and laughing at the same stories.

These stations are dying off today, less able to weather the recession do to tight margins and small operating budgets.  I don’t think government should get into the business of bailing these stations out, but I also don’t think government should make it more difficult for these stations to operate, either.  Unfortunately, there is a bill now before Congress that could cripple many of these small stations.            

It’s called the Performance Rights Act.  It has passed out of the Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.  It’s a bad idea, and could be a death blow to local radio across the country.

The bill would add a new layer of royalty fees-based on a sliding scale that could range from hundreds of dollars to as much as $5,000-for radio stations.  For huge corporations, with the cash and resources necessary to keep up, this is just a bad idea.  For small stations, or for small businessmen and women who own just a handful of stations, it’s a bad idea that could put them out of business.

Small stations are barely making it through the recession as it is.  Forcing new fees on them that go to the recording industry will prove the last straw for many.  As stations go off the air, there will be less aggregate airtime for music, meaning the recording industry will not only get less money over time, but will see its greatest marketing tool-terrestrial radio-slowly disappear.  The PRA would give them a larger slice of an ever-shrinking pie.

The bill is supposed to help musicians but in truth it will only hurt the entire music and entertainment industry.  Fewer stations will mean less competition, fewer jobs, and less economic growth (and its corresponding tax revenue).  In this economy, Congress should focus its attention on growing jobs not passing legislation that could eliminate them.

Meantime, let’s give our local radio stations a chance to make it through this downturn and come out, like our communities, even stronger on the other side.

Urge our Legislators to Oppose the Brown Bailout

I’m writing with an update to an issue which I blogged about previously, known as the “Brown Bailout.”

As a brief refresher, the Brown Bailout refers to a small but harmful section of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill which would fundamentally change how UPS’ chief competitor, FedEx Express, is regulated. Right now, UPS – being comprised primarily of ground operations – is regulated by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). FedEx Express, which exists as an airline company, is operated under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which covers railroads and airliners. UPS is attempting to make the case that two companies which are operated in fundamentally different ways should be subject to the same regulations. This is an attempt by UPS to gain an unfair regulatory advantage over one of their chief competitors.

With joblessness being one of the most serious problems our country faces, and the growing evidence that this Brown Bailout will threaten jobs, this is a no-strings handout to a major corporation which will hurt American workers. And the Brown Bailout is now coming up for vote likely this week or the next.

If you want to make sure that our government doesn’t continue its policies of giving major corporations a free ride, tell your legislators to vote against any version of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill which contains the Brown Bailout language. To learn more about this issue, and for ways you can help, visit: http://www.brownbailout.com/.

Senators Udall and Bennet Should Support the PACT Act

With all the controversial legislation under discussion at the federal level, one very important bill, s.1147 the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, has not received the kind of attention it deserves. This is a bill which would go a long way to protecting Colorado’s children and creating a more competitive economic climate while closing legal loopholes in online tobacco sales. The PACT Act enjoys broad bipartisan support, but it’s unclear if our U.S. Senators support the bill. Given the seriousness of the problem which this legislation addresses, I hope Senators Bennet and Udall will come forward as a leaders by cosponsoring this important legislation.

Currently, out-of-date federal statutes regulate online tobacco retailers. These are regulations, which were written well before anyone could have imagined the development of internet commerce, result in online tobacco vendors are not being subject to the same identification requirements as brick-andmortar retailers. As a result, some online retailers are selling cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to our children and teenagers. The PACT Act would make sure that everyone, both physical stores and online sellers, are using rigorous identification checks which will go a long way in ensuring our children aren’t buying tobacco products.

The PACT Act also levels the competitive playing field between brick-and-mortar tobacco retailers and online vendors. Currently, online retailers are not collecting state and federal taxes on tobacco sales, leading to a built-in illegal price advantage for their products. This isn’t fair to retailers who play by the rules. It undercuts the economic health of chain stores and mom and pop retailers, the folks who employ us and our neighbors and ensure that the money we spend stays in the local community. It also deprives our state government of badly-needed revenue and forces our legislators to look into cutting vital services or seeking to further tax folks who already play by the rules. This legislation makes sure that if you’re an online tobacco vendor, you’re following the same rules and laws that everyone else has to.

This legislation also helps our law enforcement officials. In order to ensure that this is a bill with teeth, the PACT Act allows law enforcement to charge violators with committing a federal offense. The PACT Act gives our law enforcement the tools they needs to protect our children from illegal tobacco sales and make sure that everyone is obeying the law.

There has been a lot of dialogue at both the state and the federal level about how we can improve the Colorado economy and try to stem some of the bleeding our state government is seeing in its revenue streams. S.1147, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, which enjoys broad support from a wide array of legislators and citizens, protects Colorado’s children, and actually does something to promote a healthier economy for our state and country. I hope that Senator Bennet takes the lead on this in order to protect our children and our economy.

If you’d like to learn more, including how you can help make sure this bill gets passes, please visit the home of the Coalition to Stop Contraband Tobacco (http://www.coalitiontostopcontrabandtobacco.com/).

Diabetes Nation: America at Risk – Listening Tour

This information was forwarded to me and thought it might be of interest. I understand the statistics, especially for childhood diabetes, are staggering and projected to get worse. This seems like an interesting opportunity to see what Colorado is doing to fight diabetes and what more can be done. Information after the jump:

The press release I received:

One in three Americans will develop diabetes if current health trends continue, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And those who have the disease will lose an average of 10 to 15 years of life.

Statistics like those prompted a nationwide town-hall-variety series of meetings. Diabetes Nation: America at Risk plans a meeting in Aurora this month. The four-hour forum is planned from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes on the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

Physician speakers, and representatives from metro area government agencies, the healthcare industry and advocacy groups will gather to talk about local programs aimed at treating and stemming the diabetes epidemic, and ways to enhance those programs.

Representatives hope what they learn in each community about diabetes treatment will be part of a national solution to the health problems posed by the disease. Findings from the nationwide meetings will be presented during a National Conference on Diabetes.

Senior citizens and minorities, among the portions of the population hardest hit by the disease, are encouraged to attend to learn more about diabetes and add their thoughts to the discussion.

The afternoon event is a joint effort of the University of Colorado-Denver, Taking Control of Your Diabetes and the National Minority Quality Forum.

Organizers will provide transportation to those who need it.  Refreshements will be provided.

The meeting is planned in Room 2104 of the Barbara Davis Center, 1775 Aurora Ct., Aurora, 80045.

RSVPs are strongly encouraged.

To RSVP or learn more about the event, call 800-288-5558 or e-mail Diabetes.Nation@bm.com

FedEx, UPS and Rural Colorado

I’m writing here today because I recently learned of an attempt by UPS to sneak a provision into H.R. 915, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009, designed mainly to hurt their main competitor – FedEx. UPS claims that they’re just trying to level the playing field, when the truth is that the two shipping companies operate in very different ways and putting them under the same regulatory scheme would only hurt FedEx and help UPS.

This provision buried deep in H.R. 915 would change how FedEx Express is regulated. Currently, FedEx Express operates under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) which was designed to ensure that vital services (such as the country’s rail and air transit systems) would be able to continue running uninterrupted, even while labor disputes were being settled. FedEx Express, which functions primarily an express air courier, falls under the jurisdiction of this act. As a whole, FedEx operates as four distinct units: FedEx Office, FedEx Ground, FedEx Corporation and FedEx Express. FedEx Express is the only unit of FedEx that operates under the RLA. The other three units, which are more analogous to the operations of UPS, operate under the National Labor Rights Act (NLRA); the same act that regulates UPS operations.

While operating under these two different sets of labor acts, these two companies have been able to carve out two distinct business models, offering different types of services to their clientele. FedEx Express operates as an express courier, and their ability to function as such depends on their ability to promise uninterrupted, timely service to all parts of the country.

In my own experience, my gravest concern over this possible labor law change would be how it affects the rural parts of this country. Colorado, of course, is comprised largely of rural areas and I myself am fortunate enough to live in one of those areas. Because of where I live, I’ve been able to see firsthand the kind of problems that will arise for my – and many other folks’ – part of the state.

In my own experience, I’ve had to deal with express courier services that attempted to replicate FedEx’s delivery times but without the benefit of being run under the RLA. In my rural area, service was infrequent and typically poor. In my own experience with FedEx, which because of the regulatory system it follows has been able to develop a much more robust presence in rural parts of our state, deliveries are able to arrive daily and at the specific times I’ve contracted FedEx to deliver a package by.

For myself, this kind of precision isn’t usually critical, but for rural hospitals and clinics, not mention time sensitive professions like law firms, being able to have a reliable express shipping company can mean the difference between getting critical documents, supplies and medicine on the day they’re needed or having to wait until the next delivery stops by a couple days later.

Now, I’m a strong supporter of worker rights and I wanted to make sure that the RLA actually provided the appropriate avenues for workers to redress their grievances and concerns. Sure enough, after doing a little looking, I found that FedEx is consistently ranked one of the best companies to work for in the United States (Source). So, the issue really comes down to whether we want to support our rural areas or whether they’re expendable in favor of UPS winning a feud with a rival.

For anyone interested in learning more or letting our congressmen know that it’s important to support the needs of rural Colorado too, you can visit: http://www.brownbailout.com/ to get more information and learn what you can do to act.

LATEST UPDATE – On 9/23, Congress voted to grant a 90 day extension on FAA funding. The extension did not include UPS’ anti-competitive language, but UPS is still seeking to legislative changes when the FAA extension expires in a few months time. If you’re interested in this issue, please visit the website previously mentioned, http://www.brownbailout.com/