ABA favors safety reforms that are safe for business

In her March 16th article “Bus-safety legislation needed now in wake of recent crash fatalities,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) calls on Congress to pass a bill she co-sponsored with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act. The American Bus Association agrees with Sen. Hutchison in her article that more can be done on motorcoach safety. The motorcoach industry has continually supported research and testing that leads to the development of the seat belt and enhanced window and roof strength standards as well as the addition of other safety features for motorcoaches.

We also have supported legislation that would ensure the rigorous review of new bus companies before they are allowed to operate, and an ongoing crackdown on “reincarnated” and illegal carriers.

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However, our main concern with the pending legislation is that it goes far beyond the core issues of seatbelts, enhanced windows and roof strength standards to a series of 18 separate vehicle mandates. Viewed in isolation, any one of these mandates may have merit, but taken together they would make new motorcoaches so expensive that it could literally put existing safe companies out of business, meaning less motorcoach transportation, the safest surface transportation mode, and putting more passengers into automobiles. ABA has supported similar legislation that has been previously introduced into the House of Representatives that we feel best accomplishes these safety goals.

Over the past decade, ABA has repeatedly voiced our support for more enforcement and new regulations for a safer motorcoach industry. We have sought new regulations related to driver training and medical certification, and we urged the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to undertake the research necessary to determine how to better protect our passengers, which is currently under way.

We have been encouraged to see that the Department of Transportation has heeded our calls for more funding for enforcement as indicated by their FY 2012 budget request, and it is our hope that Congress agrees with the administration and takes the stance that highway safety and its enforcement activities, specifically those that are directed towards protecting passengers, just cannot be cut. We truly believe that through vigorous enforcement, the illegal and unfit operators will be removed from the roads, and that we as an industry will be safer.

From Peter J. Pantuso, president and CEO of the American Bus Association, Washington, D.C. 

Williams not a credible source on NPR funding

In response to Juan Williams’s March 21 column, “Now it’s time to defund NPR”: Juan Williams writes that as a journalist, he has been reluctant until now to endorse the defunding of NPR.

As a journalist, he should also refrain from quoting, without question or caveat, a misleadingly edited video that has been thoroughly proven to be a fraud. The video in question, a creation of habitual right-wing scam artist James O’Keefe III, purports to show NPR fundraising executives kowtowing to Muslim extremists, bashing Republicans and dismissing the importance of federal funding to NPR. But as an investigation by the conservative news site The Blaze discovered last week, the unedited video shows the executives are wary of their suspicious potential donors, criticize the Tea Party in the context of a quote from another person, and emphasize the importance of the small amount of federal funding that NPR receives.

Any honest discussion of NPR’s federal funding should include the very small amount of funding in question (about $5 million a year), the way that money is used (to help local stations, often in rural areas, stay alive) and the false nature of O’Keefe’s latest attack. Williams’s willingness to conveniently ignore these facts is an important reminder of the critical importance of high-quality and balanced journalism — the very kind that NPR provides.

From Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way, Washington, D.C. 

Illegal immigration too costly for US taxpayers

A recent op-ed in The Hill, “Tough talk on immigration comes with huge credit card bill,” from March 17 argues that immigration enforcement is expensive, but fails to mention the larger issue at hand: illegal immigration costs American taxpayers billions each year.

In fact, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, illegal immigration costs $113 billion annually. This amounts to $1,117 per household to pay for the healthcare, education, welfare and incarceration of illegal immigrants. 

Illegal immigration drains states’ budgets, too. The State of California is expected to have a $25 billion budget shortfall by June 2012. At the same time, illegal immigration costs the Golden State nearly $22 billion each year. If immigration laws were fully enforced, California’s budget deficit would nearly be eliminated.

Pro-enforcement supporters believe it is wrong for Americans to bear these exorbitant costs. By reducing the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S., we can reduce the financial burden on American taxpayers.

From Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C.