BART strike bill is dead, but another is coming

Assembly Democrats on Wednesday killed an East Bay lawmaker’s bill that would’ve essentially banned strikes by BART workers, like the ones that threw Bay Area commutes into chaos in 2013 – but another lawmaker is preparing to take another stab at it.

Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, introduced AB 528 last February, delivering on a campaign promise that had helped her become the Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker.

Catharine Baker“In June 2017, the current BART contract expires. We should never be subject to BART strikes again,” Baker said in a news release issued Wednesday after the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee killed the bill on a party-line vote. “This is just the first step in the fight to protect us from BART strikes and I will keep pursuing solutions that will prevent the entire Bay Area from coming to a grinding halt in the face of another strike.”

Many didn’t think the bill would last even this long in the Democrat-dominated Legislature. The committee first heard it in May, and rather than voting it down, agreed to make it a two-year bill; then-chairman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said that would give more time for legislators and other interested parties to discuss the issues. Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, now chairs the committee.

Baker’s AB 528 instead would have barred BART workers from striking as long as they continue to get wages and benefits – in other words, if an existing contract has a no-strike clause and management keeps honoring the pact’s financial terms after it expires, unions couldn’t strike. Baker campaigned on pursuing a bill like this after two 2013 strikes brought BART to grinding halts, snarling Bay Area traffic and costing the local economy $73 million per day by one business group’s estimate.

Democrat Steve Glazer made a similar campaign promise when competing with Baker in 2014’s 16th Assembly District primary, and again in his successful campaign in last year’s 7th State Senate District special election. Glazer intends to introduce a BART-strike bill sometime in the next few weeks, spokesman Steve Harmon said Wednesday.


Bay Area House members laud FAA noise plan

Three Bay Area House members are praising the Federal Aviation Administration for launching an initiative to address concerns about noise from air traffic above San Francsico, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.

Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Sam Farr, D-Carmel, released the FAA’s action plan to the public.

“My colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to engage the FAA’s leadership to take concrete steps to mitigate and address the noise from aircraft in our respective congressional districts,” Eshoo said in a news release. “As a result of our collaboration, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and FAA Regional Director Glen Martin met with local elected officials, community groups and individuals from our congressional districts to discuss the impacts of NextGen and additional issues prior to its implementation, including Surf Air at the San Carlos Airport.

“I welcome this important first step the FAA has developed. The FAA leadership will follow up with community meetings, coordinated through our offices, to explain in detail the FAA’s plan to address the noise problems being experienced in our region.”

Speier said her constituents long have been affected by noise from San Francisco International Airport and more recently from the San Carlos and Half Moon Bay airports. The FAA’s initiative “is a compilation of the ideas that were offered by the public regarding SFO at the FAA’s recent meetings in our three congressional districts, as well as requests made by the SFO Airport Community Roundtable. Some of these ideas may be deemed workable by the FAA and some may not.

“However, having previously been resistant to taking community suggestions, the FAA, for the first time in many years, has committed to studying ideas submitted by the affected communities,” Speier said. “I am gratified that the FAA is rolling up its sleeves to come up with solutions. The health of those who live under constant bombardment of airplane noise is being seriously compromised and the FAA has a responsibility to take action to address it.”

Farr said the action plan “is evidence the FAA is willing to consider the changes proposed by the community. For months, the commercial aircraft noise in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area has been terrible. From the beginning, I have told the FAA that they created this mess so it is up to them to fix it.”

“This is only a first step but it is a good one,” he said. “It shows everyone is committed to developing some real solutions. I hope the FAA will continue to listen to the communities it serves and work with them to solve any problems that arise from the switch to the NextGen flight plan.”


Pelosi cites California as need for highway fund

California’s crumbling roads are a prime example of why Congress must pass long-term legislation to reauthorize and reinvigorate the Highway and Transit Trust Fund, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

Nancy Pelosi“With scant days left until the Highway Trust Fund expires in the middle of the summer construction season, Republicans have wasted this entire week tying themselves in knots to protect the Confederate Battle Flag,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a news release.

“Our nation’s infrastructure needs are too serious for another Republican manufactured crisis, or another meager, short-term extension,” she said. “We must have a long-term bill to invest in our roads, transit and bridges, and protect the good-paying jobs of hundreds of thousands of construction workers across the country.”

Pelosi cited Department of Transportation data showing that 68 percent of the Golden State’s roads are in mediocre or poor condition. This forces drivers to spend almost $13.9 billion a year – an average of $586 per motorist – on otherwise unnecessary automotive repairs, creating costs for commuters and businesses moving their goods to market. And almost 28 percent of California’s bridges also structurally deficient, too.

“Americans are tired of the potholes, the traffic delays, and the danger of our crumbling roads and bridges,” Pelosi said. “Hard-working American families deserve a long-term Highway bill that invests in world-class infrastructure and creates good-paying jobs.”


Dublin Republican’s BART strike bill still alive

An East Bay lawmaker’s bill to limit BART labor strikes surprisingly wasn’t killed outright Wednesday by Assembly Democrats.

The Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee heard Assemblywoman Catharine Baker’s AB 528 but didn’t vote on it, instead making it a two-year bill. Chairman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, agreed to work with Baker’s office to “facilitate discussions… on how to address the issue,” a staffer said.

Catharine Baker“I was pleased with the outcome today, I’m pleased with the progress this bill has made so far – it’s the first time the Legislature has even heard a bill regarding BART strikes,” Baker, R-Dublin, said later Wednesday. “The road continues to be a rocky one, but I’m going to be tireless in finding a solution to BART strikes.”

Bonta couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. (See update at bottom.)

A bill to impose a statewide ban on transit strikes, authored by state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, quickly died in committee early last year. Baker’s AB 528 instead would bar BART workers from striking as long as they continue to get wages and benefits – in other words, if an existing contract has a no-strike clause and management keeps honoring the pact’s financial terms after it expires, unions couldn’t strike.

Baker campaigned last year on pursuing a bill like this after two 2013 strikes brought BART to grinding halts, snarling Bay Area traffic and costing the local economy $73 million per day by one business group’s estimate.

Baker said Wednesday she believes Assembly Democrats had little choice but to give the bill a hearing, because “BART strikes are a significant issue affecting the state’s economy, not just the Bay area, and it would be irresponsible to ignore that.” Her bill might’ve had an easier time because it “is a little bit different from approaches in the past… and I think that gave it a better chance of being heard.”

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M.: Bonta’s office just emailed me this statement, which indicates this bill’s supporters shouldn’t get their hopes up:

Rob Bonta“During the Committee hearing today, Assemblymember Baker agreed to make AB 528 a two-year bill. As a result, there was no need for any members to vote on it today. I, as Committee Chair, and my Committee staff offered to help convene a meeting between all the impacted parties.The right to strike is the cornerstone of workers’ rights. And I believe this bill, as written, would further shift the balance of power in labor negotiations even more in favor of employers. Instead of looking for ways to eliminate or reduce the rights of BART employees, we should be using this time to heal and repair the relationship between employees and management so that going forward the labor negotiation process is improved for all parties.”


Barbara Boxer praises BART’s plan to ban e-cigs

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is thanking BART for its plan to ban use of e-cigarettes on trains and in stations.

Barbara Boxer“Research has raised major concerns about secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapor,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Thomas Blalock. “This is particularly relevant in small, enclosed spaces such as trains and stations, leading the World Health Organization to recommend that steps be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public and work places.”

The BART Board of Directors will hold a final vote to approve the ban on Feb. 12. Boxer last June wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to ban the use of such devices on airplanes.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill this week that would ban use of e-cigarettes in all public spaces.

For the full text of Boxer’s letter to BART, read after the jump…
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John Garamendi seeks T&I ranking member post

A Northern California congressman is making a play to become the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s ranking member.

Current ranking member Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., was defeated Tuesday in his bid for an 18th term. The panel’s next-most-senior Democrat is Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., already is the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking member but reportedly now more interested in this slot.

After DeFazio come 15 more Democrats (two of whom won’t be back next year) – and then comes Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove.

John Garamendi“A demonstrated ability to preserve Democratic ideals while working across the aisle to get things done will be crucial in the next Congress, and particularly in this Committee,” Garamendi wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the Democratic Caucus.

“With major legislative initiatives on the horizon that include surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak reauthorization, the Democratic transportation agenda calls for a strong, inclusive, proactive leader who looks beyond divisive dualities to facilitate opportunity, momentum, and results,” he wrote. “This is the leadership I aim to bring.”

Garamendi’s letter cites his work in Congress on water infrastructure, domestic shipyards and the U.S. Merchant Marine, but also harkens back to his California work.

“Most notably, in 1990, I authored SCA 1, which became California Proposition 111,” wrote Garamendi, who at that time was a state senator. “Among the most important transportation propositions in California history, this measure ensured government expenditure limits would not unnecessarily restrict the infrastructure improvements needed to keep pace with California’s population and economic growth.”

“The initiative led to voter approval of an $18.5 billion transportation package that helped improve roads and transit corridors throughout the state,” he wrote. “For this work, I was named Legislator of the Year by the League of California Cities, and to this day, Prop 111 provides funding for cash-strapped highways and public transit systems in California.”

The other California Democrats on the Transportation Committee are Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, who has more seniority than Garamendi, and Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, who has less.

The Democratic Caucus is expected to vote on ranking-member appointments in December.