It’s time for Congress to go home, stand in the corner and think about what they did (or maybe almost did). (I'm paraphrasing here our new national crusader and peacemaker, the all-powerful Taylor Swift. Maybe she'll have some influence.) With only a week or two left before the summer recess, Congress’ time-out cannot come soon enough. Let’s just mention a couple reasons why.
Bloomberg reports in detail today about widely-condemned Senate highway legislation that would, among other things, allow teenagers to become truckdrivers – as if truck safety wasn’t already problem enough. Guess the logic goes something like this: since kids generally can’t rent cars until they’re 25, let’s give them 80,000 pound trucks to drive.
Notes Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, “Many states permit 18-year-olds to drive the big trucks, but federal law prohibits them from operating across borders. In those states, younger truck drivers are four- to six-times as likely as 21-year-olds to be involved in fatal crashes.” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which also opposes the idea, said that there was “unequivocal scientific evidence of a markedly elevated crash risk among people younger than 21 who drive large trucks.” Who would even doubt this? Says Gillan, “Look at the figures. Now we’re saying let’s take a really bad idea and expand it? Who else other than the trucking industry could get by with that logic?”
(If you want to read something scary, check out this report called, Teen Unsafe Driving Behaviors. I especially enjoyed the Appendix, “Additional Thoughts on the Teenage Brain.”)
Incredibly, this provision has already been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee and “Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts say they are trying to get the provision removed from the six-year highway bill when it is debated by the full Senate.” Which raises the question - why is this insane bill even being debated?
Now food, and an equally crazy bill that’s coming up fast in the House. H.R. 1599, the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” (known as the “DARK Act” by opponents) would overturn and preempt (i.e., invalidate) all state consumer GMO and natural food labeling laws while replacing them with nothing. It would wipe out all state law even if federal regulations are never promulgated. Notes CNBC,
One of H.R. 1599's critics, Rep. Jim McGovern of the House Agriculture Committee, a Democrat of Massachusetts, said he finds ‘it ironic that so many of my Republican colleagues espouse state’s rights, but the bill before us does just the opposite. It preempts states from establishing their own labeling laws and it would invalidate laws already passed in states like Vermont, Maine and Connecticut.
And that’s not the half of it. The preemption language in this bill likely will be interpreted to throw out and prevent all litigation over inaccurate labeling, as well. One section of the bill says, for example, “No State or political subdivision of a State may directly or indirectly establish under any authority or continue in effect as to any food in interstate commerce any requirement with respect to genetically engineered plants for use or application in food that is not identical to the requirement of section 461 of the Plant Protection Act (as added by section 111 of this Act)."
(So Taylor, can’t you do something about this?)