The governors of Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, and Virginia declared states of emergency related to successive, powerful winter storms this week. Hundreds of thousands of people and businesses across the country are still without power after deadly Winter Storms Riley and Quinn battered parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and New England. Both of these storms intensified through the rare process of “bombogenesis” within the span of one week.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced staffing at the 24-hour Commonwealth Watch and Warning Center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which means extra personnel are working to monitor conditions and county needs. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will be enforcing a road travel ban today, banning many vehicles on many highways for empty trailers, as well as tandem and double trailers, motorcycles, RVs, and passenger vehicles pulling trailers.
Thousands of flights have been cancelled and disrupted this week. Conditions have been so treacherous that an FAA Tower had to be evacuated, a hangar was ripped apart at LaGuardia, and at least one regional jet reported nearly 100% airsickness on landing at Dulles. In the wake of the storms, air carriers have waived change fees for travelers seeking to avoid or amend travel. For passengers with pre-purchased travel insurance, coverage may include the cost of cancelation, missed connections, and baggage loss and delay coverage. However, once a storm is named, travel insurance can no longer be purchased to cover that storm.
Ronald L. Batory was sworn in by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao as the 14th Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), one of ten agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation concerned with intermodal transportation. Batory will manage regulatory oversight of more than 800 railroads and direct the agency’s financial assistance programs, national freight and passenger rail policy and research, and development activities that support railroad safety, efficiency, and reliability. In related news, rail service through the Northeast Corridor was severely impacted by this week’s winter storms. We’re riding out these late breaking winter storms.
The United States Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that would eliminate "fair share" union fees from non-members in 23 states. Different from dues, fair share fees relate to additional costs to union members to support collective bargaining, legislative advocacy, and other political activity. The high court heard cases in 2012, 2014, and 2016 on nearly the same issue. However, given the makeup the justices on the bench now, pundits believe that the Supreme Court could be poised to reverse its own 40-year-old precedent and strike down the fees as unconstitutional. We expect the court’s ruling this June.
The Supreme Court also announced it will hear arguments in a case that could have industry-wide implications for the transportation sector. The case involves a contractual dispute between and owner-operator and a logistics company. At issue is a contractual that would require the owner-operator to be bound by a third party arbitration clause that would preclude litigation involving truckers’ disputes. The justices will resolve the question of whether the owner-operator’s contract was a “contract of employment” that falls outside of the Federal Arbitration Act.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Iowa State Senate passed legislation to establish a new unit within the state insurance division to investigate and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud. The proposal would make workers’ compensation fraud a felony, punishable by a sentence of up to five years and a fine between $750 and $7,500. The Senate debate grew heated. We’ll follow these developments as the measure moves to the Iowa House of Representatives.
A group bipartisan lawmakers in the U.S. Senate introduced legislation modeled after Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law in 2016. “CARA 2.0” addresses the nation’s opioid epidemic in variety ways. Most notably, the bill would establish a national, three-day initial opioid prescribing limit for acute pain. Other provisions of the bill would bolster youth recovery services, require physicians to use their state prescription drug monitoring programs, and authorize more than $1 billion in additional funding related to state training, education, and addictions services nationwide.
The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission announced the adoption of Rule 099.41, a drug formulary that regulates all outpatient medications prescribed as a result of work-related injuries. The rule draws on a formulary already in use for state government employees who are injured on the job, with additional provisions for opioid prescriptions based on guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rule applies to new injuries occurring on or after July 1, 2018.
WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
In 1987, Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month. March was selected to coincide with an international commemorative day, International Woman’s Day, which celebrated tomorrow, March 8th. These commemorative days are an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the achievements of women around the globe, across our industry, and most certainly, right here at The Way.