From the inbox:
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today sent a letter with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to the U.S. Department of Transportation in favor of prohibiting cell phone conversations on commercial airline flights, preserving what they called the “last vestige of quiet in our busy skies.”
Alexander said: “I’m glad the Department of Transportation is thinking about putting the brakes on a bad idea before it takes flight. Stop and think about what we hear in airport lobbies – babbling about last night’s love life, next week’s schedule, arguments with spouses – and then imagine hearing the same thing while you’re trapped in 17-inch-wide seats thousands of feet above the ground. With two million passengers hurtling through the air each day, the Transportation Security Administration would have to hire three times as many air marshals to deal with fistfights.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering proposed rules that could enable cell phone conversations on commercial airlines. In their letter, Alexander and Feinstein supported the Department of Transportation’s decision to explore prohibiting voice communications on commercial airlines. The Federal Aviation Administration, which is an agency of the Department of Transportation, would be responsible for implementing any proposed regulations regarding cell phone conversations on commercial flights.
In addition, Alexander and Feinstein have introduced the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, which would prohibit the use of voice communication through cell phones on regularly scheduled commercial flights. It would allow the use of cell phones for texting and other electronic communication, if the FCC were to approve such communications. It would also allow the use of personal electronic devices such as Kindles and iPads during flight, which the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved.
Alexander’s legislation mirrors current regulation. It only applies to commercial airlines, not private charter flights or foreign carriers, unless the latter is flying between U.S. airports. It exempts federal air marshals and flight crews for official business.
The full text of the letter is below:
The Honorable Anthony Foxx
Secretary of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary Foxx,
We are writing to express our strong support for a prohibition on the use of mobile wireless services for voice communication on commercial aircraft.
On February 24, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Docket No. DOT-OST-2014-0002) regarding the use of mobile wireless devices for voice calls on commercial aircraft. We strongly support the agency’s efforts to preserve the last vestige of quiet in our busy skies. On December 12, we introduced S. 1811, the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act to codify the current prohibition of voice communication use inflight.
Today’s commercial air passengers often must tolerate a challenging flight experience. Constantly changing security measures, smaller seats, and unexpected fees are inconveniences air passengers have come to accept as the new normal. Adding the burden of listening to a cacophony of personal conversations while confined to a 17-inch seat strikes us as unnecessary. We are concerned that the addition of this entirely avoidable aggravation of a confined space will create a possibly hostile atmosphere on commercial flights.
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for ensuring the safety of the passengers and crew of commercial airlines. Flight crews endure long hours, separation from families, and sometimes difficult passengers. A clear prohibition of phone calls by the FAA, will reduce the likelihood that crew will be forced to place themselves in harm’s way to disrupt physical or verbal altercations between passengers.
Further, it is no secret our skies are being protected by undercover Federal Air Marshalls and we appreciate their service. Were the prohibition on voice communication ended, we are concerned that these agents would be forced to disclose their identity to resolve senseless disputes over inflight phone calls.
We strongly encourage you to finalize a rulemaking to prohibit the use of mobile wireless devices for voice communication inflight. Keeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense. By doing so, we believe you will have the gratitude of the majority of the two million Americans who fly each day.
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein The Honorable Lamar Alexander
United States Senator United States Senator
The House will vote Monday — and is expected to pass — a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to consider a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A separate bill (SB1432) lays out procedures for selecting delegates to the convention, if and when it occurs. Dubbed the “faithful delegate bill” by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, the sponsor, the measure also declares that the Legislature will lay out rules for delegates to follow and that they can be penalized – including a possible felony charge – for violating them.
But what of the unintended consequences?
Though the bill has won approval by lopsided margins in all votes, there has been opposition. In a House committee last week, for example, Bobbie Patray, president of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, and Hal Rounds, a Fayette County tea party leader, contended a convention could open the door to unintended consequences.
Rounds said that, despite the “faithful delegate” bill, delegates once the convention is underway will be under federal jurisdiction and can ignore state laws. He also complained that the convention call, as structured, only requires a balanced budget – not reduced federal spending – and could mean higher taxes rather than spending cuts.
Tennessee would be the 22nd state to call for the convention. Article V of the Constitution requires two-thirds of the states to call for a convention (that's 34, not 38 as the linked article says; approval of an amendment would require 38 states signing on)
The bill requiring legislative approval for "bus rapid transit in a city with a metropolitan form of government" (My goodness, what city could that be? Unless Metro Hartsville has a BRT on its mind) has the backing of Beth Harwell, who says she doesn't "favor" The Amp.
Gov. Bill Haslam equates the legislative push to override local government gun bans in parks as a property matter rather than a constitutional one.
“City councils and county commissions have said, ‘OK, our taxpayers have paid for that park,’ and their elected representatives, I think, should get to decide what happens in the parks,” he told reporters after making a jobs announcement in Dickson. "To me, it’s not a Second Amendment right. It’s the same right anybody should have with a property they control."
Haslam stopped short of saying he'd veto the bill. In noting that the measure is now on the move in the House, he said, “We’ll have to see once it winds its way to me.”
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee advanced the bill this week, despite the governor's “major concerns” expressed earlier this year. Those concerns also didn’t stop the Senate, which voted last month 26-7 to allow handgun-carry permit holders to bring their gun with them into parks, regardless whether local municipalities have banned them.
While House Speaker Beth Harwell has said she sees a guns-in-parks bill passing this year, she has said she wants to make the bill more “palatable” to local governments. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has also weighed in by asking members of the legislature to leave local authority to ban guns in municipal parks alone.
Linda McFadyen-Ketchum, Moms Demand Action chapter leader, and Telisha Cobb wanted to change some state representatives’ minds about the bill. In the middle of a conversation with Womick, McFadyen-Ketchum said, he reached into a drawer, pulled out a gun and placed it on his desk.
Womick, a Rockvale Republican, denies that. It was a gun holster, he said this week, and he explained that he leaves the gun itself in his car, even though he is exempt from the Capitol’s no-carry law. That’s the point he was trying to make, he said.
McFadyen-Ketchum disputes that. version. “Why would anyone pull out a holster?” she said. “I don’t have a photographic memory, but it was a gun.”
From the inbox:
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper announced today that he is cosponsoring legislation that would address an alarming increase in military sexual assaults by moving the response to such crimes outside the chain of command.
A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Cooper is cosponsoring the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich. The bill is a response to higher rates of sexual assault in the armed services and is the House version of legislation championed by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Despite the military’s efforts to rectify the issue, high rates of sexual assault persist. According to The New York Times, four out of five military sexual assaults go unreported. And other reports say perpetrators often are in the victims’ immediate chain of command.
“Threats to our troops should only come from the enemy,” Cooper said. “Not our fellow soldiers.”
The Military Justice Improvement Act would change the law to transfer the prosecution of crimes such as rape and sexual assault from commanders to independent military prosecutors.
Gillibrand has said the military is the only workplace in America where a boss decides whether or not a sexual assault occurred. Cooper agrees and believes his role as a congressman includes keeping the military strong.
“We’ve waited too long for the U.S. military to solve its own sexual assault problems,” Cooper said. “It needs civilian help.”