An old saying has it that no one's life, liberty, or property is safe when a legislature is in session. This is never more true than when Congress is wrapping up its annual omnibus spending bill, which funds the government for the next year. All sorts of last-minute trickery and tomfoolery can and often does occur.
On the other hand, sometimes earlier trickery and tomfoolery is deleted at the last moment. That seems to be the fate of a measure that would have forced all states to allow double 33-foot semi-trailer trucks, known as "Double 33s."
The measure was heavily lobbied by trucking interests, but safety advocates raised such a fuss that the measure was deleted from the final version of the bill.
"Double 33s would have resulted in a degradation of safety on our roads and highways at a time when fatalities are on the rise. Funding bills are becoming magnets for special interests seeking to add riders that roll back safety laws and regulations that would never pass Congressional oversight and public review," said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
But, on the other side of the ledger, the bill includes an extension of the “tired truckers” provision enacted in last year’s spending bill. This provision takes away truck drivers “weekends off” and pushes them to work up to 82 hours a week.
"Crashes such as the one which seriously injured Tracy Morgan and killed James McNair are jarring reminders of why this provision, known as the Collins amendment, should be stopped," Gillan said.
Privacy advocates are angrily complaining that a controversial cybersecurity bill has been "gutted" of privacy protections that had been included in earlier measures.
“It’s clear now that this bill was never intended to prevent cyber attacks,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, which has been fighting the measure for months. “It’s a disingenuous attempt to quietly expand the U.S. government’s surveillance programs, and it will inevitably lead to law enforcement agencies using the data they collect from companies through this program to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate more people, deepening injustices in our society while failing to improve security.”
“Congress has failed the Internet once again,” she added. “Now it’s up to President Obama to prove that his administration actually cares about the Internet. If he does he has no choice but to veto this blatant attack on Internet security, corporate accountability, and free speech.”
It's too soon to say what else lurks in the spending bill. The next few days will tell the tale.