AC Alert for December 19, 2011 A Patchwork Quilt of Laws

Dec 21, 2011 11:00 AM ET AC Alert for December 19, 2011 A Patchwork Quilt of …

Tim moved from New York State to North Carolina three years ago to start a new job. However, most of his friends and family are still in the Empire State so he is a frequent traveler back and forth along the Interstate 95 and 81 corridors. Like virtually all of us, Tim owns a cell phone and uses it quite often while driving in North Carolina, where the use of cell phones while driving is banned only for those less than 18 years of age.

There's always an adjustment curve for Tim when he goes back up through New Jersey and into New York State where the use of hand-held cell phones is banned. During one of his recent trips it occurred to Tim that the cell phone laws for drivers would make more sense if they were the same in all states.

Right now, they are not:

  • North Carolina--All cell phone use permitted except for minors; texting banned.

  • Virginia--All cell phone use permitted; texting banned.

  • Maryland--All cell phone use banned; texting banned.

  • Pennsylvania--All cell phone use permitted; texting banned as of March 2012.

  • New Jersey--Only hands free cell phones permitted; texting banned.

  • New York--Only hands free cell phones permitted; texting banned.


(Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

Tim, you now have a strong voice in your corner asking for some consistency in the law:

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):
"The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called for the first-ever nationwide ban on driver use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle. The safety recommendation specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers.

The safety recommendation also urges use of the NHTSA model of high-visibility enforcement to support these bans and implementation of targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and heightened enforcement."According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents", said Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life." (Source: NTSB)

The controversy concerning the patchwork quilt of cell phone laws we currently have in the US is the type of information your AC editors include each day in our Government/Political Governance Section.
In a representative democracy, men and women serving in public office – whether elected or appointed – must view their service as a public trust.   When taking office, they raise their right hands to be sworn in as executives, legislators and administrators, agreeing to protect and defend the constitutions of the United States and of their home States, and the laws, rules and regulations of their governmental subdivisions.

Public servants then embark on careers where they are entrusted with the health, finances, safety and well-being of their constituents.

Promulgating laws which will protect drivers is usually at the top of that list. It will be interesting to see how legislators and administration in different states address the NTSB recommendation. Some critics of the proposal say government is too big and intrusive in our lives, and there is the question of privacy for other critics.

One of the issue and trend areas that the AC editors track is government (public sector) governance.  Here are some other issues which were the subject of recent articles in our Government/Political Governance Section:

Euro carbon taxes are coming: How airlines can stay airborne
(Source: Fortune) The U.S. government is fighting to keep American companies from having to comply with new EU carbon taxes, but airlines must prepare for the worst-case scenario. This article outlines a few options for the carriers.

USDA Unveils Online Tool to Help Farmers With Food Safety
(Source: Food Safety News) The USDA has unveiled a new, free online tool to help farmers create customized food safety plans. The platform will help streamline the process, making it easier for farms of all sizes to create a comprehensive plan aimed at reducing food safety risks, whether or not they fall under the purview of new FSMA requirements.

Corzine: MF Staff Said Fund Transfer Legal
(Source: Bloomberg) Jon S. Corzine, former chairman and chief executive officer of MF Global Holdings Ltd., told lawmakers last week that the firm’s back-office staff “explicitly” informed him that fund transfers made before the company filed for bankruptcy were legal. Corzine was responding to allegations made at a U.S. Senate hearing when the executive chairman of Chicago-based CME Group Inc. (CME) told lawmakers Corzine had known of a US$175 million loan using client money that was made before the Oct. 31 bankruptcy.

Millions of young adults getting coverage under new healthcare law
(Source: Los Angeles Times) The healthcare law signed by President Obama last year has now helped as many as 2.5 million young adults get health insurance over the last year despite the lagging economy. Moreover, since the beginning of 2010, when the law was enacted, the percentage of Americans aged 19 to 25 without health insurance dipped from 34% to 29%.

BP Wins New Blocks To Drill In Gulf Of Mexico
(Source: Forbes) In the government’s first auction of gulf leases since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, 20 oil companies bid for blocks covering 21 million acres. BP bid on 15 leases and ended up as the high bidder on 11 of them, for which it will pay US$27 million. The entire sale is expected to gross about US$340 million.

Pay Data Sought for For-Profit Colleges
(Source: New York Times) With for-profit colleges coming under increased scrutiny, a senior elected official is seeking detailed information about the salaries and bonuses for top executives at 13 of the biggest schools. Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who is the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said he wanted to determine whether billions in federal education aid is used for the benefit of students or “to line the pockets of corporate executives.”

SEC Charges "Shell Packagers" and Several Others in Penny Stock Scheme
(Source: SEC) The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a shell packaging firm and several others involved in a penny stock scheme to issue purportedly unrestricted shares in the public markets. The SEC alleges that Joseph Meuse and his firm Belmont Partners LLC – which is in the business of identifying and selling public shell companies for use in reverse mergers – fabricated and backdated documents used to convince a transfer agent and an attorney writing an opinion letter to issue free-trading shares of Alternative Green Technologies Inc. (AGTI).

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.