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59th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference

Chair's Report


Mobile, Alabama

July 30 to August 3, 2005

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Chairman's Report of Activities of the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee

at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference


Mobile, July 30-August 3, 2005

 

October 7, 2005

                The Intergovernmental Affairs Committee convened on Sunday, July 31, for a business session and on Monday, August 1, for a program session during the 59th SLC Annual Meeting.  The following is a summary of the speaker presentations and Committee activities.

Business Session
Sunday, July 31

I.              Update on the Interstate Compact for Juveniles
                John Mountjoy Director,
National Center for Interstate Compacts, The Council of State Governments, Kentucky

Background
               
The Interstate Compact for Juveniles, a new interstate agreement, significantly updates the 50-year-old mechanism for tracking and supervising juveniles who move across state borders. This session outlined how the new compact seeks to update a crucial, yet outdated, tool for ensuring public safety and preserving child welfare.

Presentation
               
Mr. Mountjoy began his presentation by explaining the concept of the interstate compact, a contract between states which creates independent, multistate authorities over areas of concern to multiple states.  Such compacts create economies of scale by establishing uniform guidelines and procedures.  By signing on to such compacts, states confront interstate issues with one voice but still retain their sovereignty.

                Specifically, the Interstate Compact for Juveniles was created in 1955 in order to regulate the interstate movement of children under court supervision.  Four particular types of juveniles are covered under the compact:  those who have run away from their homes without the consent of their parent or guardian; those who wish to reside in another state after having been placed on probation or parole; those who have escaped institutionalization in another state; and those who abscond to another state while pending a judicial hearing. 

                Mr. Mountjoy noted that states are interested in revamping the current compact because it lacks compliance and enforcement mechanisms as well as accountability.  States also are unable to exchange information in a timely manner under the existing compact.  In addition, states do not maintain identical compact language, and three amendments already exist in the compact.

                According to Mr. Mountjoy, the new compact addresses these shortcomings by establishing an independent authority which operates the compact.  Member states are represented on a national governing commission, a formal rule-making authority.  The new compact also includes accountability, compliance and enforcement procedures.  Mr. Mountjoy noted that the new compact creates a funding mechanism to support its essential operations and establishes a national data collection and sharing system.

                Mr. Mountjoy then mentioned that the compact has been enacted in nine SLC states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia), and has been introduced in three others in 2005 (Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee).  He continued by speaking of the future of the compact.  In addition to continued tracking and on-site support, the first Commission meeting will take place in the fall of 2006 after the 35th state joins.  Future goals include the development of a full-time staff and a new data system.

                Finally, Mr. Mountjoy described how the new compact is funded, with states paying according to the size of their population.  Dues range from $12,000 annually (Mississippi and West Virginia) to $22,000 (North Carolina) to a maximum of $37,000 (Florida and Texas).

II.            Roundtable Discussion
               
Members then discussed intergovernmental affairs-related legislation enacted in their state during their most recent legislative session.

III.           Closing Comments
               
Being no further business, Chairman Gray adjourned the meeting.

Program Session
Monday, August 1

I.              Safety and Security Concerns in International Trucking
                Martin Rojas
– Executive Director for Safety, Security and Operations, American Trucking Associations, Virginia
                Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein -
Ontario, Canada

Background
               
The passage of NAFTA was supposed to lead to reciprocal access to each other's transportation corridors for both the United States and Mexico.  However, security issues and concerns about the safety of foreign trucks have prevented implementation of the provisions of NAFTA designed to facilitate border crossings by trucks and buses.  This program offered an overview of NAFTA's trucking provisions, including their current status, focusing on how states are affected.

Mr. Rojas’ Presentation
               
Mr. Rojas began his presentation by providing an overview of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  From the perspective of the trucking industry, NAFTA is viewed as a tremendous boost to the economy.  For example, trade between the United States and Canada has increased more than 100 percent since the signing of the agreement in 1993.  United States-Mexico trade has more than tripled.  The trucking industry moves more than 80 percent of the value of trade between the United States and Mexico and almost 80 percent of that between the United States and Canada.

                Mr. Rojas continued with a snapshot of SLC states’ trade with Mexico, which ranks as a major export market for every state in our region, ranging from the number one market for Texas to the seventh largest for Virginia.  This trade promotes high-paying jobs in industries such as automotives.  Furthermore, this growth in trade has a tremendous impact on the transportation industries in all three countries.  United States-Mexico surface trade equaled $74 billion in 1994 and increased to $184 billion 10 years later.  More than $1 billion worth of trade moves between the United States and Canada daily.

                Unfortunately, Mr. Rojas noted, infrastructure has not kept pace with trade.  Congestion has a negative impact on border communities in terms of health, and everyone pays more for goods when delays reign on the border.  Mr. Rojas noted that the new transportation bill before Congress includes approximately $1 billion for border infrastructure, including money which may be used on the other side of the border(s).

                Regarding the Mexican border, a moratorium was issued in 1982 limiting Mexican trucks to a 25-mile border area.  NAFTA supposedly provides the opportunity for Mexican trucks to continue into the U.S. interior provided that other requirements are met.  Mexican carriers would only be able to move cargo internationally, not, for example, from Dallas to Chicago.  No domestic movement would be allowed, and any carrier operating in the United States must be in compliance with the same requirements as any American carrier regarding the environment, security, etc.

                Mr. Rojas then answered member’s questions about the 25-mile border zone beyond which Mexican trucks may not proceed.  He described the drayage process by which short-haul trucks must move cargo from Mexican long-haul trucks to American long-haul trucks.  All of these take up space and must be inspected, causing much delay.

                Concerning security in trucking, Mr. Rojas mentioned that the trucking industry has developed a program entitled Highway Watch, an anti-terrorist action plan.  Its main purpose is the prevention of a truck being used as a weapon.  Drivers are encouraged to call a number if they spot anything suspicious on the highways.  The trucking industry has been included at the table with the Department of Homeland Security in the development of this program.

                The U.S. Patriot Acts requires a background check of any driver moving hazardous materials.  Mr. Rojas lamented that this makes necessary such checks even when items such as paint are moved short distances.  The industry currently is searching for solutions which would identify truly hazardous materials.

                Mr. Rojas concluded by describing the Free and Secure Trade Program (FAST), a joint program among the three NAFTA participants that grants access to each other’s background checks in order to build a true fast lane at border crossings.  He also noted the Cargo Theft Initiative, with losses reaching somewhere between $10 billion and $25 billion in the United States.  The trucking industry desires cooperation among state legislatures to achieve the passage of uniform cargo theft legislation.  Sophisticated organized crime groups are responsible for much of this theft.

Senator Grafstein’ Presentation
               
Senator Grafstein is the Chairman of the U.S. – Canada Interparliamentary Group in the Canadian Senate.  He started by mentioning that Canada and the United States form the largest business in the world, equating to $1 million every minute in trade.  One truck crosses the border every two seconds.   Of the 16 SLC states, Canada is the largest foreign trading partner of all but two.

                Senator Grafstein related that Canadian productivity had fallen 15 percent behind that of the United States, but both North American countries now lag behind Asia.  He noted that jobs were being lost to developing countries as a result. 

                He mentioned that as a result of NAFTA, the trucking relations among the participating nations was supposed to be harmonized.  Between the United States and Canada, $1.6 billion will be spent on modernization of the border points.  However, Senator Grafstein regarded this amount as relatively minor, considering the amount of trade across the border.  He noted that the automotive industry already had been harmonized between the two countries, with 28,000 annual border crossings attributed to parts for just one car.  Delays at the border now add an average of $800 to the price of this car.  In addition, indirect consequences of border delays, such as pollution from idling trucks, will cost Canada $1 billion extra just in health expenses. 

                Senator Grafstein then moved to possible solutions.  The FAST TRACK program, allowing eligible citizens to cross the border faster, has decreased border crossing times somewhat, but much work remains to be done.  Other programs are in place and will be functional within the next few years.  Senator Grafstein noted that agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and its Canadian counterpart are working on possible solutions but face difficulties because of recent reorganizations.

                Senator Grafstein praised the work of the International Joint Commission, a binational organization whose purpose is resolving boundary water disputes.  High level officials from both sides of the border serve on the Commission, and Senator Grafstein proposes a similar solution for border crossing issues.  A binational border commission could meet monthly in order to address these challenges.  He also suggested the construction of a clock at busy border crossings, which would calculate the costs to taxpayers of border-crossing delays.  Antiquated border crossings, such as that at Detroit/Windsor, have not been improved in 50 years, and according to high-level officials, there will be no improvements until the year 2017.  Senator Grafstein would like to emphasize to all the stakeholders that a lack of modernization will costs jobs on both sides of the border.  In closing, Senator Grafstein noted that in Canada, for example, 50 percent of jobs depend to some extent on cross-border trade.

II.            Closing Comments
               
Representative Gray thanked the participants and the audience for their presentations and attendance, respectively.  Senator Ted Little of Alabama then presented Chairman Gray and Vice Chairman Bill Dukes of Alabama with plaques celebrating their work with the Committee.  With no further business, Chairman Gray adjourned the meeting.


Attendance List
Southern Legislative Conference 59th Annual Meeting
Intergovernmental Affairs Committee
July 30 – August 3, 2005
Mobile, Alabama

Alabama
               
Representative Bill Dukes
                Representative John "Jody" Letson
                Senator Ted Little
                Representative Howard Sanderford
                Senator Rodger Smitherman

Arkansas
                Representative Ken Cowling
                Representative Beverly Pyle
                Janelle Evyan, Bureau of Legislative Research

Canada
                Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein
                June Dewetering, Canada US Interparliamentary Group

District of Columbia
                Steve Blackstone, National Transportation Safety Board
                Diane Duff, Southern Governors’ Association

Georgia
                Representative Sharon Cooper
                Senator John Douglas
                Representative John Heard
                Senator Bill Heath
                Senator Jack Hill
                Representative Howard Maxwell
                Representative Done Lee Parsons
                Representative Vance Smith
                Representative Roger Williams
                Colleen Cousineau, Southern Legislative Conference
                Malcolm McKechnie, Canadian Consulate
                Bob Snyder, UPS

Kentucky
                Representative Tom Burch
                Representative J. R. Grey
                Representative Lonnie Napier
                Senator Dick Roeding
                Representative Mike Weaver
                Harland Hatter, Office of Senate President
                Steve Lynn, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
                Mark Mitchell, Legislative Research Commission
                Kenneth Schwendeman, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
                John Mountjoy, National Center for Interstate Compacts

Maryland
                Senator Verna Jones
                Senator Edward Kasemeyer
                Senator Katherine Klausmeier

Mississippi
                Representative Lee Davis
                Senator Sampson Jackson
                Representative Sara R. Thomas
                Representative Charles Young
                Patricia Jackson, Guest

South Carolina
                Representative Jimmy Neal

Tennessee
                Senator Douglas Henry

Texas
                Mark Shilling, Southern States Energy Board

Virginia
                Martin Rojas, American Trucking Associations

West Virginia
                Senator Shirley Love
                Senator Bill Sharpe
                Jerry Bird, Public Service Commission