A month before the 19th New York Congressional District Democratic primary on June 26, the incumbent Republican, Congressman John Faso, visited on May 25 the equipment rental site A. Montano on Route 212 in Saugerties.
At the meeting, put together by the trade association Associated Equipment Distributors, Faso talked about possible regulation changes with the company’s leadership that, the congressman said, could improve working conditions for employees at their business and ones similar to it.
This visit was one of a series that day, including Terraform in Kingston, a garden terrace-producing company, where officials bemoaned to Faso tariffs on aluminum and steel imposed by President Trump back in March.
“This is a routine part of my job — to become better informed of what the business sector faces and what I should be doing at a federal level to fix it,” said Faso. “[I’m here to] understand what the issues are and what the right solutions are. Sometimes there’s a good reason for government policy, other times people express concern and they’re right.”
According to business owner Tony Montano, equipment rental rates are up by about 20 percent this year. Regardless, he and AED regional manager Michael J. Murray talked with Faso about regulations that, they say, often impede work in their industry. One such example is the relatively new electronic logging device rule (a.k.a. ELD) that went into effect last year. Montano and his employees bemoaned some of the difficulties caused in their industry by ELD laws, asserting that “[they] won’t put us out of business [but] it’s driven the cost of trucking way up. I don’t think that safety is a bad thing, and the Department of Transportation inspections are a positive thing, but if you could alleviate some of the strictness of the electronic logging devices I would be for that as a compromise.”
These laws impose a 14-hour time limit on driving stretches for truck drivers and is enforced with electronic logging devices that can be viewed by police. “Some of it is great — we can upload Thruway miles very easily, we can see where our trucks are. We don’t want them on the road for 18 hours, but if the guy is an hour away from home and he’s been driving under the 14-hour law, does he come back or park on the side of I-84 and then some poor guy not paying attention hits the track of the machine,” said A. Montano employee Kevin Canous. “Are you creating more problems [with the law]? What we’ve done is take the decision out of the driver’s hands and put it to law enforcement. It’s an inconvenience and it can be a safety issue, but if things have to be this way we can survive.”
Faso called the provision the “Obamacare of the trucking industry” — a good idea that came at a great cost. While the law is probably here to stay and will be required for all truckers by Dec. 18, 2019, Faso conceded that some revision was needed, citing the tribulations of truckers transporting livestock and the risks brought on by drivers rushing to reach their destination before their road time ran out.
Another rule talked about is scaffolding laws that hold businesses liable for any injuries to falling workers, whether it be the workers falling from a height or things falling on the workers.
House Regulation 3808, the “Infrastructure Expansion Act,” is Faso’s attempt to curb New York’s peculiar laws regarding liability in gravity-related incidents. Should it pass, New York state would assume the same liability procedures in these incidents as the other 49 states.
“With infrastructure legislation on the agenda, now is the time to fix this antiquated rule which unnecessarily increases costs and doesn’t contribute to workplace safety in our state,” said Rep. Faso. “This legislation means that every dollar of federal funding goes to build roads, bridges, and other needed projects and is not wasted on unnecessary liability insurance premiums. We need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and join the 49 other states utilizing a comparative negligence standard. This will lower costs in New York State and allow us to build more projects by making federal dollars go further.”
Faso also discussed the twice-a-decade farm bill, which failed on a 213 to 198 vote on May 18. The bill would have preserved subsidies important to rural lawmakers while imposing stricter work requirements on food aid recipients, but more conservative House Republicans withheld their support, citing their ongoing ire over immigration issues.
“[The farm bill] is going to come back, but we had a temporary detour last time,” said Faso. “I’m very committed to try to fix this immigration thing… there are some folks on our side that won’t vote for anything because they’ll declare it amnesty when it’s not, and there are folks on the other side that basically want open borders and don’t want any border security and they won’t vote for anything that is less than what they want,” said Faso.
The congressman said if migrant workers were impeded from getting into the country, it wouldn’t be good for local farmers.
“We’re going to have no one to harvest the apples and milk the cows and pick the vegetables, literally,” said Faso. “Every time our farmers [are looking for employees] they are required to put the ads in when they are applying for the H2A visas with social services for American workers. No one has ever told me they had a reply. They don’t get any replies. A guy outside of Hudson said, ‘Yeah, social services sent me [an American] and he lasted about six hours and that was it’. It is just a sad phenomenon, but that’s what it is — you cannot get Americans to do those jobs.”
“We look forward to working with [Congressman Faso] in the future,” said Montano. “He’s been a strong supporter of the industry.”