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Published: Wednesday, October 04, 2017 @ 4:56 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 04, 2017 @ 4:55 AM
WASHINGTON — Legislation that could help usher in a new era of self-driving cars advanced in Congress on Wednesday after the bill's sponsors agreed to compromises to address some concerns of safety advocates.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the bill by a voice vote, a sign of broad, bipartisan support. It would allow automakers to apply for exemptions to current federal auto safety standards in order to sell up to 15,000 self-driving cars and light trucks per manufacturer in the first year after passage. Up to 40,000 per manufacturer could be sold in the second year, and 80,000 each year thereafter.
Action by the full Senate is still needed and differences with a similar bill passed by the House would have to be worked out before the measure could become law.
The bill initially would have allowed manufacturers to sell up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles a year, but that number was reduced in last-minute negotiations. In another change, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would evaluate the safety performance of the vehicles before increasing the number of vehicles manufacturers can sell.
Supporters of the bill, which was sought by the auto industry, say it would be a boon to safety since an estimated 94 percent of crashes involve human error. They say it would also help the disabled.
The bill "is primarily about saving lives," but it will also increase U.S. international competitiveness and create jobs, said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan.
Safety advocates said the bill has been significantly improved, but they still have serious concerns. Joan Claybrook, a NHTSA administrator under President Jimmy Carter, said the bill is one of the "biggest assaults" ever on the landmark 1966 law that empowered the federal government to set auto safety standards because it permits such large and unprecedented number of exemptions to those standards.
Automakers are "making guinea pigs out of their car buyers," she said.
Under the bill, the NHTSA would have 180 days after an application in which to grant or deny the exemption. Manufacturers must show that they can provide an equivalent of safety. Safety advocates say six months isn't enough time for an agency that is undermanned and lacks expertise in self-driving technology to effectively make such determinations.
The bill is broad enough to permit exemptions to standards that protect occupants in a crash, like air bags, safety advocates said.
There are no federal safety standards for many of the technologies at the heart of self-driving cars, like software and sensors, and there is no sign that the Trump administration would create such standards. Administration and auto and technology industry officials suggest that new regulations would be unable to keep up with rapid developments in technology and would slow deployment of self-driving cars.
The bill pre-empts state and local governments from enacting their own safety standards in the absence of federal standards. Industry officials have complained that being forced to comply with a patchwork of state safety laws would be unmanageable. But another compromise made to the bill allows states to continue their traditional roles of licensing vehicles and regulating auto insurance even if their actions affect the design of vehicles. Wrongful death lawsuits against manufacturers would also be allowed in states that permit them.
Automakers have experienced the largest number of recalls for safety defects in the industry's history in recent years. General Motors, for example, was found to have buried evidence of an ignition switch defect that ultimately caused the recall of 2.6 million small cars worldwide. The switches played a role in at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries.
Also, about 70 million defective Takata air bag inflators are being recalled in the U.S. The inflators are responsible for up to 19 deaths worldwide and more than 180 injures.
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 3:21 PM
NEW YORK — Music legend Paul McCartney participated in the March for Our Lives rally in New York City Saturday.
When asked by a CNN reporter what he hoped could be accomplished by the movement, McCartney pointed to his shirt, which had the message, "We can end gun violence" printed on it.
"One of my best friends was killed in gun violence right around here, so it's important to me," says Paul McCartney, remembering his Beatles bandmate John Lennon at the March for Our Lives in New York City https://t.co/WciuXWB6ql pic.twitter.com/GybNtI5ZHi— CNN (@CNN) March 24, 2018
"One of my best friends was killed in gun violence right around here, so it's important to me," McCartney said.
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 9:16 AM
— A space enthusiast from Texas believes photographs taken by a NASA rover reveal an “alien skeleton” on Mars, KTRK reported.
A person from Waxahachie said a group of what looks like rocks is actually the skull and spine of a possible Martian.
The person filed a report with the Mutual UFO Network, which investigates UFO sightings in the United States and beyond, KTRK reported.
According to the report, the alleged skeleton was photographed by the Opportunity rover on Feb. 1 in Perseverance Valley on the west rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater.
The person who submitted the report to the UFO Network said a 3-D image revealed the bone detail of a spine, KTRK reported.
Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 11:12 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 12:10 AM
DAYTON — UPDATE @ 12:10 a.m. (March 24)
Flames consumed a vacant house Friday night on Lorain Avenue.
The two-story house had not been lived in for some time, and the source of the fire is under investigation because the dwelling had no utilities connected, Dayton fire officials said.
No injuries were reported, and no arrests have been made.
Crews were called late Friday night to a fire at a vacant house.
Flames were shooting from the two-story house when crews were called around 11 p.m. to 917 Lorain Ave.
We are on the way and will update this report as we learn details.
Got a tip? Call our 24-hour monitored line, 937-259-2237, or send it to email@example.com
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 2:43 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 2:43 PM
DAYTON — The state of Ohio has nominated large sections of Dayton to be opportunity zones, which under Trump’s federal tax reform bill can give tax breaks to investments in those areas.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created the new opportunity zones program with the goal of spurring private investment in distressed communities.
The program provides a tax incentive for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into new funds that put money into economically challenged areas.
Officials say opportunity zones across the nation could attract billions of dollars in new investment into some high poverty neighborhoods.
“It’s basically a way to induce investment in areas that are traditionally under-invested in,” said Tony Kroeger, Dayton city planner.
RELATED: Ohio GOP members laud tax bill
Dayton officials this week celebrated when they learned that Ohio Gov. John Kasich had nominated 17 of the 20 low-income Census tracts that the city submitted to the state for consideration.
States were able to nominate just 25 percent of their low-income Census tracts to the U.S. Treasury to be designated as opportunity zones. The federal submission deadline was Wednesday.
Large chunks of Dayton were nominated, including downtown, Historic Inner East, Old North Dayton, South Park, Wright-Dunbar, Wolf Creek, Pineview, Lakeview and other neighborhoods.
Investors with capital gains can defer and reduce their taxes by investing in opportunity zones, and capital gains earned in the area will not be subject to taxation, said Diane Shannon, Dayton’s director of the office of management and budget.
“We are very hopeful that we will” see new investment from the program, Shannon said.
In opportunity zones, investments in real estate or businesses can be sold after 10 years with no capital gains taxes, but investors also get a tax break on untaxed capital gains rolled into new opportunity zone funds, according to the Brookings Tax Policy Center.
Investments in qualified opportunity zones that are held for at least 10 years can be sold without any capital gains taxes.
Investments held for five years will see a 10 percent reduction in taxes on the original unrealized capital gains, and those held for at least seven years will see a 15 percent tax reduction.
The biggest incentive for investors is to keep their unrealized capital gains in the opportunity funds for at least 10 years so they will not be taxed on the appreciation, experts said.
U.S. taxpayers have about $2.3 trillion in unrealized capital gains in stocks and mutual funds, according to the Economic Innovation Group.
The new opportunity funds will allow investors nationwide to pool resources and mitigate risk , the group said.
“If this isn’t part of every person’s estate planning, it should be, because this is a very lucrative program for those individuals and their long-term financial interests,” said Alison Goebel, executive director with the Greater Ohio Policy Center.
The opportunity zones program could be another source of financing for transformative projects like the Dayton Arcade, she said.
Goebel, however, said she is concerned that there are no restrictions on where investors can put their money nationwide, and that could mean investors pump their money into opportunity zones on the coasts that have stronger markets and may appear to carry less risk.
She said she hopes Ohio communities do not get overlooked by investors because they need as much access to capital and credit as possible.
Across the country, critics say the program uses old Census tract data and newly gentrified and affluent neighborhoods may be eligible for opportunity fund investments. Critics say some rich areas may benefit from the program and some projects that do not need help will get it.