Lawmakers Plot To Limit Travel Abroad And At Home

As we make plans for summer travel abroad and at home, concerns turn to the cost of fuel and how it might affect our projected budget. When studying global destination information, we focus on security matters, currency exchange rates and tips from trusted sources. Getting a good handle on all these topics is part of the travel process.

Now, a new concern may affect some travelers. A transportation bill making its way through Congress could allow the federal government to prevent Americans who owe back taxes from leaving the country.

The provision is part of Senate Bill 1813, also called the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, was introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in November and passed by the Senate on March 14. This far-reaching transportation bill allows the federal government to revoke the passports of citizens the IRS claims owe taxes.

Aimed at those who have a seriously delinquent tax debt in excess of $50,000, even if passed, the new law would not affect most people. Still, there are those that fear fundamental rights possessed by Americans to travel, unrestricted, within the USA borders who may be up for review.

“Be aware that once they allow the IRS to block international travel is there one among us who does not believe it will then be extended to travel within the United States?” asks the Beaufort Observer.

Concerned about laws affecting backpackers, runners, bikers and even walkers, Rails to Trails is a nonprofit charged with creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines. They are concerned that the same bill limits continued focus on trails, walking and bicycling opportunities.

“We anticipated some of the terrible provisions; others were simply shocking in scope and shortsightedness,” Rails to Trails (RTC) said in a statement urging us to contact our representatives now, using an online form, and ask that they speak to colleagues on the US House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee.

Given a moment to breathe, on March 29, two days before the previous extension of our nation’s multi-year surface transportation bill expired, congress passed another 90-day extension.

But what the future will bring for international travel by those who owe taxes – or even domestic travel by someone simply looking for a new place to hike – is unknown right now.

On the international travel front, Forbes says, “If he were in charge of travel, the Soup Nazi might say, ‘No Passport for you!'” In real life, travel may seem unrelated to taxes, except perhaps for those annoying airport taxes on international destinations. But a bigger tax and travel connection could keep you at home – permanently.”

Rails to Trails believes in rights to partake in domestic hiking, backpacking, riding and walking. “For a tiny sliver of transportation funds – less than 2 percent – these programs have provided affordable, healthy transportation options, generated jobs and economic development and preserved historic and environmental assets that provide the quality of life that Americans want and deserve,” Kevin Mills, vice president of programming at RTC told Gadling late last year.

[Flickr photo by Moyan Brenn]

Passengers’ Bill Of Rights Proposed In Senate

In response to recent incidents in Texas and New York where passengers were made to wait on grounded planes for up to 11 hours, Senator Barbara Boxer is proposing a “Passengers Bill of Rights.” The bill would give passengers the right to deplane if their aircraft sits on the ground for more than three hours past the scheduled departure time.

In addition, Boxer intends for the bill to include provisions allowing passengers access to food, water and hygiene. Currently, airlines operate under a voluntary code of conduct, which stipulates only that they make “reasonable efforts” to meet these needs, even in the event of extreme delays.

A spokesman for the Air Transport Association countered by warning that “inflexible standards that would be imposed through some sort of mandatory legislation could easily have the unintended effect of inconveniencing customers more in some situations.”

For information on a grassroots effort in support of the bill, visit the Coalition for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights blog.