April 14, 2010

SPRINGFIELD (April 14)—The Senate Criminal Law Committee unanimously approved House Bill 4987 and sent it to the floor for a vote that could come as early as next week.

HB 4987 would mandate criminal penalties, including fines and possible imprisonment, for anyone convicted of placing an object on or near railroad tracks that would adversely affect safe railroad operations, even if the act does not result in death, injury or property damage.

The bill already was passed by the House March 11. If it passes the full Senate it would head to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk for his signature.

“Our members have been asking for this kind of protection for years,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “The union and the railroads have accumulated a whole file of incidents in which train crews had to make emergency brake applications because an object that appeared to be a car, a piece of furniture or machinery, or even a human being, was placed in the path of a moving train.

“Operating crews don’t deserve to be put into these stressful and traumatic situations, especially if there is no deterrent to commit these acts,” Guy said. “The new law will give the industry, and local prosecutors, a tool to punish those responsible for so-called ‘harmless pranks’ that actually have far-reaching consequences.”

Guy said Illinois UTU members should be prepared next week to reach out to their state senators to ask them for their support.

“When we reach the appropriate time I will issue an alert for our members to make those contacts,” he said.

“Until then, please continue to visit ‘Hot Topics’ on www.illini.utu.org to stay up to date on the activities in Springfield and throughout the state.”