Washington Watch


Airline Regulatory Reform

One would think that backing from the Carter administration, Sens. Kennedy, Cannon, and Pearson, not to mention Common Cause and the Nader axis would insure passage of airline regulatory reform. Lord knows the measure is moderate enough, merely loosening up route change and entry requirements without touching the basic authority of the CAB. That's far short of what libertarians would like to see, but it's an essential beginning.

The problem is that some airlines and their unions have begun an aggressive letter-writing campaign among employees and friends. Fence-sitters in the Senate have been deluged with letters against reform while getting a trickle or less in favor. If the Ad Hoc Committee for Airline Regulatory Reform (a wild coalition including Common Cause, Public Citizen, Sears Roebuck, National Association of Counties, National Taxpayers Union, American Conservative Union and Libertarian Advocate) had not been formed it is likely that reform would have had no chance.

Letters supporting airline regulatory reform are still desperately needed. The bill in question is S. 689, the Commerce Committee version of the Cannon-Kennedy reform measure. Among Senators still reported to be wavering or fence-sitting are Goldwater (R-AZ), Melcher (D-MT), Zorinsky (D-NE), Stevenson (D-IL) and Durkin (D-NH). Please write to your Senators on this issue! It wouldn't hurt to let them know they're hearing from libertarians. (U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510).

Energy Decisions Soon

President Carter's overall energy program was introduced as H.R. 8631, and referred to five different committees, which were due to report and recommend to the House Ad Hoc Select Committee on Energy by July 13. The Ad Hoc Committee, under Thomas Ashley (D-OH) is then supposed to reassemble and reconcile the whole package.

Letters in opposition to the Carter proposals are thus especially important now. Pick your outrage: the "gas- guzzler" tax, the stand-by tax on gasoline, the emphasis on punishing consumption rather than encouraging production, the new layers of bureaucracy for a problem created by government, etc.

Ad Hoc Committee members who might be important include Chairman Ashley, Ranking Republican John Anderson (IL), Frank Holton (R-NY), Harley Staggers (D-WV), Joe Waggoner (D-LA), and Joseph Fisher (D-VA). And your own Congressman, of course.

Restitution Programs in Danger

Several states including Oklahoma, Minnesota, Georgia, and Virginia are experimenting with the concept of restitution for victims of crime, wherein the State serves to facilitate restitution by the criminal to the victim for damages involved in a crime. There have been bugs to be worked out, but the results have been largely favorable.

These experiments will be in grave danger if the House passes H.R. 7010, a bill which would establish a system of government (or taxpayer) compensation for victims of crime. Some states have tried this approach, and it has been much more expensive than restitution, with none of the advantages of personal responsibility, serving justice, and defining real crimes inherent in restitution. Compensation creates another victim (the taxpayer) and will bust the budget. But if the Feds offer the money, most states will probably convert.

A letter to your Congressman opposing H.R. 7010 would be helpful. If you want more information on the controversy, write National Taxpayers Union (325 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20003) or Libertarian Advocate (P.O. Box 3117, Falls Church, VA 22043) who are opposing the legislation. But please write your Congressman (U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515).

Election "Reform" Proposals Endangered

When sponsors dropped the bill to loosen the Hatch Act (which limits active political participation of Federal employees) after an amendment was passed which prohibited use of public employee union dues for partisan political purposes, the whole Carter election "reform" package was dealt a setback. The opposition to election-day registration stiffened up, and opposition to public (taxpayer) financing of Congressional political campaigns became even stronger.

The proposal to force taxpayers to finance Congressional campaigns seems most important to libertarians. H.R. 5157, the House version, would provide tax subsidies for both House and Senate candidates. The Senate version, S. 926, covers only Senate races, but provides subsidies for both primary and general elections. Letters in opposition to these schemes would be helpful.

Briefly Noted

• Rep. Steve Symms' "Medical Freedom of Choice" bill, which would effectively eliminate the 1962 law which tells the Food and Drug Administration to determine whether new drugs are "effective" as well as safe, has over 100 cosponsors and may even get a hearing in the House Health Subcommittee headed by Paul Rogers (D-FL). Letters to your Congressman, Rogers or Commerce Committee Chairman Harley Staggers (D-WV) would help.

• The National Taxpayers Union is picking up bipartisan support for H.J. Res. 353, a constitutional amendment to require a balanced Federal budget. Over 100 sponsors in the House include Martha Keys (D-KS), Andrew Jacobs (D-IN), Paul Simon (D-IL), and Marilyn Lloyd (D-TN) in addition to the predictable Republicans; 26 Senators and 18 state legislatures are also on record in support of the amendment.

• A promising piece of "sunset" legislation, H.R. 1960, introduced by Rep. Jim Lloyd (D-CA) would require the abolition of numerous Federal agencies in three years unless they could justify their existence to Congress. Agencies include the CAB, Consumer Product Safety Commission, EPA, FCC, FDA, ICC and SEC. Prospects aren't especially encouraging, but letters to your Congressman and to Jack Brooks, chairman of the Committee on Government Operations would be helpful.