Washington Watch


Public Financing of Elections

Hearings and House action on public (read, "taxpayer") financing of Congressional elections is scheduled for August and September. This is slated as a priority objective by Common Cause, so legislators will be getting plenty of mail in favor of this subsidy for politicians. Letters in opposition to your own Congressmen and to Rep. Frank Thompson (D-NJ), the Chairman of the House Administration Committee, will be especially helpful.

A filibuster in the Senate is likely, led by veteran Sen. James Allen of Alabama. The bill numbers are H.R. 5157 in the House and S. 926 in the Senate (U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515; U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510).

Airline Regulatory Reform (cont.)

By the time this is printed the battle in the Senate may be almost over. If it is still continuing, letters to Senators will be important. But the field may have shifted to the House. Key players there include Rep. Glenn Anderson (D-CA), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, who is committed to some kind of reform but may need some bolstering against airline and union pressure.

For an update and information on airline regulatory reform, you might write to the Ad Hoc Committee on Airline Regulatory Reform, P.O. Box 19029, Washington, DC 20036.

The Senate bill is likely to be far short of libertarian hopes, but still an important first step. It is significant that, in talking to other members of the Ad Hoc Committee I find considerable sentiment for keeping it together and going after the Interstate Commerce Commission if any success is achieved in the airline field.

Regulatory Reform (General)

The sentiment for regulatory reform is still growing. The Senate has passed a bill (S. 1534), telling the Interstate Commerce Commission to review and recommend changes in its regulations and procedures. It's only the first of a series of bills mandating internal reform in agencies which are likely to pass the Senate. Others are S. 1532 (Federal Maritime Commission), S. 1533 (Federal Trade Commission), S. 1535 (Federal Power Commission and Consumer Product Safety Commission), S. 1536 (Federal Communications Commission) and S. 1537 (Civil Aeronautics Board). Letters to the House urging support of this package would be helpful.

Meanwhile the Senate is making progress on an even more interesting piece of reform legislation, S. 600. This bill, introduced by Percy, Robert Byrd and Abraham Ribicoff, would establish a timetable for Congress and the Executive to review all regulatory agencies over the next eight years. Each two-year session of Congress would be required to review a group of agencies. If reform were not enacted by August of the second year the agencies affected would lose their power to write new regulations. If no reform legislation were passed by October, they would lose power to enforce existing regulations. And if no new law were passed by the end of the year, they would go out of business.

Needless to say, this "sunset" provision is causing consternation among agencies. But the bill seems to have a chance of serious consideration, and its chief sponsors are strongly committed to the "sunset" aspect.

Saccharin Progress

Contrary to my doomsday predictions, the Congress has banned the FDA's ban on saccharin for two years. Our job has just begun, however. If we don't keep up the pressure the bureaucratic inertia will win out.

Two proposals may have some chance of passage. One is repeal of the so-called "Delaney Clause," which mandates the banning of any substance found to cause cancer in any animals. The other is Steve Symms' Medical Freedom of Choice Bill (H.R. 54) which would delete the "effectiveness" provisions of the 1962 Amendments to the FDA Act, requiring only that new drugs and substances be shown to be safe and leaving the decision about effectiveness up to doctors and consumers. This bill has over 100 House co-sponsors and could probably use some support in the form of letters from home.

Opposition to Compulsory Service

Preliminary organization is underway in Washington for a coalition to oppose compulsory national service, whether for military or social service purposes. Those expressing interest include libertarians, some conservatives, some Ripon-type Republicans and representatives of conscientious objector groups. For more information, you may write to Libertarian Advocate (P.O. Box 3117, Falls Church, VA 22043). A devastating critique of the advocates of a new draft is to be found in the June, 1977 issue of The Reporter, published by the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors (550 Washington, Bldg., 15th St. & New York Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20005).

Gold Clause Amendment Likely

Sen. Jesse Helms, who came close to getting legislation passed last year which would have allowed Americans to write commercial and personal contracts specifying payment in gold, will try again this year. His staff is now seeking a bill on which to tack the proposal as an amendment from the Senate floor (Senate amendments are not required to be germane to the legislation under consideration). The prognosis, once a vehicle is selected, appears hopeful.

Success of this amendment may depend on the perception of most Senators that this is a minor reform which only follows logically from the recent legalization of gold ownership rather than a revolutionary undermining of the paper money system. You might keep that in mind when writing to Senators and Representatives in support of this legislation.