Washington Watch


Airline Regulatory Reform

The Kennedy-Cannon proposal for limited regulatory reform has been the subject of intense lobbying and controversies over just how much to water it down (even further). The Senate Commerce Committee was expected to produce a committee version for consideration by the full Senate before the August recess (excuse me, the Newspeak term is "District Work Period"). But the recess came without a committee bill passed, and it now appears that it will be late September or even October before the Commerce Committee can get its act together.

This does mean that letters to Senators, especially members of the Commerce Committee, are still very important. Commerce Committee members who seem to need to hear from pro-reform constituents include Zorinsky (D-NE), Melcher (D-MT), Danforth (R-MO), Goldwater (yes!), Durkin (D-NH) and Stevenson (D-IL). You may address letters to Senators c/o the U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510.

When (and if) the Senate acts on airline regulatory reform, the stage will shift to the House. Here the key person is Rep. Glenn Anderson (D-CA), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee (of the Commerce Committee). He has been committed to introducing a reform proposal along the lines of either the Senate or administration proposals, but for various reasons seems to be dragging his feet. In addition there seem to be differences between Anderson and Transportation Secretary Brock Adams (the differences are largely personal rather than political, but they can affect policy). He will undoubtedly need some prodding. Letters to him and to your own Congressman may go to U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Surface Transportation Regulation

Most observers agree that the tussle over airline regulatory reform is a preliminary skirmish in what may be a longer and more serious battle over reform of surface transportation regulation, the province of the notorious Interstate Commerce Commission. If airline reform passes, there may be momentum for I.C.C. reform. If not.…

Some preliminaries are now occurring within the Administration over this issue. Transportation Sec. Brock Adams seems to favor the approach of giving the I.C.C. the opportunity to "reform" itself from within rather than asking for legislation which might reconstitute the I.C.C.'s mandate. This would be an illusory and disastrous course. Adams is not exactly a gung-ho deregulator. He will need some pressure from various sources to move towards reform, just as he needed on the airline issue.

Letters to Brock Adams urging that he back legislative proposals to reform (or abolish) the I.C.C. just might have an effect. At least they couldn't hurt. If you want to talk his language a bit, you might suggest that the I.C.C. be given a time limit for internal reform, and if they don't meet the deadline the Department of Transportation should move for legislative reform. Letters may be sent to Brock Adams, Secretary Dept. of Transportation, 400 Seventh St., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590.

Public Financing of Politicians

With the successful filibuster in the Senate, public financing of political election campaigns appears to be a dead issue for this session of Congress, though it will probably surface again. If you can bring yourself to write a letter of congratulations or thanks to a politician, the following Senators might be likely recipients: Heinz (R-PA), Schweiker (R-PA), Hollings (D-SC), Chafee (R-RI), Danforth (R-MO), Hathaway, (D-ME), Morgan (D-NC), Roth (R-DE), Sparkman (D-AL) and Bentsen (D-TX). All these Senators stayed firm in their opposition to closing debate on the public financing bill and thus (almost certainly) insuring passage of the legislation. These are the Senators whose votes were in question by both proponents and opponents of public financing. They stayed with the good guys, and it might be appropriate to let them know that we appreciate it (and that we are watching what they do very carefully.)

Investigate the S.E.C.

A campaign to urge Congress to investigate the Securities and Exchange Commission, in light of the agency's continual violation of civil liberties (see article by Monroe Freedman in Barron's, 2/21/77 and 2/28/77, and in REASON, 2/75) seems to be making little, if any headway. Letters to Sen. Harrison Williams (D-NJ) or to Rep. Jack Brooks, chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, might be helpful.

Victim Compensation May Still Pass

H.R. 7010, which would institute a federal program to subsidize state governments which develop a system of having taxpayers compensate victims of crime—a concept which would undermine promising experiments in restitution—seems to have fallen victim to the House's need to deal with energy legislation and appropriations bills. It has been scheduled for consideration several times and postponed for lack of time. It is uncertain whether or not it will be brought to a vote during this session of Congress. Letters to your representative in opposition to H.R. 7010 might help delay consideration indefinitely.

Energy Legislation

Congress seems intent on instituting domestic fascism through energy regulation. Deregulation of natural gas prices, a bellwether issue, failed in the House. It will probably be brought up again in the Senate, so letters to your Senators in favor of deregulation might be helpful. Rep. Bob Krueger (D-TX), the most aggressive proponent of gas price deregulation, feels that it lost not so much because the Congressmen were personally opposed to deregulation as because they feared letting prices rise would hurt their re-election chances next year. Perhaps if enough Senators hear from pro-deregulation constituents they might reassess the political implications of a vote for deregulation.

Equal Time?

During consideration of the Carter energy package by the House, the National Taxpayers Union developed a series of radio ads in opposition to the Carter proposals. When they went to radio stations, the all-news stations turned them down. It seems that WTOP has recently been ordered to run pro-divestiture ads free (and do the production work as well) by the FCC, because they had run paid ads by oil companies which extolled the virtues of the present system ("aren't you glad we're looking out for you from oil well to gas pump?"). Then the oil companies slapped a suit on them when they started to run the pro-divestiture ads. The radio stations decided they would stop accepting ads which were remotely controversial, especially in the field of energy.

Let's see, the Equal Time provision was supposed to insure that all sides of controversial issues would have an opportunity to be heard on the "public" airwaves, wasn't it?