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Senate Commerce Committee takes rail reform lead

Senate Commerce Committee takes rail reform lead

   Sens. Jay Rockefeller IV and Herb Kohl have reached an agreement under which the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will take the lead in developing legislation to reform railroad regulation.

   Kohl is chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee and S. 146, the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act, was to have been the subject of a cloture vote Tuesday.

   But Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison, ranking member of the Commerce Committee, and Frank Lautenberg and John Thune, chairman and ranking member of the Surface Transportation Committee, last week asked their colleagues to vote against cloture, saying “regulation of railroads should be addressed in a comprehensive manner.”

   The four senators said they “supported strengthening the application of the antitrust law to the railroad industry,” but said S. 146 “is much more expansive and touches on matters squarely within the jurisdiction of the Commerce Committee and the subject of our bill.” That bill has not yet been introduced, but the four said it would be “ready shortly for consideration by the Senate.”

   Kohl and Rockefeller then announced their agreement this week.

   “We hope to shortly have a bipartisan package that reforms the Surface Transportation Board and repeals the railroads’ antitrust exemption available for the consideration by the full Senate,” the two senators wrote in their letter. “We are working on harmonizing our two efforts to produce a robust reform package.

   “This is a high priority of both of us and we are absolutely committed to finding real solutions that can be enacted into law this year.”

   Late last week the National Industrial Transportation League's board of directors voted overwhelmingly to support S. 146 and Rockefeller’s bill, saying they anticipated it would “seek to promote competition in the industry and set forth operational and policy mandates to serve as effective guidelines for the STB.”

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