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REPORT OF RAILROAD COMMISSION.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 1, 1891.
SIR--The Railroad Commission have the honor, pursuant to the requirement of the statute, to submit their fourth annual report.
The act creating the Railroad Commission, and the act amendatory thereof, require the Commission to report to your Excellency annually by the first day of March of each year :
1st. The transactions of their office.
2d. To tabulate and compile the annual reports of the common carriers subject to said acts, and include them in said annual report.
3d. To recommend from time to time such legislation as they may deem advisable, under the provisions of said acts.
TRANSACTIONS OF THE OFFICE.
The transactions of this office include everything done or attempted to be done by the Commission in the discharge of their duties under the law. A record of each day's proceedings is kept, which shows every transaction, even to the smallest detail, involving almost every conceivable matter or question connected with the transportation of persons and property by railroad. These embrace the revising, allowing and adopting for the use of each railroad company doing business wholly or in part within the State schedules of just and reasonable rates of fares and charges for the transportation of passengers, freights and cars over the railroads operated by it in this State; the making of just and reasonable rules and regulations to be observed by said railroad companies, “as to charges at any and all points for the necessary bandling and delivering of freights ;" for "preventing unjust discriminations " between persons and localities ; "preventing the giving or paying of any rebate or bonus, directly or indirectly, and from mile and ing or deceiving the public in any manner as to the real ratescharged for freights and passengers ;” and from time to time, as often as circumstances may require, the revising and changing the same. Also the preparation of forms for annual or other reports, which the law requires railroads to make to the Commission to enable them to prescribe just rates, fares and charges, and rules and regulations, and from which to compile and tabulate statistics in regard to the organization, capitalization, traffic, earnings, expenses, etc., of the different railroad companies in this State ; the investigation of the books and papers of all such railroad companies, to ascertain if the schedules and rules and regulations of the Commission have been complied with; the making of personal visitations of all railroad offices, stations and other places of business, for the purpose of examination ; the examination and correction of all contracts and agreements between said railroad companies which the law requires to be submitted to the Commission as to rates of freight and passenger tariffs, “that it may be seen whether or not they are in violation of law or the rules and regulations” of the Commission; the hearing, investiga'ting and deciding all complaints against railroads for violations of the statute or the rules and regulations of the Commission made thereunder; the enforcing of the same through the courts of the State, by instituting suits in the name of the State through the Attorney General or State Attorney for the penalties prescribed by law for refusal to comply therewith, or by mandamus to compel an observance thereof, and finally the petitioning the Interstate Commerce Commission and the taking of “ all necessary and expedient measures to secure to the people of Florida the full benefit” of the Interstate Commerce law, when any railroad company in this State shall have violated any provision thereof.
Full and complete reoords and files of all letters, complaints, schedules, rules and regulations, decisions, visitations, examinations and investigations by the Commission, together with the monthly and annual returns, rate sheets, joint tariffs and circular orders of railroad companies, and all other papers and communications issued by or filed with or submitted to the Commission, are kept by the Commission in systematic order for ready reference, of the variety and volume of which the public probably have no adequate conception. To include all of these in our annual reports is not, as we think, required by the statute, and we have selected from them such as we consider of sufficient interest and importance to the public, as illustrative of the workings of the Commission under the law. Besides, the records and files of the office are public, and subject to the inspection and investigation of all concerned.
The reports the Cominission have heretofore made embrace the transactions of this uffice from August 9, 1887, when the Commission was first organized, to March 1, 1890, covering a period of about two and a half years. In these are recounted the difficulties that were encountered, and the intricate and perplexing questions that were presented, and the efforts made by the Commission to surmount and solve them,—difficulties and perplexities common to all like Commissions, particularly in the earlier years of their existence. These reports were ac -companied with comments and observations which somewhat in detail presented what is termed the railroad problem, at least in some important phases of it, to-wit: “The necessity of the control of railroads by law,” The difficulties that arise in determining what are reasonable rates," (1st annual report pp. 14 and 29), • Work of the State Commission as affected by the Interstate Commerce law,” “Functions, powers and duties of State Railroad Commissions,” (2d annual report, pp. 29 and 32). In the formative period of a Railroad Commission in a state, the discussion and presentation of such topics by those whose duty it is to study and practically apply them, the Commission thought, and still think, were germane 1o the matters then under consideration. These or kindred subjects, however interesting or instructive, the Commission will not discuss in this report, but will confine themselves to the matters specified in the statute, making reference to these matters for the convenience of those who may choose to consider them.
CIRCULARS OF THE COMMISSION CHANGES, ETC. All changes that have been made since the last annual report of the Commission (March 1st, 1890,) in freight and passenger rates, and in the rules and regulations of the Commission, are embraced in the circulars issued from time to time by them since said date, and are to be found in the appendix hereto, and as each is self explanatory, a general reference to them is perhaps all that is necessary, but in the light of subsequent events, a brief reference to some of them is made.
RATES ON PHOSPHATE ROCK AND KINDRED ARTICLES.
The discovery and rapid development of the phosphate deposits in this State rendered it necessary to prescribe a rate on that class of freights. For a year or two what is known as pebble or bone phosphates had been mined and shipped from the Peace Creek deposits, but no complaints reached the Commission as to the rates charged thereon by the railroads, and it was not until mines higher up the peninsula had been opened and shipments of phosphates commenced, that the necessity for prescribing rates for that article was brought to the attention of the Commission, and a request made that a schedule of maximum rates for the use of the railroads. in this State should be made. Shipments began from the Dunnellon Phosphate Company's mine at Dunnellon in Citrus county, in the early part of last year; other mines in that section of the State were reported to be in process of development, and an additional impetus was given to the business in all parts of the State where such deposits were found. The F. C. & P. R. R. Co. had very properly classified phosphate deposits with fertilizer, (it being the rule that when any article of freight was not classified, as was the case with phosphate rock, it should be classified with analogous articles,) and had been charging fertilizer rates, while every other company as far as the Commission was advised, which had engaged in the transportation of it, had charged a less rate.
From Dunnellon to Ocala, a 30 mile haul, the Silver Springs, Ocala & Gulf R. R. Co. was hauling at the rate of 55 cents per ton of 2,000 lbs., a rate much lower than the fertilizer rate allowed by the Commission, while the F. C. & P. R. R. Co. was charging $2.50 per ton, 50 cents per ton higher than the rate allowed by the Commission on fertilizers, on shipments from Ocala to Fernandina, a haul of 130 miles. After due notice by circular directed to each railroad company doing business in this State, to as many persons or companies as the Commission were informed were engaged in mining phosphates, and by publication in the newspapers, (see Circular No. 29, June 12th, 1890) the Commission on the day therein named heard such as chose to appear before them and after mature consideration promulgated rates on phosphates. (See Circular No. 30 dated July 16th and effective August 1, 1890.)
The Savannah, Florida & Western Ry. Co., the Georgia Southern & Florida R. R. Co., and the Orange Belt Ry. Co. were the only railroad companies represented at the hearing.
Soon after the 1st of August, the F. C. & P. R. R. Co. re duced its rates from Ocala to Fernandina to $1.45 per ton, a dec se of $1 per ton, but still an excess of the rate allowed by Circular No. 30 of the Commission, of 35 cents per ton. No rate sheets giving the rates, had been filed with the Commission as their rule No. 5 required, and upon complaint to the Commission by the Dunnellon Phosphate Company the railroad company was directed to refund said overcharges.
This the company declined to do on the ground that the shipments were interstate. Accordingly the Commission directed the Attorney-General to institute proper proceedings before the courts, in the name of the State, by mandamus for the purpose of compelling "an observance" of the rate allowed by the Commission, which was done. (See Appendix, p. 185, for a full accu unt of the complaints of the Dunnellon
Phosphate Company, the action of the Commission thereon and the pre:ent status of the matter.)
The Commission decided that the shipments were local to Fernandina and were not insterstate and as the matter is now before the courts, they refrain froin further comment.
In this connection the Commission refer to the matter beo tween the Savannah, Florida & Western Railway and the Florida Central & Peninsular Railroad Companies, and the action taken by the Board both as to the State and interstate traffic interchanged between said companies. The Commission found upon investigation that on all business coming to either road from the other at several points of junction of these two railroads, whether on State or interstate traffic, each was charging rates very much higher than those allowed by the Commission. An order was issued directing said railroad companies to desist from such unlawful charges. (For a full account of the action of the Commission and of the rail. road companies both as to State and interstate shipments see Appendix p. 215.) PASSENGER
THE CHARLOTTE HARBOR DIVISION OF
THE FLORIDA SOUTHERN RAILWAY. Early in the year, complaints by persons representing the Farmers' Alliance in DeSoto county, were made to the Com. mission of excessive freight and passenger rates on the Charlotte Harbor Division of the Florida Southern Railway. The Commission through one of its members met the people and the representatives of the railroad company at Arcadia in May 1890, investigated the matters of complaint and reported the result to a full Board. A day was set for a final hearing, and after due consideration, on July 19th, 1890, Circular No. 31 was issued, reducing the passenger rate from 5 cents per mile to 4 cents per mile. The only other changes made, which affected this road, were er braced in Circular No. 30, prescribing rates on phosphates, before referred to, and reducing the rate on syrup and molasses to class R. Against the action of the Commission in regard to passenger rates, the company protested, but the Board overruled the protest, and becoming satisfied that the rate of 4 cents was ignored by the company, they placed the matter in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral, with instructions to enforce the law. In the meantime the Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, issued an order without previous notice to the Commission, directing the Receiver to continue to charge the 5 cent rate, notwithstanding the action of the Commission, but to proceed to test the matter before the courts. The Attorney-General moved to vacate said order, but that