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One of the most important matters before Congress calling for the attention of the Committee, was House Bill 10212 introduced by Representative Bacharach of New Jersey, seeking to limit the jurisdiction of the United States District and Circuit Courts. The introduction and advocacy of the Bill was brought about by a desire to prevent utilities from appealing to the United States District and Circuit Courts for the adjudication of rate matters decided against them by State Public Service Commissions.
If the Bill had become a law, the practical effect of it would be that utilities in all such cases would be left entirely without remedy in so far as a tria the facts was conce
cerned, except in the local courts. The Bill attracted very great attention and the House Judiciary Committee, realizing the importance of it, called for a public hearing on the Bill. This hearing was adjourned from time to time in order to give full opportunity for the discussion of the Bill, until there were in all four general hearings regarding it held by the Committee. At these hearings were gathered the strongest support possible for the Bill. Mayor Hylan of New York City personally addressed the Committee, as did also his chief legal advisors. Mayor Thompson of Chicago sent his principal attorneys before the Committee to present arguments in favor of its passage. The discussion was carried on with a great deal of vigor. The various hearings referred to were held on March 28th, April 25th, May 23rd and June 18th, 1922.
The Committee early called the attention of representatives of other uțility national organizations, especially the National Electric Light Association and the National Gas Association, and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, to the dangerous threat of this proposed legislation, and held its first conference with them on the 27th day of March at the office of this Association in New York City. It was there agreed that the three associations, together with the telephone people, would work together in opposing the Bill, and after that time all opposition to the Bill before the Judiciary Committee of the House was the result of their joint work. At the final hearing on the 8th day of June the House Judiciary Committee took the whole matter under advisement and nothing has been heard of the Bill since that time.
Interchangeable Mileage Ticket The demand for a railroad interchangeable mileage book was strongly pressed by the “commercial travelers” of the country in the United States Senate, and a Bill was passed and sent to the House. While it was in the House this Committee was instrumental, with others, in getting an amendment inserted reading as follows:
“ The Commission may in its discretion exempt from the provisions of this amendatory act, either in whole or in part, any carrier where the particular circumstances shown to the commission shall justify such exemption to be made."
The Bill was passed by the House with this amendment and without any change in that regard it was reported by a Conference Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives, passed by both Houses and signed by the President.
Under the provisions of the new law the whole work of determining what kind of a ticket shall be issued and at what rate and with what rules and regulations, devolves upon the Interstate Commerce Commission. The Commission has issued an order for a general hearing on the subject on September 26th, 1922, and has also directed that in the meantime on or before September 15th, companies desiring to be exempted from the provisions of the Act should file a petition to that effect, stating the reasons therefor.
It is understood now from further word given out by the Commission, that while such petitions for exemption must be filed on or before September 15th, no hearing will be had on any of them until the general hearing set for September 26th, and it is probable that soon after that hearing the Commission will promulgate its final order regarding the issue and use of interchangeable mileage tickets.
Many of our companies desire to co-operate in the use of the interchangeable mileage ticket provided it is issued at such a rate and under such rules and regulations as will not be injurious to their business, but it will be impossible to determine whether they will wish to take part in the use of the mileage book until the Commission's final order is issued and the companies can know just what kind of a ticket is to be used and the rules and regulations governing the same. It is not believed that the Commission will be inclined at all to issue an interchangeable mileage book which will be injurious to the various steam railroads and electric railway companies.
Depreciation Accounts Early in the year this Committee appeared before the Interstate Commerce Commission in a proceeding calling for a decision of the jurisdictional question as between the Columbia Public Utilities Commission and the Interstate Commerce Commission, for the control of depreciation accounts of the Washington Railway and Electric Company, this involving to a greater or lesser extent the general proposition of whether such accounts shall be controlled by the Interstate Commerce Commission or by the Public Service Commissions of the various states. They filed a brief in the proceedings before the Interstate Commerce Commission and appeared personally, presenting the views of the Committee on the question. Up to this date the Commission has taken no definite action in determining the questions involved.
General Freight Rate Reductions The Committee at the time of the hearing for general freight rate reductions filed a brief with the Interstate Commerce Commission setting forth the situation as it touched the various classes of interurban
electric railways. As is now history, the Commission decided the general case without any decision so far as the electric railway were concerned other than to leave them covered by the ordinary and general rules concerning such matters. The result has been that the electric railways have not been compelled by the action of the Interstate Commerce Commission to reduce their freight rates except in a few special instances.
Refunding Internal Revenue After the transportation tax was repealed the Committee sent out to member companies two circulars issued by the Department of Internal Revenue, giving instructions in the matter of refunding transportation taxes after January 1st, 1922. It was not necessary to give the matter any attention after that date.
Joint (Congressional) Commission of Agricultural Inquiry
The Joint (Congressional) Commission of Agricultural Inquiry sent out circulars, orders, requests and questionnaires to the electric railway companies for a vast amount of detailed information regarding the transportations business of the electric railways of the country, which if complied with literally, would have cost our industry a large amount of money.
Mr. Welsh, Secretary of the Association, together with the Chairman of this Committee, took up and investigated the matter direct with the Commission, furnishing them with statistics then available from the New York office records, and afterwards such other information as the Commission requested in addition thereto. By taking this plan a vast amount of labor and expense in furnishing statistics first asked for by the Commission was avoided and the whole matter simplified so that in the end it did not prove a burden to the industry to furnish the Commission information actually needed by it. The portion of the report of that Commission referring to electric railways appears . under the head of Transportation, Part 3, of its general report to Congress.
Revenue Bill, 1922 While the Revenue Bill of 1922 was pending in Congress the Committee used its utmost endeavors to have the transportation tax, that is the tax on both passenger and freight transportation, entirely repealed. In this they succeeded, but they were unable to make any impression upon the Congressional Committees by their request that the corporation tax should be fixed at not exceeding 10 per cent. It was finally fixed at 12/2 per cent.
Transportation Act of 1920 The government seems to be pressing against several of our member companies claims under that part of the Transportation Act of 1920 restricting earnings to 6 per cent. That part of the Act itself relieves
electric interurban railway companies from its provisions unless
operated as a part of a general steam railroad system or engaged in the general transportation of freight."
Of course, each company must stand upon the facts of its individual case, but almost all the cases against interurban electric railways will call for a careful and correct interpretation of the clause " or engaged in the general transportation of freight.” They are all engaged in the transportation of freight, but the word “general" limits this. When the word "general" is used it undoubtedly makes the clause mean engaged in the transportation of freight as such transportation is conducted over the country.
It probably will be desirable in the very near future for some joint action on the part of companies thus interested for a presentation of the questions involved to the Interstate Commerce Commission. The Chairman and other members of the Committee have had a number of conferences with interested companies, but up to this date no arrangement has been made for a joint hearing.
Joint Coal Committee While the coal strike was pending and after the beginning of the railroad strike when it began to be difficult for the various utilities to get coal, this Association through Mr. Welsh, its Secretary, and with the approval of the President, entered into a joint arrangement with the electric light and gas people for the formation of a joint committee to look after the interests of the public utilities and aid them wherever possible in securing the necessary amount of coal for the use of their plants. This Association, through the Committee on National Relations, has been and is temporarily housing this Joint Coal Committee at the office of this Association at 949 Munsey Building, Washington, D. C., and Mr. McGovern, our assistant in the office, has been assisting Col. Jackson, the Chairman of that Commission, in every way possible. The work of the original coal organization in Washington is being and will be succeeded by the new Joint Coal Committee appointed by the President under the authority of Congress and no doubt the Joint Committee of the utility associations referred to will at least for a time, find themselves still busy securing the proper shipments of coal for the various public utilities.
Power Brakes Early in the year the Interstate Commerce Commission called for a general hearing regarding the efficiency of power brakes as now used and what, if anything, should and cculd be done to improve the same. All railways doing an interstate business, whether great or small, were invited to be present at and participate in this hearing.
Under special inquiry the engineers to be in charge of the hearing indicated the probability that electric railways would not be called upon for anything, but would be welcome at the hearing and would be permitted to present anything they might desire on the subject.
Following this up this Committee filed a general appearance for all our member companies and arranged for representation at the hearing. When the hearing came on the Chairman of this Committee, accompanied by Mr. S. D. Hutchins, representative of the Westinghouse Traction Brake Company, attended and entered their appearance at the meeting.
It soon developed that the only question the examiners expected to take up and consider was the use of power brakes in long, heavy trains (100 cars of 100 tons each being generally mentioned) on steep grades (5 per cent grades being usually mentioned).
Mr. Hutchins had also been notified to be present as a witness and was called to the witness stand, but only asked about some matters concerning which he had no direct knowledge. But he and the Chairman of this Committee gave close attention to the hearing until the development of the limited purpose of same was had as above indicated. At the close of the second day the Chairman of this Committee did not remain any longer, but Mr. Hutchins remained several days because he was not as yet excused as a witness.
The hearing resulted just as the developments had indicated and, therefore, electric railways were in no way affected.
Washington Office The Washington office at 949 Munsey B'uilding has been retained during the year and Mr. Paul W. McGovern has continued to assist in the management of the business there as heretofore.
During the year in addition to the work by the Committee already recited, a large amount of business has been transacted at and through that office.
From September ist, 1921, to September ist, 1922, 133 Bills, amendments to and reports on same, either affecting or of interest to electric railways, were sent out — most of these to the Chairman of this Committee and Mr. Welsh, Secretary of the Association, but many were sent to the other members of the Committee, and were mailed on request to other parties.
During the same period 264 orders, notices, circulars, etc., of the Interstate Commerce Commission were mailed to the companies for which the Chairman of the Committee has been appointed agent before the Interstate Commerce Commission. Like documents were also sent in many cases upon request to other parties.
Between the dates named only four opinions of the United States Supreme Court were mailed out to the Chairman and members of the Committee as well as to Mr. Welsh, Secretary of the Association, and Mr. Murphy, his statistical assistant.
In addition to the forgoing 107 requests for information, publications, service, etc., were complied with and attended to through the office.