The House Aviation Subcommittee is scheduled to try again Tuesday to mark up legislation to reduce regulation of the airline industry after a first session that left supporters of the measure in various stages of dismay.
In the first session last week, the subcommittee deleted a major provision that both the Administration and the Civil Aeronautics Board contend is essential in a reform measure.
The provision would have authorized the CAB to set up a program, subject to a congressional veto, that would allow airlines to start a limited number of new routes each year without first asking the government's permission.
Proponents of the legislation have argued that a realistic threat of entry by new and existing carriers on the initiative of management alone is necessary if the airlines are to get the wider measure of decretion they want over pricing.
Automatic entry is designed to keep airlines on their toes. CAB Chairman Alfred E. Kahn told the subcommittee that an automatic entry provision of some kind would keep price increases to a minimum and encourage experiments with price-quality combinations as incumbents try to forestall entry by competitors.
The provision in the pending bill deleted by a vote of 15 to 8 on a motion by Rep. Elliot H. Levitas (D-Ga) whose name is on the bill as a cosponsor along with Public Works and Transportation Chairman Harold T. (Bizz) Johns on (D-Calif.), Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Glenn M. Anderson (D-Calif), and Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.). All the Republican members of the subcommittee voted with the majority.
Levitas contended that both the expedited procedures for CAB consideration of new-route applications provided by the bill and a provision easing the entry of airlines to routes that carries with nonstop authority do not serve were adequate reforms.
Rep. Mineta, who sponsored two unsuccessful attempts to substitute different forms of automatic entry in the measure, called it "essential." He said last year's air cargo deregulation bill was a good example of what can happen when fare flexibility isn't tied to entry. The measure delayed new entry until next year, he noted, and many incumbent air cargo operators already have raised their rates substantially.
Deleting the entry was the only substantial change the subcommittee made in an all-day session before it became embroiled in a procedural morass thanks to a parliamentary tactic by Rep. Gene Snyder (R-Ky.). After moving successfully to table an amendment. Snyder announcement with a smile that the action meant the whole bill was tabled.
At the opening of the mark-up, Snyder sponsored several motions that would have kill or put pending bill which failed on 15-9 votes along strict party lines. "I'm not trying to be nasty," he said. "I just think we are not capable and qualified to digest all the complicated provisions of this bill."
Richard J. Sullivan, the Committee's chief counsel ruled that Snyder was correct in his interpretation of the rules on tabling motions, but only after the subcommittee had moved ahead to other matters. That precipitated a recess, after which the committee decided to "vacate everything" it had done back to the point before the tabling motion was voted on. It also agreed that the record on what followed "be expunged." Then they recessed until Tuesday.
I don't like doing these things, Snyder said. "All I want is some time."
The pending bill, introduced last month, is a compromise version of several measures introduced over the last couple of years. Subcommittee chairman Anderson noted that 35 days of hearings were held on the various proposals.
The bill generally would give airlines more freedom to make pricing and route decisions outside the scope of the CAB; revise the current subsidy program under which airlines are paid $70 million a year to fly to cities that might otherwise not get service, guaranteeing service to communities that now have it for 10 years; and streamline current procedural requirements that result in classic cases of regulatory lag.
The mark-up session held last week followed two days of hearing that lasted well into the evening on the revised measure. The lines of supporters and opponents was generally unchanged except for one major difference. Western Airlines, which had opposed previous attempts to alter the airline regulatory structure, endorsed the measure. Cliff Madison, a Western official, told the subcommittee the bill would "assure a phased and orderly transition to a more competitive air transportation system."