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Remarks on Signing Into Law the Staggers Rail Act of 1980

October 14, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. There are a lot of smiles on the faces of the men and women behind me, who've worked so hard on this legislation.

I'd like to begin by acknowledging the leadership of Senator Howard Cannon, who has been so important this last 2 years in our deregulation effort. This bill is the result of a strong bipartisan support, both in the House and the Senate. Senator Russell Long, Senator Bob Packwood made outstanding efforts to help passage in the Senate. In the House, of course, the leadership of Chairman Jim Florio, Congressman Matsui, Congressman Edward Madigan, Nick Joe Rahall, who's also here, James Broyhill, were all critical to our success.

It's especially fitting that the Congress has decided to name this act after Congressman Harley Staggers, a great chairman who has capped his illustrious career with this key effort to pass this major reform bill.

The Staggers Rail Act of 1980 is the capstone of my own efforts to get rid of needless and burdensome Federal regulations which benefit nobody and which harm all of us. This effort is crucial to promote more competition, to improve productivity, and to hold down inflation. We deregulated the airlines, we deregulated the trucking industry, we deregulated financial institutions, we decontrolled oil and natural gas prices, and we negotiated lower trade barriers throughout the world for our exports.

Where we needed continued regulation, we required agencies to analyze carefully the costs of their new proposals. We now have a sunset review program for major new regulations. We have cut, with the help of the Congress, Federal paperwork by 15 percent. I established a Regulatory Council to weed out inconsistencies and to encourage innovation, saving hundreds of millions of dollars while still meeting our most vital regulatory goals. Most recently I signed the Regulatory Fexibility Act to remove unnecessary burdens on small businesses.

All of us here heard for years the campaign rhetoric of regulatory reform. We heard so much rhetoric and saw so few results in that time that many of us could have given up, but we didn't. And together in these 3 1/2 years, we've carried out the most fundamental restructuring of our economy, the relationship between government and the private enterprise system, since Franklin D. Roosevelt's time and the initiation of the New Deal. It will be a major boost for the revitalization of the American economy, a revitalization that I intend will restore America's competitive edge and make possible full employment and, at the same time, stable prices.

The railroad deregulation act strips away needless and costly regulations in favor of market forces, competitive market forces, whenever possible. It will help to restore the financial health to the railroad industry. It will help shippers by allowing the railroads to improve equipment and to tailor services to shippers' needs, and it will help American consumers with better and more efficient service. It will allow railroads to adjust rates to at least cover out-of-pocket costs and to earn a reasonable return without redtape.

For the first time, railroads and shippers can contract for terms of service, as is the case in other industries. The act will curtail collective rate-setting practices among railroads in favor of individual price competition. It will simplify and shorten ICC rate and railroad restructuring procedures. This act also will allow Conrail to provide more effective services. At the same time, it will help protect captive shippers and utilities using coal. It will facilitate the reorganization of the Rock Island Railroad lines so vital to the Midwest, and it will expand and revise the existing financial program which helps our Nation's railroads.

The importance of this act is clearly reflected in the outstanding and diverse group of people who are assembled here today for this ceremony—representatives from railroad management, from labor, from such shippers as automobiles and steel and coal, retail stores, farm organizations, and also from environmental organizations.

Let me also commend the ICC. The ICC has made substantial progress toward reducing regulatory burdens. The Staggers act builds on and reinforces these crucial reforms, and I look to the Commission for aggressive implementation of the act's objectives.

I now take great pleasure in signing the Staggers Rail Act of 1980.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

I also want to welcome former Congressman Fred Rooney back. It's a pleasure to have you here.

REPRESENTATIVE ROONEY. Nice to be with you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

I'd like to ask Jim Florio to say a word if he will and then Congressman Staggers.

REPRESENTATIVE FLORIO. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

You've obviously summarized the bill very well. There's not much more that has to be said except this was a really good example of how the legislative process is supposed to work, attempting to harmonize all the divergent interests, and it was a good tribute to the way that the legislature is supposed to enact legislation. You have representatives, as you said, of the community, the shipping community, rail management, rail labor, public and private sectors.

So, I'm pleased to be associated with it; certainly think it's appropriate, as you've mentioned, that this be named after Mr. Staggers, who has devoted so much of his time and energies over the great number of years that he's been in the Congress to working to ensure the fact that we have a healthy railroad system. We hope this legislation will get us back to that point.

So, thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. Well, Mr. Staggers, will you say a word for us, please?

REPRESENTATIVE STAGGERS. Mr. President, and all those present, I congratulate you on your leadership in sending to the House and to the Senate legislation which would do what has taken place today, because it was under your leadership that the legislation has been enacted.

I would like to congratulate, on our side, very much Jim Florio—He has worked so hard—and Mr. Madigan of Illinois, because there were so many obstacles they had to overcome, factors they had to stop, Consideration of the bill one time and then came back.

THE PRESIDENT. Just once? [Laughter]

REPRESENTATIVE STAGGERS. More than that, in fact. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. More than once.

REPRESENTATIVE STAGGERS. But there were so many who had a part in it Nick Rahall and Matsui and many others that I could mention who were on our committee. But actually Jim Florio and Mr. Madigan were the two leaders.


REPRESENTATIVE STAGGERS. And they maneuvered, manipulated the bill on the floor— [laughter] —and worked it out, so that it could really be worked into legislation.

But I would like to also congratulate the shippers and the railroad management and railroad labor and all the rest who have entered into this agreement to try an experiment that might, and we think will, help the future of the railroad industry, help to build it and make this a better transportation system in the land and make it a better nation in which to live.

So, we congratulate everyone who had a part in working on it. And thank you so very much, Mr. President.


I think the word "maneuver" is good. [Laughter] The word to "guide" or to "steer" it through the very tortuous legislative process is significant and appropriate.

This is legislation of far-reaching significance that touches on the lives of almost every American. And of course, the people who use the railroads and who are very interested in seeing rates as low as possible and service as good as possible, representing those who ship grain and cotton and other agricultural products, the retail merchants who want their goods to arrive in a timely fashion and with minimum freight rates added, the major basic industries like automobiles and steel, worked very closely with Mr. Florio and his equals, equivalents in the Senate, with the railroad management, that want to see a sound railroad industry, with laborers, who see the inevitability of economic and social and transportation change, wanting to have their own lives protected.

The complexity here was very profound. It's similar to the complexities that we did face, I think even exceeds the complexities that we faced in either airline deregulation or even trucking deregulation, and perhaps even more so than even the financial institutions regulation.

But to move the governments out of the free enterprise system when regulations are onerous or costly and at the same time have additional protection for consumers, to stimulate an industry that has been ailing in some way, and to let the free enterprise system actually work with intense competition is an achievement that brings credit to all those assembled here.

And I want to express my thanks to all of you for being willing to help with this very fine legislation that moves our Nation one step forward, one major step forward toward the revitalization that is necessary in giving our economy a new stimulus, keeping our people at work, with improved services for the American people, and at the same time reducing inflation and enhancing the quality of our environment. This has accomplished all these goals, and all of you deserve a great deal of credit. I'm proud to be part of this group and this achievement.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:47 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

As enacted, S. 1946 is Public Law 96-448, approved October 14.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251086

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