House Republicans Target Amtrak

House Transportation Committee chairman John Mica (R-FL) and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) announced that they will draw up legislation that would kill Amtrak’s desire to develop and operate high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor:

We plan introduce legislation to separate the Northeast Corridor from Amtrak, transfer it to a separate entity, and begin a competitive bidding process that would allow for a public-private partnership to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance high-speed service. Our plan would do so in a dramatically shorter time, in closer to 10 rather than 30 years, and at a fraction of the $117 billion cost proposed by Amtrak, while creating new jobs.

Randal O’Toole says that “Rail fans feel threatened by the proposal because they know that, if the Northeast Corridor is ever spun off as a private operation, support for Amtrak subsidies in the rest of the nation will dwindle.” Not surprisingly, Amtrak booster Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) thinks that “privatizing” the Northeast Corridor is a bad idea:

Let’s not forget: Congress created Amtrak in 1970 because the private railroads could no longer sustain inter-city passenger service on their own,” he said. “When I was building my business, I learned firsthand — if you want to be successful tomorrow, you must begin laying the foundation today. The same principle applies here. If we want to leave our children and grandchildren a better country, we must make smart investments on their behalf — and that means investing in Amtrak.

Dumping more taxpayer dollars into Amtrak will “leave our children and grandchildren” with more debt — not a better country as Lautenberg absurdly claims. And as a Cato essay onAmtrak subsidies explains, it was decades of taxes and burdensome government regulations that sped the demise of private passenger rail:

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Texans call TSA’s bluff on ‘no-fly zone’

AUSTIN, Texas – Did the federal government really just threaten a “no-fly zone” around Texas? Or is this a high-stakes game of Texas Hold ‘Em?

A group of local activists are calling the bluff of federal agents who threatened to shut-down airports within the Lone Star State if the Legislature takes action to rein-in the pat-down tactics used by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

There was no turbulence as HB 1937, designed to criminalize the “groping” method being used by TSA agents in airports, sailed through the legislative process. The bill, authored by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), passed the Texas House by a large margin, and federal critics were nowhere to be found.

But, at the very last minute, the Texas Senate folded, following pressure from the feds. Thirty supporters in the Senate dwindled down to just 10 the evening of May 25. This came after a letter (signed by a federal judge) was circulated by two TSA representatives lobbying in the back hallways of the Senate chamber — and at the last possible minute, too, as May 25 was the deadline for new bills.

Activists at the Texas Capitol that evening to support HB 1937 were shocked to hear that the national government not only warned of a conflict with federal law but threatened to shut down Texas airports if the bill were passed. Surely it was a last-minute scare tactic — but it was one that 20 state senators took seriously.

An energized crowd descended upon the Captiol the next day in hopes that something could be done during the last few days of the 82nd Legislature. Their hopes were boosted by two unexpected events: 1) a filibuster on school finance led to a special session beginning Tuesday, and 2) Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst requested that Gov. Rick Perry include HB 1937 into the special session agenda.

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