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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

'Re-reg' bill on way to House vote; short-line tax credit bill awaits another Senate vote

The House Judiciary Committee recently filed a report on the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act (H.R. 1650), clearing the way for the bill to be brought to a floor vote, according to Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE).

The report recommends the legislation — which proposes to eliminate railroads' antitrust exemptions — be accepted by the full House. The bill also would permit the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to review future railroad mergers under antitrust law and allow shippers to seek legal recourse for "anti-competitive conduct" by railroads, CURE said. Last year, companion bill S. 772 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation — which is opposed by the rail industry — now awaits action by the full House and Senate.

Meanwhile, Congress is preparing to vote again on a bill that includes the extension of the short-line tax credits, according to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Inc. (NRC).

If the bill passes the Senate by week's end, it will proceed to a House vote.

"This is likely the last chance to pass this bill before spring," the NRC said.

As proposed in the Senate, the "extenders package" bill would extend the tax credits through 2009 and reduce the impact of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) on short lines that "have lost over $60 million in credits because of the AMT," the association said. The bill would provide more than $160 million annually in tax incentives for regionals and short lines to invest in infrastructure.

The extenders package has been stalled in the Senate because of a dispute between Republicans and Democrats on how to compensate for tax credit extensions, the NRC said. Democrats have insisted that tax credit extensions be paid for by increasing revenue elsewhere while Republicans have argued that they do not need to be offset by raising other taxes.

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More News from 9/19/2008