Saturday, September 30, 2006

congress repeals wright amendment

An effort spearheaded by Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both Republicans, has finally come to fruition: both houses of Congress have passed legislation that would phase out flight restrictions at Dallas Love Field. President Bush will presumably sign the bill into law next week.

"It's a great relief to have a final solution," said Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, whose district includes Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. "The fact that none of the parties are completely happy and all of the parties are relieved to have it over should be a sign that it's a good agreement."

The congressional legislation comes after an intensely-negotiated agreement between the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth concerning the repeal back in June. This plan will be implemented under the new legislation by 2014.

The Dallas Morning News notes that this issue split legislators unusually: they were not divided by party lines or by geography.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, argued against a frequent ally, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, whose district includes Love Field.

Mr. Sensenbrenner [R-Wisconsin], recalling the "Don't Mess with Texas" bumper stickers in the House garage, said, "Tonight is one of the nights where we ought to mess with Texas.

"This is the most anti-consumer, anti-free-enterprise legislation that has come before this House in a long time," he said.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, was distributing red "Vote Yes" fliers to members on the floor; Ms. Johnson had her own yellow fliers supporting the bill.

The final tally, which came just past 10 p.m. Dallas time, was 386-22.

Again, reactions to the passage is mixed. The chief operating officer of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Kevin Cox, predicts a "calming effect" at D/FW and a possible dip in fares as American tries to match Southwest's low rates. Some travel analysts disagree.
[Terry] Trippler said consumers shouldn't expect ticket prices to go down at D/FW because Fort Worth-based American will still be able to charge a premium for nonstop flights, compared with the connecting and one-stop service that Southwest Airlines will offer from Love. American operates more than 80 percent of the passenger flights at D/FW.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a good piece on the "winners" in the new legislation. The list includes passengers, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and both airports in contention. Many look at the situation as a win-win. "Everyone gave up something for the common good," said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.

Another local lawmaker summed up the debate: "This bill is important to North Texas, the air-service community at large and my constituents at Love Field, which is in the heart of my district," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. "I am not anti-competitive. I'm not anti-lower fares. I'd be stupid to be that. But I am pro-principle."

No comments: