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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

By Mr. DEWINE (for himself, Mr. Kohl, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Grassley, Mr. Feingold, Ms. Snowe, Mr. Schumer, Mr. Durbin, Mr. Levin, Mrs. Boxer, Mr. Wyden, Mr. Corzine, and Mr. Dayton):

S. 555. A bill to amend the Sherman Act to make oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I rise today, along with my colleagues--Senators Kohl, Leahy, Grassley, Feingold, Snowe, Schumer, Durbin, Levin, Boxer, Wyden, Corzine, and Dayton--to introduce the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act of 2005 (NOPEC). This legislation would give the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission legal authority to bring an antitrust case against the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Every consumer in America knows that gasoline prices have reached record highs recently. Likewise, the price of home heating oil has dramatically increased. These price increases have been acutely painful to people in my home State of Ohio.

Moreover, the rise in jet fuel prices is crippling our already weak airline industry. One of the main reasons that many U.S. airlines have not been able to make a profit has been due to skyrocketing jet fuel costs. For example, in the fourth quarter of 2004, Continental Airlines' jet fuel costs were $453 million, which was a 48 percent increase compared to last year, and Delta's jet fuel costs were $385 million, which was 76 percent increase compared to last year. No wonder so many U.S. airlines are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy or are already in bankruptcy.

What is the cause of these high gas and fuel prices? There are a number of factors at play, but there is clear agreement among industry experts about the primary cause of high gas and fuel prices--and that is the increase in imported crude oil prices. Who sets crude oil prices? OPEC does. The unacceptably high price of imported crude oil is a direct result of price fixing by the OPEC nations to keep the price of oil unnaturally high.

OPEC's hunger for ill-gotten gains is astounding. It seems its appetite can never be satisfied. For example, despite the fact that oil prices recently hit the historic high of $55 a barrel, OPEC members met in December 2004 and decided to cut the output of oil by another 1 million barrels. When demand is high and supplies are cut, that means prices will increase. Nonetheless, OPEC cut production. This is an outrage.

OPEC is probably the most notorious example of an illegal cartel in the world today. It is an affront to the principle that markets should be free. Nation after nation has adopted antitrust laws that make it illegal to fix prices. In 1998, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, then composed of 29 member nations, issued a formal recommendation denouncing price fixing. OPEC's continued actions, in ongoing defiance of American and international antitrust norms, should not be tolerated.

Until now, however, OPEC has effectively received a ``free pass'' from prosecution under U.S. antitrust laws. For over two decades, enforcement has been constrained by two related court opinions. In 1979, a Federal district court found that OPEC's price-setting decisions were ``governmental'' acts. As a result, they were given sovereign status and protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Subsequently, in 1981, a Federal court of appeals declined to consider the appeal of that antitrust case based on the so-called ``act of state'' doctrine, which holds that a court will not consider a case regarding the legality of the acts of a foreign nation.

Our bill would effectively reverse these decisions. It makes it clear that OPEC's activities are not protected by sovereign immunity and that the Federal courts should not decline to hear a case against OPEC based on the ``act of state'' doctrine. As a result, under NOPEC, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission could bring an antitrust enforcement action against OPEC's member nations. This bill would force OPEC to begin pricing in a competitive, free-market manner or face the possibility of civil or criminal antitrust prosecution.

Senator Kohl and I have introduced this bill three times before--in 2000, 2001, and 2004. We intend to keep fighting for American consumers and businesses so that they will not be fleeced by OPEC in the future.

NOPEC says to OPEC: When you want to do business with America, you must abide by our antitrust laws and the rules of the free market. And when OPEC, one day, abides by the rules of the free market, we will all see lower oil and gas prices.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. ROCKEFELLER):

S. 560. A bill to enhance disclosure of automobile safety information; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. ROCKEFELLER):

S. 561. A bill to improve child safety in motor vehicles; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. ROCKEFELLER):

S. 562. A bill to amend title 23, United States Code, to improve the highway safety improvement program and provide for a proportional obligation of amounts made available for the highway safety improvement program; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. ROCKEFELLER):

S. 563. A bill to improve driver licensing and education, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. ROCKEFELLER):

S. 564. A bill to improve traffic safety by discouraging the use of traffic signal preemption transmitters; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. ROCKEFELLER):

S. 565. A bill to direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to establish and carry out traffic safety law enforcement and compliance campaigns, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, the number one killer of those between the ages of 4 and 34 in this country today is auto fatalities. If you look at those between the ages of 16 and 25, the figures are even more exaggerated. We all know that in this country over 42,000 Americans lose their lives every year in auto accidents. That figure stays fairly constant. The last year we have figures for is 2003, and in that year, 42,643 of our fellow citizens lost their lives.

In fact, in the next 12 minutes, to be precise, at least one person will be killed in an automobile accident in this country, while nearly six people will be injured in just the next 60 seconds.

This is a tragedy that we as a society are much too willing to tolerate. If a foreign enemy were doing this to us, we would not tolerate it. We would be up in arms. Someone said it is the equivalent of a 747 airplane going down every two days in this country. If that were happening, of course, it would be on CNN; we would be demanding an explanation. Yet, these auto fatalities that occur, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, just go on, and for some reason, we have become immune to it, hardened to it. They just continue.

I come to the Floor today to discuss five bills--five bills that my staff and I have been working on for a few years now--five bills that I will be introducing, but hope will be incorporated in the transportation bill we will be considering in the next several weeks. These bills are commonsense, practical ways to save lives. Each bill is built on solid evidence of what will, in fact, make a difference. These are bills that will, in fact, save lives.

Last year, the Senate passed each of these bills as a part of the SAFE-TEA transportation bill. I want to thank Senators INHOFE, JEFFORDS, BOND, REID, and MCCAIN for their assistance in making that happen. Our former colleague Senator HOLLINGS was also instrumental in clearing these bills. So, what I'm talking about today is a set of bills that has already enjoyed the support of the Senate, and I believe we ought to pass each and every one of them again this year as a part of the transportation reauthorization. In particular, I look forward to working with Senators STEVENS, LOTT, and INOUYE on the Commerce Committee portion of my transportation safety package.

I am thankful for the support and assistance of Senator ROCKEFELLER as the lead co-sponsor on the first several bills--the vehicle safety bills--as well as Senator LAUTENBERG'S leadership as my chief co-sponsor on the drunk driving prevention campaign bill. Both Senators are great leaders on highway safety, and I'm pleased to be working with them this year in an effort to get these bills signed into law.

The first bill we call ``Stars on Cars.'' While its name is cute, its focus is quite serious. When you go to buy a new car, there is a large label in the window detailing the price, features, gas mileage, and other information about the vehicle. This label is referred to in the auto industry as the ``Monroney Label'' after a former member of this body, Senator MONRONEY from Oklahoma. We all know what the sticker looks like.

But, what we may not know is that most of the content on that sticker is mandated by the Federal Government. The mileage per gallon has been on there for a number of years. The Federal government says that your city mileage has to be on there and your highway mileage has to be on there. It has to tell you whether the vehicle has air-conditioning. It has to tell you whether it has a stereo. It has to tell you a whole bunch of other stuff.

One piece of information is not on there--and that is the vehicle's safety rating.

The funny thing is that in the vast majority of cases, you have already paid to have the Federal Government--specifically the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)--spend millions of dollars to test that very car and others like it. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has put that information up on the Internet. Nonetheless, the basic fact is that when you go in to buy that car, that information is not available to you. It is not available to the American consumer in the one place where it would make a difference--where you buy the car, at the dealership.

Doing this right wouldn't cost the taxpayers another dime. The car companies are already printing the labels. Under this legislation, we would add a new section to the label titled ``Government Safety Information.'' The new section would clearly lay out information from each of the government crash tests--frontal crash impact, side impact, and rollover resistance. For vehicles that haven't been tested yet, the label will say so. We would show the ratings pure and simple, as graphical star ratings on the label, just like many automakers do in their commercials.

The bill requires that this be done in a manner that can be clearly understood by your average car buyer, with short explanations as to what each rating means.

What impact would this have? I happen to believe the consumer is better off with more information than less information on whatever we are talking about. The consumer ought to know what the Government does. The consumer ought to know that type of information. The consumer would make better choices. Consumers care about safety. They will make better choices, and in all likelihood, they are going to choose safer vehicles and more lives will, in fact, be saved.

It just makes good common sense to do this. We have worked hard to fashion a bill that gets this life-saving information to consumers in a way that is sensitive to the concerns of automakers, as well as the NHTSA. We've reached out to a broad coalition to craft our bill for 2005, and I look forward to working with interested parties to continue to improve and shape the language contained in it. In the end, this bill is my number one safety priority for passage into law this year.

The second bill we call ``Safe Kids and Cars.'' Cars, unfortunately, are involved in child deaths at unbelievable rates. According to NHTSA data, automobile accidents happen to be the leading cause of death in the United States for children age 4 and up, and are right among the top causes for those ages 0 to 3.

More than cancer, more than homicide, more than fire, more than drowning, more than anything else, auto accidents are the source of child fatalities. We have a problem. And, while I congratulate auto manufacturers, safety groups, and NHTSA for working hard on this issue, there's more work to be done. Anything we can do to make a car safer for our kids, we should be doing it. Complacency is not an option.

The focus of this bill is to improve data collection and vehicle testing with regard to some specific dangers that small children face. NHTSA has done an excellent job in terms of working from solid data, and this is one area where unfortunately we just don't have enough data to move forward. Likewise, we need the tools to perform effective vehicle tests once we have those numbers, and my bill contains measures to see to it that we develop these tools.

In terms of testing, child-size dummies are an area where NHTSA needs to review its testing and look for areas where increased use of these dummies would lead to increased safety, or a better understanding of how crash forces impact small children. My bill directs NHTSA to conduct a full review of test procedures and incorporate these child dummies when and where suitable. We also ask the agency to give a status update on the extremely important Hybrid-III 10-year-old child test dummy.

The rest of the bill focuses on an emerging danger for small children often referred to as ``non-traffic, non-crash'' accident situations. These are incidents in which interaction between an automobile and a child leads to injury or death when the vehicle is not on the road, or where no actual crash has occurred. Instead, these are incidents that happen in parked cars, driveways, parking lots, and other very common situations. Unfortunately, these common situations can be deadly under the wrong circumstances.

A prime example of ``non-traffic, non-crash'' dangers to small children has to do with dangerous power window switches. In many cases, children are left alone in a vehicle and manage to inadvertently activate a power window switch--a situation which can lead to the window moving up and crushing a limb or other part of the child's body. Some children are killed almost instantaneously by the force of the rising window. These incidents are not terribly frequent, but they are preventable at almost no cost to consumers and manufacturers.

Power windows are an area where NHTSA has taken action since I last introduced the child safety bill, and I want to pause to thank Dr. Jeffrey Runge, NHTSA Administrator; Janette Fennel, President of the safety advocacy group Kids and Cars; and several other groups for their work to make the new power window safety rule possible. The new rule, which I helped announce in Columbus late last year, will lead to the elimination of unsafe power window switches--switches that can be accidentally tripped by children with ease--in every car and light truck sold in the United States. It is clearly a step in the right direction, and it will save lives.

Unsafe power window switches show one kind of ``non-traffic, non-crash'' danger children face today. Were it not for a one-time study of death certificates by NHTSA, we would have no government data whatsoever on how widespread this problem happens to be. We would not know much about other types of ``non-traffic, non-crash'' dangers, such as backover incidents and heat exhaustion in closed vehicles. These are areas where there is a clear need for better data collection and testing. My bill tackles each head-on.

The ``Safe Kids and Cars'' bill directs NHTSA to continue pushing forward on ``non-traffic, non-crash'' incidents by instituting, for the first time, regular collection of data on these kinds of accidents. With time and some solid data, we may be able to tackle other kinds of ``non-traffic, non-crash'' problems in the future. Understanding the problem is the first step.

A third bill has to do with dangerous road intersections. Every State has them. Most States, fortunately, rank these roads. They keep a list of the bad ones. But, amazingly, there are many States that keep this information secret and don't tell the public.

Again, citizens have a right to know this information. What would you do with the information? As a parent, I might tell my 16-year-old not to go that way to the movie. At least I have the right to have that information and would be able to say go another way. It might take another 10 minutes, but go that way. Don't go by that intersection. Don't go on that curvy road. State Departments of Transportation already have that information.

Each State should provide that information to the public. They already know it, and they should provide it. Policymakers need to know that to make decisions about how to spend money in that state and what roads to fix.

I would like to briefly talk about a woman by the name of Sandy Johnson and her mother Jacqueline. On October 5, 2002, Sandy and Jacqueline were killed in a car crash at a dangerous intersection near Columbus.

What they did not know as they drove into that intersection--and what countless other area residents who used the roads that cross through it did not know at the time--was that this particular intersection was known at that time by the Ohio Department of Transportation to be a very dangerous area. In fact, ODOT had indeed known that information for quite some time. Perhaps if Sandy Johnson had known that she would have taken a different route that day. We will never know.

Following the tragic death of his wife and his mother-in-law, Dean Johnson initiated a campaign to tackle the issue of dangerous roads and dangerous intersections, not just in Ohio, but across the country. He has tried with varying results from state to state to get information on dangerous roads and intersection locations out to the public so tragedies like the one involving his wife could be prevented.

As I have in the past, I would like to thank Dean Johnson for his dedication to this very important public safety issue and for the progress he has made in my home State of Ohio and elsewhere in terms of getting critical lifesaving information out to citizens through the Sandy Johnson Foundation. His assistance has been an asset in crafting this legislation, and I look forward to working with him in the future.

My bill requires that safety information be disclosed to the public as an eligibility requirement for a new Federal safety funding program--the Highway Safety Improvement Program. States seeking additional Federal dollars for safety construction projects will have to take the quick and easy step of identifying their danger spots, ranking them according to severity, and then disclosing them to the public. I believe this is the least we can ask from States in exchange for large chunks of federal aid.

In some cases, States would like to release the data but fear the legal ramifications of doing so. My bill contains a fix for this that provides the same kind of protection States already enjoy for other types of highway safety data. In other words, no legal harm could come to a State for releasing lists of dangerous locations under this bill.

Further, States need to find ways to get safety experts, law enforcement, engineers, transportation officials, and the general public working together to identify and correct dangerous locations. I've borrowed language in my bill from last year's Senate-passed SAFE-TEA bill--excellent language drafted and passed by Senator Inhofe and the Environment and Public Works Committee that creates incentives for States to foster this kind of collaboration. Collaboration between these entities is essential to finding quick, effective solutions to fatalities arising from dangerous intersections, as well as long stretches of roadway that account for high crash rates. I am including the Committee's language on Highway Safety Improvement Programs in my bill because I strongly believe that it is a step in the right direction.

The fourth bill I am introducing has to do with driver education. Teen driving is an area where fatality rates are extremely high and unfortunately where programs across the country are not getting the job done.

Above average crash and fatality rates may be inevitable for teenage drivers, but they can certainly be reduced substantially from present-day levels. The Federal Government cannot run driver education. It is clearly a State responsibility. But it can play a small, productive role.

For decades, our attempt to address this problem--standard classroom-based driver education--has been ineffective or worse, inspiring false confidence in students and parents alike that graduates are ready to drive safely. Fortunately, we've started to move in a new direction as a nation, with 41 States adding innovative graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws to their ongoing driver education efforts. These new laws have been proven to be effective in reducing accident and fatality rates. While my bill contains language to raise the bar on GDL laws and make them more effective, its real emphasis is on finding a better way with respect to driver education.

Revitalized driver education needs to be data-driven and cognizant of the limitations associated with classroom-based instruction. It must utilize new ways of inculcating young drivers with the knowledge and skills they need to avoid unnecessary high-risk situations, particularly in the first six months behind the wheel. Integration of driver education with the graduated driver licensing process to maximize the safety value of both programs also must be addressed.

Past failures in our Nation's history with regard to driver education are not a reason to abandon these programs. They are a reason to go back to the drawing board to re-invent more effective means of promoting safe driving.

A recent study by the National Institutes for Health sheds some light on the problem. The study suggests that due to their unique brain development, risk tolerance, and other tendencies--teen drivers are naturally inclined toward increased danger on the roads. Clearly, some methods used in driver education today aren't getting the message through, and in some areas, the message may never get through independent of who does the teaching.

NHTSA and its research partners must find ways to tailor the content and delivery of driver education so that it recognizes these realities and focuses on areas where novice drivers can learn the skills necessary to be safer drivers. A NHTSA pilot program is currently under way with several states to test out updated ``best practices'' driver education models--not mandates, not national standards, but just best practices.

My bill responds to the call for national leadership in driver education and licensing made at a recent National Transportation Safety Board forum by creating a Driver Education and Licensing Improvement Program within NHTSA. The new Improvement Program will provide NHTSA with the resources and time it needs to run the pilot program and then evaluate the results to see what works and what doesn't.

Once this pilot program has run its course, my bill provides a modest amount of grant funding to supply states with the resources and technical expertise necessary to implement the ``best practices'' model in a way that fits their specific needs and circumstances. The grants will be competitively awarded, and also will be available for fulfillment of several other state needs with regard to novice driver education and licensing. This grant program is 100 percent voluntary, and my bill has been crafted carefully to ensure that the prerogatives of States are protected in every manner.

The areas ripe for improvement are numerous: instructor certification, curriculum improvement, outreach to increase parental involvement, enforcement of graduated driver licensing laws, and follow-up testing to ensure program effectiveness. These are just a few examples. By creating a National Driver Education and Licensing Improvement Program within NHTSA, and tasking that program to come up with best practices, we can help States interested in improving their programs do so without having to expend the time and resources necessary to ``re-invent the wheel'' on their own.

I have worked for over a year with NHTSA, the American Driver Training and Safety Education Association, the Governors' Highway Safety Association, the American Motor Vehicle Administrators' Association, AAA, the Driving School Association of America, Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety, and several other groups to come up with the bill that will be introduced today. Its contents are a compromise that reflects significant input from each of these fine organizations, and I believe we are now at a point where the road ahead toward safer, more effective driver education and licensing programs is clear. The goals set by this bill are clear, and the means to achieve them are provided for in full. The time has come to take serious action on driver education and licensing in this country.

Lastly, I'd like to introduce the Safe Intersections Act of 2005. This bill would criminalize the unauthorized sale or use of mobile infrared transmitters, also known as ``MIRTs.''

A MIRT is a remote control for changing traffic signals. These devices have been used for years by ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks, and maintenance crews, allowing them to reach emergencies faster. As an ambulance approaches an intersection where the light is red, the driver engages the transmitter. That transmitter then sends a signal to a receiver on the traffic light, which changes to green within a few seconds. This is a very useful tool when properly used in emergency situations.

In a 2002 survey, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that in the top 78 metropolitan areas, there are 24,683 traffic lights equipped with the sensors. In Ohio, there is a joint pilot project underway by the Washington Township Fire Department and the Dublin Police Department to install these devices. Other areas in Ohio where they are in use include Mentor, Twinsburg, Willoughby, and Westerville. Here in the District of Columbia, emergency services across the country, law enforcement officers, fire departments, and paramedics utilize this technology to make communities safer.

However, recently it has come to light that this technology may be sold to unauthorized individuals--individuals who want to use this technology to bypass red lights during their commute or during their everyday driving. MIRT was never intended for this use. MIRT technology--in the hands of unauthorized users--could result in traffic problems, like gridlock, or even worse, accidents in which people are injured or killed.

Let me quote from an ad that was posted on the Internet auction site, eBay:

``Tired of sitting at endless red lights? Frustrated by lights that turn from green to red too quickly, trapping you in traffic? The MIRT light changer used by police and other emergency vehicles Change the Traffic Signal Red to Green [for] only $499.00. Traffic Signal Changing Devices--it's every motorist's fantasy to be able to make a red traffic light turn green without so much as easing off the accelerator. The very technology that has for years allowed fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars to get to emergencies faster--a remote control that changes traffic signals--is now much cheaper and potentially accessible.''

This ad demonstrates the extent to which the potential widespread sale and possession of MIRT technology by drivers would be a hazard to public safety and must be stopped before it starts. The Congressional Fire Service Institute, Ohio Fire Alliance, and several other organizations have come out in support of this measure. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that it becomes law.

The sixth bill I am introducing today is a bi-partisan bill aimed at reducing the number of drinking and driving deaths and injuries on our roads. Tragically, our Nation has experienced increases in alcohol-related traffic fatalities three of the past four years. In 2003--the last year for which full statistics are available--17,013 Americans died in alcohol-related incidents. This total represents 40 percent of the 42,643 people killed in traffic incidents.

The bill I am introducing today along with Senator LAUTENBERG--the Traffic Safety Law Enforcement Campaign Act--would require states to conduct a combined media/law enforcement campaign aimed at reducing drunk driving fatalities. Specifically, the law enforcement portion consists of sobriety checkpoints in the District of Columbia and in the 39 States that allow them and saturation patrols in those states that do not. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that the sobriety checkpoints proposed in the underlying bill may reduce alcohol related crashes by as much as 20 percent. Law enforcement officials from across the United States underscored this point in a recent conference sponsored by MADD, making high visibility enforcement campaigns a top priority. More than 75 percent of the public has indicated in NHTSA polls their support for sobriety checkpoints. In fact, NHTSA has concluded that 62 percent of Americans want sobriety checkpoints to be used more often.

These six bills will go a long way. They are common sense. They will make a difference. This is something I have been interested in for many years, going back to my time in the Ohio Legislature 20 years ago when I introduced the drunk driving bill, and we were able to pass a tough drunk driving bill in the Ohio Legislature. I worked for .08. It was very controversial in the Senate, but we were able to pass .08. Senator LAUTENBURG and I worked on that.

Anytime you lose 42,643 Americans every year, highway safety is something we all have to be concerned about.

I know the SAFE-TEA highway bill is not on the Floor yet, but I have seen it, and of course was pleased to support it on the Floor last year. As passed by the Senate in 2004, the bill goes farther than any highway bill regard to safety. This year's bill from the Environment and Public Works Committee will enable the same great progress on highway safety. I congratulate the authors.

In the weeks ahead, I look forward to working with the respective committees and outside organizations on the bills I have described above as amendments to the 2005 SAFE-TEA bill. But, I want to make it very clear that these bills and amendments are not in any way critical of the underlying bill. In fact, I hope they will be complementary and simply add to a good product that is already a good product and will help to improve it.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bills be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the bills were ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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