Journal Record Staff Reporter
The specter of a battle over states' rights and inviolability
of the Oklahoma Constitution may face the United States Congress
when it returns next year _ just for easing a "noncontroversial"
amendment through on a voice vote.
Although called noncontroversial when a conference committee
attached it to the 1995 Federal Aviation Administration Airport
Improvements Project authorization bill, a lot of controversy has
Oklahoma, especially rural Oklahoma, will be hurt
significantly, small shippers will pay a premium rate and
economic development will be hampered, a legislator, a regulator
and leaders of the trucking industry say.
The amendment, which passed quickly by voice vote in both
houses of Congress, eliminates state regulation of intrastate
trucking. It was supposed to have eliminated regulations
hampering interstate trucking companies, companies wanting to
enter business in a state and allow free enterprise and
competition to regulate the industry.
But those interviewed for this article said it probably will
work just the opposite.
The federal regulation becomes effective Jan. 1. But there are
some state statutes standing in the way, and the Oklahoma
Legislature is not scheduled to reconvene in its regular session
until Feb. 6.
"We're already looking into it to see what state statutes we
need to pass for this to help ease the situation," said state
Rep. Larry E. Adair, D-Stilwell, chairman of the House of
Representatives Transportation Committee.
The bill could help in some states in which the industry is at
odds with regulators, but it's going to hurt Oklahoma, which in
general has experienced good growth through cooperation between
the industry and its regulators.
Biggest battle, however, is expected to be that of states'
rights and whether Congress can summarily pre-empt state
regulation with virtually no discussion.
"I believe the question of constitutionality is going to come
up both in states' rights and whether a federal law can pre-empt
a state's constitution," said LaVern McCorkle, president of
McCorkle Truck Lines Inc., 2132 SE 18th St., and president of
Associated Motor Carriers of Oklahoma Inc., a trucking industry
trade association. "Oklahoma is unique, I believe, because our
constitution specifically states that the attorney general and
the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will regulate transportation
in the state.
"I don't know where it's going to come from, but I believe
there will be a constitutional battle on this, especially if the
people against it can come up with the money for attorneys.
"Besides that, I guess there are some states where there is a
problem with the regulatory agencies and bodies, but in Oklahoma
we've never had a problem. Oh, we've had problems, but we've
always been able to work them out in a friendly way.
"Our regulators and our industry work well together. I guess
other states haven't been able to achieve that."
Since she became president of the association Aug. 20, little
more than a week after the bill was passed, similar associations
in other states have contacted McCorkle about what legal action
can be taken.
"People in Texas have talked about a suit dealing with states'
rights," she said. "Whether they actually file something, I don't
Beyond the constitutional and states' rights question, there
is a question as to whether the public good will be served by
intrastate trucking deregulation. The action will create problems
for small companies with only a small amount of cargo to ship and
put a halt to economic development in rural areas and small
towns, nearly everyone interviewed for this article predicted. …