A picture of Representative Trent Franks
Trent F.
Republican AZ 8

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  • Conference Report on H.R. 22, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015

    by Representative Trent Franks

    Posted on 2015-12-03

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    Read More about Conference Report on H.R. 22, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015

    FRANKS of Arizona. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to express concerns regarding a particular provision in the bill before us today. The provision in question retroactively increases a Federal statutory cap on liability to cover one railway accident that occurred earlier this year.

    {time} 1200 Mr. Speaker, retroactive legislation is not always unconstitutional, but it is clearly disfavored. The Supreme Court outlined in a case called Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel, and I quote: ``Retroactivity is generally disfavored in the law, in accordance with the `fundamental notions of justice' that have been recognized throughout history. In his `Commentaries on the Constitution,' Justice Story reasoned: `Retrospective laws are indeed generally unjust; and, as has been forcibly said, neither accord with sound legislation nor with the fundamental principles of the social compact.' '' Mr. Speaker, while recognizing that retroactive legislation is constitutional in some instances--limited instances, I might add--none of those instances would clearly appear to apply to the provision in question.

    The Supreme Court further stated, ``Our decisions . . . have left open the possibility that legislation might be unconstitutional if it imposes severe retroactive liability on a limited class of parties that could not have anticipated the liability, and the extent of that liability is substantially disproportionate to the parties' experience.'' In the case of the provision in question in the bill before us today, the retroactivity imposes severe increases in liability--almost a 50- percent increase, in this case--on a limited class of parties who could not have anticipated that liability.

    While I support reasonable compensation for those who have been done legal injury, I am concerned that this particular provision may not pass constitutional muster. For that reason, I would register my concern.

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