The New York Times/1925/12/14/Pinchot Summons a Special Session to Regulate Coal

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Statement Indicates He Will Urge the Legislature to Declare Industry a Public Utility
SEES 40,000,000 INVOLVED
Assailing Operators for Refusing His Arbitration Plan, He Says They Are Warring on Public.
Action Sought on Camden Bridge, Election Frauds, Prohibition and Giant Power
Special to The New York Times.

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 13.—Governor Pinchot announced tonight that he would call a special session of the Legislature tomorrow to declare the anthracite coal industry a public utility and to provide for regulation by the Public Service Commission or some other State agency. This is his answer to the operators who have rejected his peace proposals.

The Governor said that he would issue the proclamation the first thing in the morning, calling the legislature together on Jan. 13. The coal strike situation is one of eight subjects he desires the General Assembly to consider. The Constitution provides that in calling extraordinary sessions the Executive must list the subjects to be considered.

The subjects are:

  1. Revision of the election laws.
  2. Regulation of the anthracite coal business.
  3. Revision of banking and building and loan association laws.
  4. Additional laws for prohibition enforcement.
  5. Provision for additional facilities for the collection of the State gasoline taxes.
  6. Adjustment of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey differences over the Philadelphia-Camden bridge.
  7. Laws providing for the carrying out of the Pinchot giant power plans.
  8. Approval of Delaware River Tri-State compact with the State of New York and New Jersey.

"Abuses have arisen in this Commonwealth," the Governor said in a statement he issued explanatory of his proclamation, "so dangerous to our form of government and so threatening to the welfare of the people that they must be taken in hand with vigor and without delay."

Sees 40,000,000 People Affected.

The reference to the anthracite coal strike in the proclamation is brief, but in the Governor's statement he explains in more detail his purpose to regulate the industry through an appropriate State agency. This would mean the making of the industry an public utility such as are water and natural gas companies, which come under the supervision of the Public Service Commission. Authorization of compacts with other anthracite consuming States for interstate regulation is also provided for.

"The present suspension in the anthracite region," the statement says, "is a matter of the largest and most pressing importance not only to Pennsylvania but to all of the 40,000,000 anthracite-using people of America. It amounts to a dangerous crisis which must be met with promptness and courage.

"In an effort to settle the strike, as Governor of Pennsylvania I invited the negotiating committees to the anthracite miners and operators to meet me in Harrisburg on Nov. 18. The miners courteously honored my request by the attendance not only of their negotiating committee but of the entire membership of the scale committees of all three anthracite districts. The operators refused to attend and were not represented.

"At that meeting I submitted, as I said, the rough outline of an agreement upon which, in substance, I believe the present suspension of work in the anthracite mines could be, and ought to be, ended at once with justice to the miners, the operators and the anthracite-using people of America.

"This rough outline was a middle ground and was far from giving the miners all of their demands. Nevertheless, with a degree of moderation and regard for the public interest which does them high honor, they agreed to accept the outline agreement I proposed as a basis for settlement. If the operators had done the same the mines would have been open within a week.

Says Operators War on Public.

The operators, however, flatly refused to consider my rough outline as a basis for settlement. They refused to consider it even as a basis for conference and negotiation. From first to last they heave refused to yield one joy or tittle of their original position. The anthracite coal strike, which was at first a strike of the miners against the operators, has therefore now become a strike of the operators against the public.

"The situation thus created amounts to an attack upon millions of anthracite users in Pennsylvania and other States, who are thus deprived of their customary fuel. The whole future of the anthracite industry is threatened by popular resentment and the use of substitutes. The prosperity of the anthracite region, now and hereafter, hangs in the balance. The public interests are gravely injured already and threatened with still more serious damage. Negotiations are at a standstill. The public must either suffer in silence or it must take measures to protect itself.

"The anthracite industry is a monopoly which has created such a relationship to the public that the stoppage of anthracite production is materially dangerous to the life and health of the people. The Attorney General had advised me that under the clear intent of a recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States the anthracite industry, being a monopoly, may be declared to be affected with a public interest and therefore subject to regulation as a public utility.

"Action by the Legislature declaring the anthracite monopoly to be a public utility will supply some degree of public control where none exists today; will furnish information never before revealed, and will exert the most powerful influence the public can apply toward the settlement of the strike. What is equally important, it will be the most effective step that can be taken toward securing uninterrupted prosperity for the inhabitants of the anthracite region and an uninterrupted supply of anthracite for those who need it."

Plans Electoral Reform.

The proclamation places first among the subjects to be considered the question of election reform. Bills providing for amendments to existing laws are now being drafted with the purpose of ending recent election scandals in Philadelphia, Scranton and Pittsburgh. This work is in the hands of the Committee of Seventy-six, named by the Governor. The bills are intended to insure an honest vote and an honest count and also to make it easier to open ballot boxes. Voting machines are to be made optional in any political subdivision of the State. Assistance to voters is to be more restricted and permanent registration is provided for in other bills. A proposed constitutional amendment is contemplated which would make use of voting machines compulsory in given cities or in cities of A class, would abolish tax qualification for voting and provide for overseers of elections.

Speaking of abuses in the State that need correction, the Governor said:

"The worst of these is the stealing of votes. Gang politicians in many counties have undertaken to rob our people of the most precious of all rights, the right of self-government. By refusing to count votes cast against the gang and by counting in their favor votes never cast at all, these election thieves destroy the rule of the majority."

No suggestion of how the difference between Pennsylvania and New Jersey over the Camden bridge tolls is to be settled is contained in the Governor's proclamation. The way is opened, however, for the Pennsylvania Legislature to repeal the law which prohibits the collection of tolls, which act has resulted in the suspension of work on the viaduct.

"After very careful consideration I have reached the conclusion that the deadlock with New Jersey over the question of tolls on the Delaware River bridge should have the attention of the Legislature."

The Governor is more explicit about his giant power plans rejected by the 1925 Legislature. He then had nineteen bills before the house. This time fewer bills, but measures covering the essential points of the others are proposed. These would define the power of a giant power board, authorize incorporation of giant power companies, provide for cheaper distribution of electric current, regulation of rates and service, and authorize incorporation of generation companies. The purpose of the entire series of bills is to prevent, "the great electrical monopoly now being consolidated," from being formed without proper consideration for the public welfare. "The supreme importance" of giant power, the Governor said, "is one of my reasons for calling this extra session."

The question of more strict prohibition enforcement, the Governor said, is of "fundamental moral importance." He does not go into his proposed laws, but State inspection of the breweries and distilleries, made impossible by the action of the last two regular Legislatures, is probably in his mind.