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OFFICE OF THE RAILROAD COMMISSION Of Georgia.
ATLANTA, GA., October 15, 1900.
To His Excellency, A. D. Candler, Governor.
SIR: Under the Act creating the Railroad Commission of Georgia it is made the duty of that Board to make a report annually to Your Excellency, and from time to time to recommend for your consideration such legislaion as in its opinion is necessary to the adequate regulation of the business of the railway carriers engaged in the transportation of passengers and freight for hire within the State of Georgia, to the end that the public may receive a proper service from those engaged in that business, and such a service as they are entitled to expect from such carrier companies throughout the State.
REGULATION OF PUBLIC CARRIERS BY STATE AUTHORITY.
Experience has demonstrated the practical value to the public of the Railroad Commission. Its utility is no longer problematical. The wise public policy which suggested its organization has been vindicated by the experience of the people of Georgia in their dealings with the railway companies within the last twenty years. It may be truthfully said that under its administration of the powers conferred upon it by the Act creating it and by those Acts which have from time to time been passed amending the original law, the people of Georgia are better served by the carrier companies and at less cost to themselves than are the people of any other section of the country, similarly situated. This is due largely to the fact that there is a responsible body, charged by law with the constant duty of supervising the operations of the railway companies throughout the State, and seeing to it that they render to the public the best possible service and exact from the public no more than a reasonable compensation for the service which they perform.
The power of the State to so regulate the business of the common-car
riers has come to be recognized as one of the attributes of its sovereign power. The authority of the State with respect to such matters is no longer open to judicial controversy. The carriers of the State have adapted themselves to the system which the Legislature in its wisdom has seen proper to devise for their control. The details of rate-making are being constantly wrought out with infinite pains, with the result that in so far as intra-state traffic is concerned there is no cause for complaint; and such complaints as are made, and remain unredressed, relate to such matters only as pertain to interstate traffic, and are, for this reason, beyond the control of this Commission.
PHYSICAL CONDITION OF RAILROADS.
The Commission has made it its particular business to examine, from time to time, the physical condition of the various railroads operated throughout the State; and we are gratified to report that in point of equipment and service the railroads of Georgia will compare favorably with those of even the most densely populated sections of the country. The class of rail and ballast which is being used in the reconstruction of tracks is of the best; and this is particularly true of the trunk lines, over which the greater volume of the traffic is handled.
PROCEDURE BEFORE THE COMMISSION.
The system adopted by this Commission for hearing complaints enables it to pass speedily upon all questions that are presented for its consideration. It is not a technical system of pleading, such as prevails in the ordinary courts of the land. If a citizen of Georgia feels that he has been aggrieved by the conduct of any railway company doing business within the borders of the State, he files a simple complaint, frequently by letter, stating the cause of his grievance. Immediately the attention of the company complained against is called to the cause of complaint, and if the matter be such as cannot be settled by correspondence alone, the authorities of the company complained against are cited to appear. This simple
process of adjusting differences between the public and the carriers has enabled the Commission to dispose of a great variety of minor complaints, to say nothing of others of greater consequence, to the entire satisfaction of the parties concerned, and in such manner as to afford to the public the character of service which it had the right to expect and demand.
REGULATION OF INTERSTATE TRAFFIC.
Not infrequently, however, complaints are made of matters involving interstate traffic; and the want of power in the Commission of this State to deal with that class of questions emphasizes in the minds of the Commissioners the importance of having such federal legislation upon the subject as would enable the Interstate Commerce Commission to grant appropriate relief. In furtherance of this idea, at a general convention of railroad commissioners throughout the Union, which convened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the early part of June last, Commissioner Atkinson, representing the Railroad Commission of Georgia, introduced and secured the passage of a resolution, a copy of which was as follows:
Resolved, That we recommend that the Federal Congress do, by appropriate legislation, confer upon the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to prescribe reasonable maximum rates for the transportation of freights and passengers by persons and corporations engaged in interstate commerce, and as well authority to make such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry such power to make rates into execution."
We know of no measure which would contribute more toward the protection of the public against unjust discriminations on the part of the public carriers in the matter of rates and the methods of transportation, than the passage by the Federal Congress of legislation upon the lines suggested by this resolution. We recommend to Your Excellency that you suggest to the General Assembly the propriety of giving the principle of this resolution its endorsement, and that the members of Congress and Senators from Georgia be requested to co-operate in securing the passage of such a law.
CHANGES IN TARIFFS, RULES, ETC.
This Commission, in the exercise of its power to regulate rates, finds it necessary, from time to time, in order to prevent unjust discriminations,