The Michigan ..ai y - -Tihursday, September 21, 1995'- 7A
House votes 313-112 to
scrap national speed im 't
WASHINGTON (AP) - Eleven
House Republicans, including Rep.
ernon Ehlers, bolted from their party
yesterday to vote against eliminating
fthe national speed limits and letting
states decide how fast people should
The measure to drop the national
,speed limit of 55 mph on most roads
and 65 on rural interstates was approved
Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids), was not
available for comment, said his press
secretary, Chris Barbee.
Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Flint), said the
speed limit was a "reasonable safety
restriction" and he voted to keep it "to
save lives." ,
Also voting against dropping the na-
tipnal speed limits were Reps. David
3onior (D-Mount Clemens); John
Conyers (D-Detroit); John Dingell (D-
Dearborn); and Sander Levin (D-Royal
Those members of Congress voting
fofthelimit believed the decision should
'et with the states.
"Let the state of Michigan decide
what the appropriate speed limits are,
rather than have one uniform speed
limit across the country. It should be
their decision, not Washington's," said
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Holland), who
voted for dropping the speed limits.
The Senate version of the bill, ap-
proved in June, would eliminate the
current speed limit for automobiles but
would keep it on large trucks and buses.
The two bills now go to conference to
Congress passed the 55 mph law in
1973, threatening states that did not
comply with the loss of millions of
dollars for highway construction that
would instead be diverted to highway
safety. Fifteen years later, Congress
raised the speed limit to 65 mph outside
The government's highway safety
arm said that sinc'e the rural interstates
were allowed to increase the speed limit,
nationally on average those roads have
seen a 30 percent increase in fatalities
Interstates are the safest highways in
the country because they have medians
and are free of intersections or drive-
ways, stoplights and obstruction by trees.
About 43 percent of fatal crashes on
roads that are not interstates and have a
maximum speed limit of 55 mph are
speed-related, according to data pro-
vided by the National Highway Traffic
About 1,000 Americans die every
month in speed-related crashes, NHTSA
But in Michigan, only 25 percent of
all fatal crashes are speed-related -
below the national average of 30 per-
cent, NHTSA records show. That num-
berjumps to about 30 percent on Michi-
gan roads that are not interstates but
have a 55 mph maximum limit.
"We don't know what will happen (if
the limit is removed), although we are
extremely concerned and certain we
will see more deaths and injuries," said
Carol Stroebel, NHTSA's director of
"We found that ... people go above
the speed limit no matter what it is," she
said. "There's an all-American belief
that you have a cushion."
After the storm
Marie Fergos sits where once was her home yesterday In St. Thomas, the Virgin islands. When Hurricane Marilyn hit last
week, Fergos and her husband Richard took shelter in a closet, along with their two children, two grandchildren and five
other guests, after they saw the roof of their home fly away.
See story Page 2A.
Bill gives taxpayer-David a few
more stones st IRS-Goliath
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WASHINGTON (AP) - A "tax-
payer bill of rights" moving through
Congress would give Americans new
weapons in their battles with the Inter-
nal Revenue Service, but the agency
everyone loves to hate would remain a
mighty Goliath to the taxpayer's David.
Accountants, analysts and other ex-
perts on tax enforcement praised the
bipartisan bill yesterday as a step in the
right direction in ensuring individual
taxpayers don't get overwhelmed by
the IRS's 115,000-person bureaucracy.
But, they said, it won't alter one hard
fact: The onus is still on taxpayers. In
the eyes of the IRS, they still would
have to prove that their tax returns are
The bill, written by the House Ways
and Means oversight subcommittee
under Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.),
is tucked into a much larger tax mea-
sure approved Tuesday by the full com-
mittee. In turn, it will be folded into
massive tax- and spending-cut legisla-
tion going to the House floor next
"It will have a big impact," Johnson
said. "There are a whole series of fixes
to prevent the taxpayer from taking the
hit for bureaucratic failures and rigid
glitches in the law."
Among its 40 provisions are those:
Raising the current $100,000 ceil-
ing on civil suits against the IRS for
reckless collection actions to $1 mil-
Making it easier to recover attor-
ney fees when IRS actions are unjusti-
fied and raising the limit on fees from
$75 an hour to $110 an hour.
E Waiving interest charged taxpay-
ers when a delay in resolving a dispute
is the IRS's fault. That's allowed cur-
rently but the rules are written so tightly
that few delays are deemed the agency's
® Reimbursing taxpayers up to
$3,000 for expenses ifthey're randomly
selected for one of the exhaustive re-
search audits the IRS conducts to help
fine-tune its enforcement system.
Making the IRS, not the taxpayer,
responsible for verifying information
returns such as W-2 and 1099 forms
submitted by employers, mortgage lend-
ers and interest and dividend payers.
Filers of information returns would be
required to provide a telephone number
for taxpayer questions.
The IRS didn't quarrel with most of
the changes, although it did argue that
raising the ceiling on civil suits would
encourage lawsuits and disproportion-
ately benefit wealthy taxpayers.
Other changes in the bill would:
Increase the independence of the
IRS taxpayer advocate's office and give
it more power to issue orders protecting
Permit the IRS to remove liens
from ataxpayer'sproperty when they've
been put on by mistake or when re-
moval will help the taxpayer raise the
money to pay the taxes owed.
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There must be some
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