Our Vision: To be the nationally recognized voice for the public interest, states and territories on aviation and the national aviation system.

Senate Approves FAA Bill 95-to-3

The Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016 by a margin of 95 to 3 today. The bipartisan bill will now head to the House, without Air Traffic Control reform, for further consideration – setting up a potential conference to work out significant differences between the two bills.
The bill contains several NASAO supported provisions – including third-class medical reform, state block grant program expansion, contract tower reforms and protections, aircraft certification reform, and an increase in authorized AIP funding levels. And the bill, importantly, excludes language to permit undedicated state sales tax increases on aircraft fuel. The bill also includes a provision establishing a Working Group on Improving Air Service to Small Communities, which will include a representation of state aviation officials and other industry stakeholders to, among other things, examine potential remedies to address the pilot shortage and other factors negatively impacting reliable air service.
The Senate also included a NASAO-backed provision to direct TSA to resume screening services at small airports that have temporarily lost air service – as well as a provision establishing national standards for the marking of covered towers up to 200 feet in height.
The chamber, however, was unable to adopt a final package of over two dozen bipartisan amendments just prior to the vote because of a lone objection from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) – which included the bipartisan Feinstein-Tillis-Blumenthal amendment to protect state authority to enforce laws and regulations related to drones.
Senators spent two weeks debating the measure and added over 19 amendments on the floor and 57 more in Committee. More information will follow on the exact contents of the final bill and adopted amendments.
The bill would address drone safety and privacy issues, with Ranking Member Nelson highlighting a provision that would establish a pilot program to test and develop technologies to intercept or shut down drones if they get too close to airports. In addition it would require that people who buy drones take an online test on their knowledge of restrictions and proper handling of their aircraft. Success with the test would produce a printed verification that the pilot could carry. “Drone safety is an increasingly important issue in our economy,” said Thune, who shepherded the bill through committee with Nelson’s help.
Security Reform
Reacting to last month’s terrorist bombings at the Brussels airport, the Senate bill increases the vetting of airport workers, expands the number of TSA viper teams that sweep through airports unannounced to stop and search suspicious people, and doubles the number of TSA’s bomb-sniffing dogs. The bill also would require the FAA to take measures to prevent hackers from tapping into jetliner control systems through entertainment devices brought on board by passengers.
Airline Consumer Protections
The FAA legislation also would establish new consumer protections, such as requiring airlines to offer refunds for lost or delayed bags and standardizing the way airline companies disclose fees. The Senate defeated an amendment to establish minimum standards for airline seat sizes and an amendment, introduced by Senator Boxer (D-CA), to revise rest rules for Cargo Pilots.
House up Next
Now all eyes turn to the House, where a six-year reauthorization of the FAA was advanced out of committee but has stalled largely due to a contentious proposal to separate the nation’s air traffic control system from the FAA. The Senate bill cosponsors hope Tuesday’s nearly unanimous vote steps up pressure across the Capitol to swiftly advance the Senate’s version.
“In a complicated bill like this, it doesn’t contain everything that everybody wants. But we hope our counterparts in the House will take up and pass this bill without delay,” Nelson said, who warned against adding the air traffic control proposal. “We’ve given them a good, bipartisan blueprint.”
House leaders are faced with a decision over whether to proceed with that controversial provision or amend the bill on the House floor to bring it closer to the Senate measure. Congress has until July 15 to agree on a long-term compromise, or pass another extension to avoid a partial shutdown of FAA operations.
The relatively short duration of the Senate bill – it would expire after about 18 months at the end of fiscal year 2017 – will give the Republicans who support shifting the FAA employees another opportunity to press for it in the near term.
The bill, H.R. 636, now heads to the House. FAA funding expires on July 15.
NASAO commends the Senate for the bipartisan effort to advance a long-term reauthorization and we look forward to continuing our work with leadership in both chambers to see that additional priorities, such as NPE reform and UAS preemption protections are included in a final package.

Click here to view the full bill text as passed and amended.

Categories: News, Uncategorized
Whether you are a state aviation official, staff member or a Friend of NASAO, there are opportunities for you to become more involved with NASAO through participation on one of our many Committees. See a complete list of opportunities and let us know where you would like to be involved. More
NASAO is one of the most senior aviation organizations in the United States, predating even the Federal Aviation Administration’s predecessor, the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The states first established NASAO to ensure uniformity of safety measures, to standardize airport regulations and develop a truly national air transportation system responsive to local, state, and regional needs. More
NASAO holds two formal conferences each year – our Annual Convention and Trade Show, typically held in September and a Washington Legislative Conference held in the nation’s Capital during the February/March timeframe. NASAO also has a presence at EAA’s AirVenture, held each year in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in late July. Whether you are looking to attend an interesting, informative and relevant conference or would like to exhibit or sponsor an event, let us know. More
Featured Business Partners