AASHTO Journal

House, Senate Panels Advance FAA Bills That Maintain Most Programs, Differ on Air Traffic Control

Authorizing committees in the House and Senate approved bills that would keep the Federal Aviation Administration operating past Sept. 30 and continue many of its service and grant programs, but which differed sharply on the issue of whether to take air traffic control out of FAA hands and put it under a nonprofit corporation.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure marked up its bill in a lengthy June 27 session, and on what reports said was a largely party-line vote of 32-25. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

dollarpump.jpgHouse T&I Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the six-year FAA bill with the ATC spinoff "puts the American taxpayers, innovation, jobs, and the traveling public before Washington dysfunction. We thoroughly debated the legislation, considered approximately 80 amendments, approved substantial improvements offered by members from both sides of the aisle, and voted to move forward to give Americans the safe, efficient, modern aviation system they deserve."

President Trump has also proposed taking the ATC out of government hands.

The T&I bill maintains the FAA's Essential Air Services program that many states utilize to subsidize commercial airline service to smaller and rural airports, plus grant programs that are sometimes administered by state departments of transportation.

The committee said its bill will also let more communities have a chance to participate in the contract air towers program, which provides air traffic control services at many rural and remote airports.

On June 29, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved by voice vote its four-year authorization bill, which also extends the Essential Air Service program and FAA airport improvement grants.

It also advanced by voice vote three nominations for administration positions, including that of Derek Kan to be undersecretary of transportation for policy.

The Senate committee's FAA bill did not include the ATC spinoff, with senators reportedly saying there is not enough support in that chamber for such action.

Commerce Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said: "This passenger-friendly aviation reform legislation improves safety and incorporates over 50 amendments offered by both committee Democrats and Republicans. In preparing for the future of aviation, our committee has acted to continue advancing unmanned aircraft systems and other aviation innovations while offering airline passengers new protections following recent incidents."

Neither bill increases the federal cap on passenger facility charges that let some airports add a fee to airfares to help fund capital improvements.

Once the two chambers pass their separate bills, lawmakers from each would need to negotiate to see if they could report a final version for both to approve before the FAA's authority expires Sept. 30. If not, they would need to pass some extension measure to avoid an agency shutdown as of Oct. 1.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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