House Transportation Leaders Introduce FAA Bill

SUMMARY:  On February 11, 2011, the leadership of the Transportation Committee and Aviation Subcommittee introduced long-term legislation to reform Federal Aviation Administration programs, set policies and priorities for the nation’s aviation system, and create jobs through infrastructure improvements.

The FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 658) was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL), Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI), and other Members.  (Full bill text; Summary by Section of H.R. 658)

“This is a lean bill that recognizes our current budgetary difficulties and the need to do more with less,” Mica said. “Families and businesses across the country have no choice but to tighten their belts, and the federal government must do the same. This bill saves $4 billion, requiring FAA to find significant cost savings without negatively impacting safety.

“This legislation increases the efficiency and effectiveness of our aviation programs while ensuring that the U.S. aviation industry remains competitive in the global marketplace and continues to be the safest system in the world.

“This bill reforms and streamlines aviation programs, consolidates facilities, increases responsible private sector participation in aviation facility operations, and strengthens oversight of the NextGen air traffic control modernization program,” Mica said.

“The last long-term FAA bill expired in 2007, and we have had a series of 17 extensions since then. That is not how we should be setting the policies and priorities for our nation’s aviation system. This four-year bill will provide long-term stability for the FAA and airports to plan major infrastructure improvements that will create and sustain jobs in the construction industry, aviation industry, and other businesses that rely on an efficient aviation system,” Mica added.

“Getting this bill through is Job One,” said Petri. “The last reauthorization was in 2003. The House passed reauthorization bills in the past two congresses, but didn’t reach agreement with the Senate last year. Instead, 17 extensions have been passed in order to keep the FAA operating.

“We are in a difficult budget environment and can’t do everything we want to right now, but getting a long-term reauthorization in place will provide more certainty and consistent funding for more efficient and effective investment. I’m looking forward to working with the Senate to finally get this bill done,” Petri said.

The FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 contains numerous reforms that increase the efficiency of aviation programs, reduce the federal bureaucracy, create and protect jobs, and provide taxpayer savings in a manner that protects FAA’s mission to ensure aviation safety.

A summary of provisions included in the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011:

  • Four-year bill, covering fiscal years 2011 to 2014, with overall funding level of $59.7 billion.
  • Bill provides approximately $4 billion in savings compared to current funding levels. It requires the FAA Administrator to identify significant cost savings without cutting any safety critical activities.
  • In accordance with the House Republican moratorium, the bill contains no earmarks.
  • Creates and protects more than 600,000 U.S. jobs over four years, according to estimates.
  • Overall funding levels are set at the FY08 appropriations levels for the remainder of FY 2011 and beginning in full in FY 2012.
  • For NextGen, the bill streamlines processes and provides funding for priority NextGen air traffic control modernization projects planned in the next four years. Sets deadlines and metrics for better measurement of NextGen progress and to ensure more effective cost management.
  • Allows for expansion of the cost effective contract tower program, which allows airports to utilize privately operated, more efficient control towers (under FAA contract, regulation and supervision). Creates the potential to save approximately $400 million over four years.
  • Sets up a process for the consolidation of aging, obsolete and unnecessary FAA facilities, which will result in significant savings.
  • Institutes a risk-based approach to inspections of foreign repair stations in a manner that protects U.S. jobs and respects bilateral agreements. Previous Democrat proposals would have cost jobs and invited retaliation from other nations.
  • Phases out funding and sunsets the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program, providing savings of approximately $400 million over four years.
  • Does not include an increase in airport Passenger Facility Charges.
  • Includes binding arbitration for air traffic controllers and other FAA employees to resolve labor impasses.
  • Repeals unionization election rule changes implemented in May 2010 to again ensure that a majority of a workforce must vote in favor of union representation.
  • Includes compromise language on slots at Reagan National Airport that increases beyond perimeter slots by 10 without increasing the total number of operations at the airport.
  • The bill also omits controversial provisions that have stopped previous FAA bills from moving forward and becoming law: 
    • Does not contain antitrust immunity sunset
    • Does not contain ban on cell phones
    • Does not contain PFC for bike storage at airports
    • Does not contain the controversial Federal Express provision

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact Ric Peri, vice president of government & industry affairs for AEA, by email at ricp@aea.net or by phone at 202-589-1144.

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