Candice Miller is not a pilot, but she has become a voice for GA in the House of Representatives.
Miller, a Republican who is serving her third term as representative of the 10th District in Michigan, has joined the battle against user fees, working to pass the House FAA Reauthorization bill. The daughter of a pilot, she’s also married to a pilot who built an RV-8.
“Because of my understanding of aviation, it helped me be a voice for GA,” she said, noting that user fees would be an “unfair assessment against GA” that carries the potential of causing safety problems.
Miller, who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was one of several representatives who traveled to AirVenture this summer to show support in the battle against user fees. During a forum, Miller pointed out that the user fee battle actually has a silver lining.
“A lot of people in GA don’t get involved in politics,” she said, “but when something like this happens, it solidifies the GA community. Once all this works its way through the system, a lot more people in GA will be interested in what is happening in Washington, D.C.”
Of course the fight still continues, as members of the House and Senate work toward a compromise bill. The Senate bill still includes user fees.
That means pilots and airplane owners must intensify their lobbying efforts to defeat user fees.
“This is absolutely the time to engage in the debate,” Miller stressed. “You can’t expect someone else to do it.”
And even though you think your voice may not be heard, Miller said that politicians do, indeed, respond to contacts from their constituents, whether by letter, email or telephone call.
“I urge people to take time to compose a letter,” she said, noting that her staff reads every letter that comes into her office. Last year, her office alone received more than 60,000 letters, she added.
“Every office has a system for handling the correspondence,” she revealed.
Don’t think that emails don’t carry the same weight as letters. “Email is really how people communicate these days,” she said.
All phone calls are logged, so even if you don’t speak to your representative in person, the elected official will get your message via his or her staff. “My staff will tell me two dozen people have called about a particular subject, which shows me that this issue is something people in my district are interested in,” she said.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a representative’s staff, either. “Don’t think that if you don’t get a face to face with the lawmaker that your point won’t be made,” Miller said. “Staff is very important. When an issue comes to the floor, my staff will tell me about all the communication the office has received on this particular issue and how people feel about it.”
She encourages pilot groups and EAA chapters to make appointments with their representatives and visit en masse. “You don’t have to go to Washington,” she said. “You can meet them in their local offices.”
Whether you are visiting in person, calling or writing, stay focused on the issue. Make your point in a professional manner.
The worst thing to do? Send a form letter or postcard, according to Miller. “We’ll just leaf through those,” she reported.
Say you’ve already contacted your representative about the user fee issue. Is it time to relax?
Not at all, said Miller.
“Keep the pressure on,” she said. “Keep sending the letters, particularly if you haven’t received a response.”