When the Senate finally passed an FAA reauthorization bill, it appeared there would finally be an end to the string of extensions that have been needed to keep the FAA afloat. But, alas, it was not to be. The 12th three-month extension passed both houses of Congress just before they broke for the Easter recess March 26.
In an unusual amending process, the House combined two aviation bills and returned the blended bill to the Senate. These bills are the Federal Aviation Administration Act and the Airline Safety and Training Act. This combining, coupled with the Senate passage of the extension to July 31, sets the stage for the two houses to resolve their differences through conferences.
The House version has two provisions not included in the Senate bill. First, there would be an increase in passenger facility charges from $4.50 to $7. Second, it would provide consistence in collective bargaining rights for employees working on the ground and driving trucks to organize under the National Labor Relations Act, which enables union organization at the local level as opposed to at the national level.
Also, financial issues need to be worked out. Over a three-year period the House bills come in at $53.5 billion, while the Senate has it pegged at $34.5 billion for two fiscal years. The House bill also provides significant financial increases in aid to airports.
In rising to urge his colleagues to support passage of the blended bill for return to the Senate, Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), a staunch supporter of general aviation, said more than 20 hearings on reauthorization were held by his Aviation Subcommittee, five round-table discussions, and “input from the FAA and every group and organization in the aviation community.”