Top Democrat fights FAA bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill to reauthorize the FAA has passed the House of Representatives, but the ranking Democrat on the aviation subcommittee continues to fight against it. This time, Congressman Jerry Costello has called on the National Transportation Safety Board for help.

Costello wrote to NTSB officials, asking them for an opinion on a section of the bill which, in effect, would stop the FAA from using “a one size fits all” approach to regulations. The bill, as passed by the House, would require the agency to recognize that the U.S. aviation industry is composed of various segments with different operating characteristics and to tailor regulations to the unique characteristics of each segment. It also would require the FAA to conduct cost/benefit studies prior to issuing regulations and to enact only those where the costs are justified by the benefits.

In response to his request, Costello received a letter from NTSB Chairperson Deborah A.P. Hersman stating that such actions “could slow the rule-making process and in other cases could totally halt action or cause it to be not uniformly applied.”

The House passed its reauthorization bill, but the Senate still has not acted. The FAA has been operating under a record-breaking 18 short-term extensions. Seven years ago was the last time the Congress passed a full-term reauthorization.

Costello has support in his opposition to the reauthorization bill. One issue that has kept the House and Senate from agreeing on a bill for more than three years is the differences of opinion over provisions relating to counting votes in railway and airline employee union elections. Currently, the only votes counted are those by people who vote. The House position is that those who don’t vote in a union election would be counted as “no” votes. This, say the unions, would make it more difficult for unions to organize.

When the Senate finally passes its version, the two bills will go to conference. With unions giving strong support to President Obama and the Democratic Party, this union issue probably will again be a major stumbling block for agreement. Costello is expected to continue his opposition to the House bill and ratchet up his efforts when a conference attempts to iron out the differences between the two bills.

 

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