CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Thursday, March 31, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, under a rule. H.R. 658 was introduced by Rep. John Mica (R-FL) on February 11, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. On February 16, 2011, a markup was held and the committee reported the legislation by a vote of 34-25. H.R. 658 is scheduled to be considered under a rule (H.Res. 189) which provides for the consideration of 33 amendments summarized below. In addition, the rule provides one hour of general debate with 40 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 10 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and 10 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Ways and Means.
H.R. 658 would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations and programs for four years, including the remainder of FY 2011 through FY 2014. In addition, the bill would make a number of policy changes, including a repeal of a National Mediation Board (NMB) rule allowing air or rail employees to unioinize without a majority vote. The bill would phase out funding for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program and reduce overall spending relative to the current spending baseline by $4 billion. The bill also reduces spending by permitting greater use of contractors in the air traffic control system, potentially saving $400 million through FY 2014. H.R. 658 does not raise aviation fuel taxes or passenger facility charges above current law levels.
The bill would authorize appropriations for a number of FAA operations as follows:
The bill would extend certain aviation-related taxes that are used to finance the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, including ticket taxes. Specifically, the bill would extend the domestic passenger ticket tax at its current level of 7.5 percent of ticket price, the domestic flight segment tax which is adjusted annually for inflation and is currently at a level of approximately $3.70 per passenger, and the domestic cargo tax at 6.25 percent of the cost of transporting property. In addition, the bill would retain the 4.3 cent-per-gallon tax on commercial aviation fuel. The measure would also extend the existing tax rate for aviation-grade kerosene used for non-commercial aviation purposes at a rate of 21.8 cents-per-gallon and the non-commerical aviation gasoline tax would remain at the current 19.3 cents-per-gallon.
National Mediation Board Union Election Rules
In 2010, the National Mediation Board (NMB), a federal entity which oversees union elections for airlines and railroads, unilaterally issued a rule change on how union elections are held for airlines. The NMB’s new rules overturned the “majority rule” voting process for unionization which had been in effect for 75 years. Under the new rules, the NMB will recognize union certification votes where only a majority of the employees who participate in the election vote for certification—as opposed to a majority of all employees. According to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, “Under the rules which had been in place for 75 years, if an airline had 4,000 nonunion employees, 2,001 must vote yes to unionize. Under the rule changes, if only 1,000 of 4,000 employees vote and 501 vote yes, all 4,000 become subject to unionization.” Thus, the new rule assumes that a failure to vote is a “yes” vote. H.R. 658 would repeal this new NMB ruling and revert to majority rules voting for union certification.
Airport and Airway Trust Fund Financing
H.R. 658 would extend the FAA's authority to spend money from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), charge taxes, and their appropriated spending levels for four years, through FY 2014. Under current short-term extensions, these authorities would expire on May 31, 2011.
Airport and Airway Trust Fund Guarantee
H.R. 658 would amend the current Airport and Airway Trust Fund Guarantee which requires the total budget resources available from the trust fund be equal to the level of estimated receipts, plus interest. Under the bill, funding for the trust fund would be guaranteed at 90 percent of the estimated level of receipts plus interest from FY 2011 through FY 2014.
The bill would retain the current Passenger Facility Charges, which are collected by airlines and given directly to airports. FAA reauthorization bills passed in the House in the 111th Congress would have raised fees from $4.50 to $7, an increase of 56 percent. While H.R. 658 would not raise passenger facility charges, the bill would authorize pilot program that allows up to five airport agencies to charge fees in excess of the statutory limit in order to finance certain capital projects.
In addition, the bill would require the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study of alternative means of collecting passenger facility charges without including the fees in the ticket price.
H.R. 658 would require the FAA to increase fees for certain navigational services provided for flights that neither take off nor land in the United States, known as overflight fees. Such fees are generally paid by foreign air carriers and are recorded as revenues. According to CBO, this provision would increase revenues in fiscal years 2011 through 2015. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that those increases would total $44 million over the 2011-2015 period.
Airport Improvement Program Modifications
The bill would make a number of changes to the AIP, which provides grants to airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Under current law, the federal government's share for an AIP project is 75 percent for large-hub or medium-hub airports, and 90 percent for most other airports, including those funded through state block grants. The bill would cap the amount of discretionary AIP funds that could support terminal development projects at non-hub or small-hub primary airports at $20 million. H.R. 658 would amend the current-law definition of “airport development” to include the acquisition of firefighting equipment that service aircraft designed for more than nine passenger seats, but fewer than 31 seats—rather than more than 20 seats as required under current law. In addition, the bill would extend the Contract Tower Program to low activity air traffic control towers. Under the program, the FAA funds the cost of operating air traffic control towers. Any excess funding provided under the program could be used to carry out the Contract Tower Cost-Sharing Program.
Next Generation Air Transportation System
H.R. 658 would streamline the funding processes for Next Generation (NextGen) air traffic control modernization projects planned in the next four years by prioritizing amounts allocated to the NextGen projects. The bill would require the FAA Adminstrator to appoint a “Chief NextGen Officer” to implement NextGen activities and budgets across all FAA program offices. H.R. 658 would also establish the Director of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) the Associate Administrator for the NextGen Air Transportation System to oversee the NextGen program and implementation. The bill would also establish the NextGen senior policy committee to meet at least twice each year and requires the Transportation Department to submit a detailed annual report on the progress of NextGen.
H.R. 658 contains the following new provisions and regulations meant to address safety concerns, including:
Inspection of Foreign Repair Stations: The bill would require the FAA Administrator to verify that each certified foreign repair station has been subject to a safety assessment.
Runway Safety: The bill would require the FAA Administrator to develop a strategic runway safety plan, with an emphasis on preventing runway incursions and submit to Congress within six months of enactment.
Pilot Licenses: The bill would require the FAA to issue “improved pilot licenses” which are resistant to tampering within nine months of enactment.
Flight Attendant Fatigue: The bill would require the FAA to conduct a study on flight attendant fatigue by September 30, 2012.
Cockpit Smoke: The bill would require the GAO to conduct a study on the effectiveness of oversight activities of the Federal Aviation Administration relating to the use of new technologies to prevent or mitigate the effects of dense, continuous smoke in the cockpit of a commercial aircraft.
Air Service Improvements
Smoking Prohibition: The bill would continue a ban smoking on any passenger interstate air transportation or foreign air transportation or in an aircraft in nonscheduled passenger interstate or intrastate air transportation, if a flight attendant is a required crewmember on the aircraft.
Cell Phones: The bill would require the FAA to conduct a study of on the impact of the use of cell phones for vocal communication during a flight. FAA reauthorization bills from the 111th Congress had banned the use of mobile voice communications during a flight.
Safety Critical Staffing: The bill would authorize $813 million over three years for safety critical positions in the Flight Standards Service and Aircraft Certification Service.
H.R. 658 would reauthorize the FAA aviation insurance program, which is intended to provide insurance to domestic airlines that cannot be provided through the commercial insurance market. The bill would extend the provision through December 31, 2013.
The FAA is an agency within the Department of Transportation that oversees and regulates the nation’s aviation system. The Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), created by the Airport and Airway Revenue Act of 1970, provides funding for the nation’s aviation system through several aviation excise taxes. Funding currently comes from collections related to passenger tickets, air cargo excise taxes, passenger flight segments, and aviation fuels, among other sources.
The last long-term authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), known as the Vision 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, was passed in 2003 and expired at the end of FY 2007. Since that time, the FAA has operated under a series of temporary extensions. In the 110th and 111th Congresses, the House passed several short-term FAA extensions which were signed into law. The most recent extension, H.R. 6473 in the 111th Congress (PL 111-329), was passed by the House of Representatives on December 2, 2010, by voice vote. Earlier this week, the House passed another short-term FAA authorization bill, which will extend FAA functions through May 31, 2011, while the House and Senate deliberate on a long-term authorization bill.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), H.R. 658 would increase discretionary spending by $33.9 billion over the FY 2011 through FY 2016 period. In total, the bill would include $47.6 billion in discretionary spending authority. In addition, CBO estimates that the bill would decrease direct spending by $4 billion and increase revenue by $34 million over the FY 2011 through FY 2016 period.
Under the rule, the following 33 amendments are in order. Each amendment is debatable for ten minutes.
Amendment No. 1—Rep. Mica (R-FL): The amendment would make a number of technical corrections to provisions in the underlying bill, including those related to Residential Through-the-Fence Agreements, ADS-B Readiness Verification, Stage II aircraft noise requirements, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, musical instruments aboard aircraft, and FAA access to criminal records databases. The amendment also contains provisions regarding public-private partnerships to advance NextGen technologies, protections for voluntary safety data submissions, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, the regulation of lithium batteries, agreements at airports for new revenue, liability protections for volunteer pilot organizations, privacy protections for airspace users, FAA contract evaluation considerations, a review of airports’ ability to respond to catastrophic flooding, and an extension of the FAA’s commercial space regulation authority.
Amendment No. 2—Rep. Waters (D-CA): The amendment would require airport operators to consult with representatives of the local community surrounding the airport regarding airport operations and its impact on the community. Representatives of the community would include residents and any organization with at least 20 members located within 10 miles of the airport. Failure to comply with the amendment’s requirements would result in the loss of grants under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
Amendment No. 3—Rep. Pierluisi (D-PR): The amendment would require the Secretary of Transportation to apportion amounts under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to airports in Puerto Rico and would also maintain those airports’ eligibility for discretionary grants under the Program.
Amendment No. 4—Rep. Hirono (D-HI): Under current law, Airport Improvement Programs (AIP) funds apportioned to large and medium hub primary airports that impose a passenger facility fee (PFC) of $1, $2, or $3 may be reduced by an amount equal to 50 percent of the projected revenues from the PFC in the fiscal year. However, this amount cannot exceed 50 percent of the passenger entitlements otherwise due the airport. This amendment would make a special exception for airports in Hawaii, stating that the amount an apportionment for an airport in Hawaii may be reduced cannot exceed 50 percent of the passenger entitlements otherwise due, multiplied by the percentage of total passenger boardings that are comprised of international passengers. In the case of a PFC more than $3, the reduction for airports in Hawaii could not exceed 75 percent of the passenger entitlements otherwise due, multiplied by the percentage of total passenger boardings that are comprised of international passengers.
Amendment No. 5—Rep. Neugebauer (R-TX): The amendment would require the Administrator of the FAA to conduct a feasibility study, within one year after the date of enactment, on the development of an online public resource that would list the location and height of potential low-altitude aviation obstructions, such as guy-wire and free-standing towers.
Amendment No. 6—Rep. LoBiondo (R-NJ): The amendment would authorize the FAA to establish a center of excellence for research and development of NextGen technologies. Under the amendment, the center would leverages resources and partnerships, including appropriate programs of the Administration, to enhance the research and development of NextGen technologies by academia and industry.
Amendment No. 7—Reps. Garrett (R-NJ) / Himes (D-CT) / Andrews (D-NJ) / Engel (D-NY): The amendment would require the Federal Aviation Administration to study alternatives to the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia airspace redesign to reduce delays at the four airports included in the redesign. The amendment would also prohibit the FAA from implementing the airspace redesign until 60 days after the study is submitted to Congress.
Amendment No. 8—Rep. Filner (D-CA): The amendment would direct that regulations be issued to prohibit the carriage of primary lithium batteries and cells on cargo aircraft until safe, fire-containment packaging materials are available and the aircraft is equipped with an effective fire suppression system. The amendment would also require cargo aircraft to be equipped with smoke suppression systems that maintain cockpit visibility sufficient to allow the pilots to see basic flight instruments and the outside environment during emergencies when dense, continuous smoke is in the cockpit. Under the amendment, a primary lithium battery or cell is defined as “a lithium metal battery or cell that is not designed to be electrically charged or recharged.”
Amendment No. 9—Rep. DeFazio (D-OR): The amendment would require mechanics at contract repair stations certified by the FAA in the U.S. and in foreign countries to undergo the same criminal background checks required for mechanics and other aviation employees at U.S. airports. The new rules would take effect within one year of enactment.
Amendment No. 10—Rep. Hirono (D-HI): The amendment would require the FAA to convene an aviation rulemaking committee to make recommendations, not later than one year after the date of enactment, to ensure that any certified aircraft is properly equipped with technology that maintains pilot visibility when dense, continuous smoke is present in the cockpit.
Amendment No. 11—Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX): The amendment would require that a minimum of three air traffic controllers be on duty at covered airports at all times during periods of airfield operations.
Amendment No. 12—Rep. Miller (R-MI): The amendment would direct the FAA to work with various federal agencies to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace system and would direct the Administrator to carry out safety studies to support such integration.
Amendment No. 13—Rep. Woodall (R-GA): The amendment would prohibit the implementation of a 2010 FAA rule making regarding flight and duty time limitations for pilots and the flight crew of air ambulances and cargo aircraft. Specifically, the new rule requires helicopter air ambulance operations conducted with medical personnel on board to count towards a pilot's daily flight time limitations. Currently, in certain situations, flight segments conducted without passengers but with medical personnel on board are not counted towards the daily flight time limitations.
Amendment No. 14—Rep. Pierluisi (D-PR): The amendment would authorize the Secretary of Transportation to continue the essential air service program in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico following the sunset date of October 1, 2013. The underlying bill would phase out funding for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program at the end of FY 2013.
Amendment No. 15—Rep. Schweikert (R-AZ): The amendment would allow airlines currently operating out of Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) to convert flights to and from large hub airports located within the DCA perimeter to any airport outside of the DCA perimeter.
Amendment No. 16—Rep. Richardson (D-CA): The amendment would direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to require air carriers to provide an option for passengers to receive a notification via electronic service if there are any changes to the status of their flights. Regulations under the amendment would have to be issued within 180 days of enactment.
Amendment No. 17—Rep. Capuano (D-MA): The amendment would require disclosure of a passenger’s baggage fees when a fare is quoted to an airline passenger and would require refunds for baggage that is lost, damaged, or delayed. The amendment would also direct the Secretary of Transportation to prescribe any requirements necessary to implement the baggage fee disclosures by ensuring that necessary information is shared between carriers and ticket agents that have an already existing agency appointment or contract.
Amendment No. 18—Reps. Gingrey (R-GA) / Rokita (R-IN): The amendment would prohibit FAA employees from using official time for union activities, not commenced before the date of enactment, during the work day.
Amendment No. 19—Rep. Graves (R-MO): The amendment would prohibit a state, political subdivision of a state, or authority acting for a State or political subdivision from levying a fee or collecting a tax from a business located at an airport other than a tax or fee that is generally imposed on all sales or services in that jurisdiction or a if it is utilized for an airport development project.
Amendment No. 20—Rep. Sessions (R-TX): The amendment would prevent any funds authorized under this act from being used to administer or enforce wage-rate requirements of the “Davis-Bacon Act.”
Amendment No. 21—Rep. LaTourette (R-OH) / Costello (D-IL): The amendment would repeal section 903 of the underlying bill. Section 903 repeals a 2010 National Mediation Board (NMB) rule to recognize union certification votes where only a majority of the employees who participate in the election vote for certification—as opposed to a majority of all employees.
Amendment No. 22—Rep. Graves (R-MO): The amendment would provide an exemption for an air show in Cleveland, Ohio, from complying with certain airspace restrictions. The amendment would prohibit the FAA from imposing airspace restrictions on to an air show or other aerial event located at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, due to an event at a stadium or other venue occurring at the same time.
Amendment No. 23—Rep. Waxman (D-CA): The amendment would express the sense of Congress that the FAA should work with the City of Santa Monica, consistent with FAA design guidelines, to address safety concerns at Santa Monica Airport.
Amendment No. 24—Rep. Shuster (R-PA): The amendment would require the FAA rulemaking activities conduct certain industry analyses prior to issuing regulations, and require the FAA to subject proposed regulations to certain cost-benefit studies.
Amendment No. 25—Rep. Moore (D-WI): The amendment would direct the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation to issue a report on the number of new small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, including those owned by veterans, that participated in the programs and activities funded using the amounts made available under this Act. The report would include a list of the top 25 and bottom 25 large and medium hub airports in terms of providing opportunities for small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
Amendment No. 26—Rep. Graves (R-MO): The amendment would require the FAA to take actions to preserve vintage aircraft type certificate data and would require such data to be made available to the public, for non-commercial purposes, upon a Freedom of Information Act Request.
Amendment No. 27—Rep. Pearce (R-NM): The amendment would authorize an equitable transfer of land and property to Dona Ana County in New Mexico and would require that the county continue to use the land for airport purposes. Under the amendment, “the County shall receive an amount for the interest that is equal to the fair market value.”
Amendment No. 28—Rep. Rothman (D-NJ): The amendment would prohibit the FAA from taking actions regarding weight restrictions at Teterboro Airport (Teterboro, NJ).
Amendment No. 29—Reps. Schiff (D-CA) / Sherman (D-CA) / Berman (D-CA): The amendment would allow airports, subject to certain requirements, to implement mandatory nighttime curfews. Airports would have to meet certain requirements, including already having a curfew in effect prior to the 1990 Airport Noise and Control Act, to implement a flight curfew.
Amendment No. 30—Reps. Matheson (D-UT) / Pearce (R-NM): The amendment would allow the Secretary of Transportation to release any airport, city, or county from the terms, conditions, reservations, or restrictions on deeds which the U.S. conveyed to an airport, city, county property for airport purposes, provided that the release results in furthering airport purposes.
Amendment No. 31—Rep. Waters (D-CA): The amendment would express that it is the sense of the Congress that the operator of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) should consult on a regular basis with representatives of the community surrounding LAX regarding LAX operations and expansion plans. Representatives of the community would include any organization with at least 20 members located with 10 miles of the airport.
Amendment No. 32—Rep. Moore (D-WI): The amendment would authorize the FAA to conduct demonstration projects in support of “aerotropolis” zones that assist in better coordinating transportation around airports and funding of projects to reduce congestion, improve, and increase the flow of freight and passengers to and through the airport through multiple transportation modes. If the Administrator decided not to carry out such demonstration projects, the FAA would be required to send a report to Congress explaining the Administrator’s decision.
Amendment No. 33—Rep. Crowley (D-NY): The amendment would express that it is the sense of the Congress that Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Philadelphia International Airport should undertake a noise compatibility study of the airport and airport-related noise emanating from the airports under their jurisdiction on the surrounding communities.