On Monday, July 11, 2016, the House will consider the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 636, H. Res. ______, to provide for the concurrence by the House in the Senate amendments to H.R. 636, with amendments, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 636, America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2015, was introduced on February 2, 2015, by Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-OH) and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, in addition to the Committee on Budget. The Committee on Ways and Means ordered the bill reported on February 4, 2015 by a vote of 24-14. H.R. 636 passed the House on February 13, 2015 by a vote of 272-142.
The Senate passed H.R. 636 with an amendment that substituted its FAA Reauthorization bill by a vote of 95-3 on April 19, 2016. The House Amendment reflects the bipartisan, bicameral agreement to reauthorize expiring FAA authorities through September 30, 2017.
The House Amendment concurs in the Senate amendments to H.R. 636, and makes additional amendments, to extend the authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) programs and the taxes that fund those programs through September 30, 2017, at current funding levels. In addition, the House amendment includes vital aviation safety and security provisions. Specific provisions of the legislation are:
Title I: FAA Extension
- Extends necessary authorizations for programs and taxes from July 15, 2016 until September 30, 2017 at the current annual funding levels for FY2016, including $3.350 billion in contract authority for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), $9.910 billion for FAA Operations, and $2.855 billion for FAA Facilities and Equipment.
Title II: Aviation Safety Critical Reforms
- Streamlines processes for approval and interagency cooperation to deploy unmanned aircraft during emergencies, such as disaster responses and wildfires.
- Prohibits unmanned aircraft users from interfering with emergency response activities, including wildfire suppression, and raises civil penalties to not more than $20,000 for those found in violation.
- Creates new processes to detect, identify, and mitigate unauthorized operation of unmanned aircraft around airports and critical infrastructure.
- Requires FAA to work with NASA to develop a research plan and implement a pilot program for unmanned aircraft system traffic management.
- Requires FAA to establish a system where people can request that drones cannot be operated in close proximity to critical infrastructure and other facilities.
- Expedites the completion of the pilot records database required in the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 in response to the 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident.
- Requires the marking of certain towers to improve their visibility to low-flying aircraft and help prevent accidents.
- Requires the FAA to evaluate and update, if necessary, standards for crash-resistant helicopter fuel systems in response to fatal accidents where the victims perished in post-crash fires.
- Streamlines and improves the air traffic controller hiring process and ensures the FAA can better address chronic controller shortages with experienced candidates.
- Directs the FAA to establish a comprehensive and strategic framework to identify and address cybersecurity risks to the aviation system.
- Revises mental health screening for pilots, addressing a factor in the 2015 Germanwings Flight 9525 crash.
- Ensures that pilots are sufficiently trained on manual flying skills and how to monitor cockpit automation systems, addressing a factor in the 2013 Asiana Flight 214 accident in San Francisco.
- Requires training for flight attendants in recognizing and responding to potential victims of human trafficking.
- Requires the FAA to provide quarterly updates to Congress regarding the number of incidents involving laser pointers being aimed at aircraft, and the number of civil or criminal enforcement actions taken by federal authorities with regard to these incidents.
- Reforms and streamlines the third-class medical certification process for certain small aircraft pilots.
- Requires air carriers to provide a refund of paid baggage fees when items are lost or unreasonably delayed.
- Requires airlines to generally ensure that children 13 years of age or under are seated adjacent to an adult or older child traveling with them.
- Takes steps to improve air travel for persons with disabilities by requiring a review of training and best practices by airports and airlines, and by requiring DOT to issue a rule to address several issues of concern to the disabled community.
- Requires DOT to establish a working group on maintaining and improving air service to small communities.
- Extends authority for the DOT’s Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection.
Title III: Aviation Security
- Includes provisions of H.R. 4698, the Securing Aviation from Foreign Entry Points and Guarding Airports Through Enhanced Security Act of 2016, which the House passed on April 26, 2016, by vote. The legislative digest can be found here. Specifically, the provisions:
- Strengthen security for foreign airports by requiring comprehensive security assessments for all overseas airports serving the United States and consider the level of information sharing and security capabilities of foreign airports; and
- Authorize capacity development, training, screening equipment donation, and cargo program certification for overseas airports to bolster the security standards for flights headed to the United States from high risk airports.
- Expands the TSA PreCheck program by directing TSA to partner with the private sector to develop enhanced enrollment and vetting methods. This section is similar to provisions in H.R. 2843, the TSA PreCheck Expansion Act, which the House passed on July 27, 2015 by voice vote. The legislative digest can be found here.
- Optimizes checkpoints by redeploying certain TSA personnel and assessing TSA’s staffing allocation model in order to reduce passenger wait times while enhancing security effectiveness, provisions that were in included in H.R. 5338, the Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act. This bill passed the House on June 7, 2016 by voice vote. The legislative digest can be found here.
- Tightens the access controls and employee vetting standards for aviation workers with access to secure and sterile areas of airports, in order to mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.
- Authorizes “Checkpoint of the Future” innovation efforts underway at TSA, authorizes additional TSA Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams, and ensures these teams are trained to assist transportation hubs in preparing for and responding to active shooter scenarios.
Most FAA programs are financed through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), sometimes referred to as the Aviation Trust Fund. Revenues for the fund are derived from aviation-related excise taxes on passengers, cargo, and fuel. In fiscal year 2015, the AATF provided over 90 percent of the FAA’s total annual funding, with the remainder coming from general fund appropriations. In fiscal year 2014, the AATF had revenues of almost $13.5 billion and maintained a cash balance of more than $13 billion. The funding authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), included in the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2016, expires on July 15, 2016. The last extension was in March of this year, and the last long-term reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95).
The TSA PreCheck program “allows low-risk travelers to experience expedited, more efficient security screening at participating U.S. airport checkpoints.” The program is designed to provide travelers quicker transit through airport security screening and an improved travel experience while maintaining appropriate security safeguards.
 See FAA Fact Sheet
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is not currently available.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.