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Mon, Apr 21, 2008

Reports: S.1300 May Go To Senate Floor This Week

Movement Comes After Months Of Inaction On FAA Funding Bill

Fasten your seatbelts... the legislative gears appears to be slowly grinding into motion. Aero-News has received a number of reports that indicate movement in the FAA reauthorization fight, now stalled in the US Senate.

According to those sources, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has called for the Senate Commerce Committee's version of the funding bill, S.1300, to come to the floor for consideration within one week. The action follows months of comparative inaction on the bill, which has been stuck in the Senate since late last year.

"We've heard there's finally some movement on reauthorization," said Chris Dancy, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. "What we've heard is that Majority Leader Reid has told Sens. Rockefeller and Baucus that he wants the bill to come to the floor and that they need to work out a solution that will allow that to happen."

As ANN reported, the House of Representatives passed its version of legislation to fund the FAA, H.R. 2881, on September 21 of last year -- days before funding for the FAA ran out. However, a vote by the Senate on S.1300 has been pending for months, while the FAA continued to be funded through a series of extensions to the now-expired prior funding bill.

Just because the Senate bill has been stalled, however, does not mean the issue has been forgotten these many months... by those within or without the lawmaking body. In February, Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) told a Senate Commerce Committee hearing the FAA funding bill was doomed to failure "based on the GA community's inability to compromise" on agreeing to a $25-per-flight user fee for most turbine aircraft flying under IFR flight plans, as called for under the Senate reauthorization bill S.1300.

The senator asserted the fee is necessary to pay for modernizing the air traffic control system... and Rockefeller believes GA doesn't want to pay its fair share. "I blame it on them because we can’t work it out," the senator asserted.

Rockefeller's bombast was nothing new. In July 2007, Rockefeller joined then-fellow Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) in slamming GA for its reluctance to adopt the fee -- which isn't included in the House reauthorization bill -- and threatened the GA community outright if it didn't step in line.

A separate reauthorization bill, S.2345 -- created by the Senate Finance Committee -- does not include the per-flight user fee. For a Senate plan for FAA funding to come to vote, S.2345 will need to be reconciled with S.1300... and at this point, it's anyone's guess whether that reconciled bill will include the $25 surcharge.

And even when that finally happens, the battle won't be over yet... as both the House and Senate bills will then have to be reconciled, consolidated, and voted on, before heading to the White House for final approval.

FMI: www.senate.gov, www.faa.gov, www.aopa.org

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