Boyer's Troops Seek Veto, Vow Court Action If Necessary
You know those jokes you
hear now and then about dumb legislators from places like New
Jersey? Well, apparently, they're trying to live up to them in the
New Jersey pilots have been swept up in a last-minute push by
the state's general assembly to recess for the summer.
Legislators passed a bill late Monday to require identity
background checks for flight students. AOPA is now asking Governor
James E. McGreevey to veto it.
"If the governor doesn't veto this bill, we'll go to federal
court, just as we have in Michigan," said AOPA President Phil
Boyer. "There is no compelling security reason for this bill; the
federal government has already stepped in. The bill not only
duplicates federal efforts, it also usurps federal authority to
regulate pilots — authority that both Congress and the courts
have said belongs to the federal government alone."
The bill suddenly resurfaced late Friday. AOPA
lobbyists in Trenton immediately began talking to lawmakers to kill
the bill once again. That effort was reinforced this morning when
AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy
Cebula sent a letter to the speaker of the N.J. General Assembly,
arguing against the bill. Cebula noted that both the FAA and the
Transportation Security Administration had offered legal opinions
that only the federal government has jurisdiction to decide who may
or may not receive a pilot certificate. He also pointed out the
many security measures added at the federal level to prevent
terrorists from getting pilot certificates.
"Using 'watch list' databases
maintained by the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence agencies, the
list of licensed pilots is thoroughly reviewed by federal officials
to look for persons of interest who may be impacted by this rule,"
Cebula wrote. He also noted that all pilots are now required by the
FAA to carry a government-issued photo ID as well as their pilot
certificate when they fly, and that when a pilot applies for a
certificate, the FAA examiner is required to verify the pilot's
identity using a government-issued photo ID.
"AOPA had successfully forestalled action on N.J. Senate Bill
432, which would require all flight students in the state to
undergo fingerprinting and a background check, for more than a
year," said Cebula. "Then, in their rush to adjourn for the summer,
the legislators pushed it onto the calendar for quick action this
AOPA has filed suit in federal court in Michigan, challenging
that state's pilot background check law, which is similar to New
Jersey's, and that lawmakers there are considering a bill to
replace the background check with flight school security