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Pro Bill Analysis: Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act (S. 1405)

 
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NOTE: This post is a preview of a Pro Bill Analysis from POLITICO Pro's Legislative Compass tool. This excerpt was originally published on Nov. 21, 2017.

Senate FAA reauthorization awaits move to floor

By KAITLYN BURTON, SARAH FERRIS and JENNIFER SCHOLTES

11/21/2017 12:49 PM EDT

The Senate Commerce Committee approved its FAA policy bill, S. 1405 (115), by voice vote June 29. The bill, which would reauthorize federal aviation programs through fiscal 2021, does not include the controversial provision to spin off air traffic control in its House counterpart, H.R. 2997 (115), a plan that Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) has said his committee would not support.

Current FAA authorization expires in March 2018.

WHAT'S IN THE BILL?

Authorizations: The bill would authorize FAA programs through fiscal 2021, including the Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants for planning and development of public-use airports; the Facilities and Equipment account; operations; research and development; and aviation programs. It would extend certain expiring authorities, such as AIP discretionary grant eligibility (Sec. 1001-1006).

The measure would direct the FAA to allocate for up to three years AIP entitlement funds to some small airports based on the number of passenger boardings in 2012, and would endow an annual entitlement of $600,000 for airports with annual passenger boardings between 8,000 and 10,000 (Sec. 1201).

The legislation would prioritize construction projects in cold-weather states so that major construction projects in those states are reviewed as soon as possible before cold weather hits (Sec. 1202).

It would increase to 15 from 10 the cap on states seeking to participate in the State Block Grant Program, a program that holds participating states responsible for administering AIP grants at airports classified as “other than primary” airport, such as small general aviation reports. The states are responsible for determining which location receives funds. (Sec. 1203).

The bill would authorize funding for the Contract Air Traffic Control Tower Cost-Share Program and increase the cap on the federal share of contract tower construction projects (1204). It would also require the FAA to accelerate pending requests for admission into the contract tower program for applications submitted prior to Jan. 1, 2016 (Sec. 1205) and establish a pilot program for the construction and operation of remote towers (Sec. 1206).

The measure would extend authorization for Midway Island Airport to receive AIP funds through fiscal 2021 (Sec. 1207). It would allow airports to use their revenue to repair and improve roads (Sec. 1208) and would allow an airport to transfer to the FAA an instrument landing system (Sec. 1214).

The legislation would repeal the Inherently Low-Emission Airport Vehicle Pilot Program (Sec. 1209) and the Airport Ground Support Equipment Emissions Retrofit Pilot Program (Sec. 1211).

The bill would limit the Zero-Emission Airport Vehicles and Infrastructure Pilot Program to be used solely for transporting passengers on airport grounds or for employee shuttle buses within the airport (Sec. 1210), establish a program to encourage public-use airports to evaluate and increase energy efficiency (Sec. 1212) and establish a pilot program to support the non-federal acquisition and installation of certain non-movement area surveillance systems and sensors (Sec. 1215); non-movement areas are areas not under tower control. Other provisions would clarify the process of updating noise exposure maps (Sec. 1217), adjust the federal share of some AIP projects (Sec. 1220) and allow projects to ensure airport lactation rooms for mothers (Sec. 1222).

The bill would include the Forward Looking Investment in General Aviation, Hangars, and Tarmacs Act, or the FLIGHT Act, H.R. 2879 (115), S. 1320 (115), which would change apportionments to general aviation airports under the airport improvement program to increase small and rural airport investments (Sec. 1301).

The legislation would extend the eligibility period for carrying over annual entitlement funds from four to five years (Sec. 1302), seek to streamline the environmental review process for GA airport projects (Sec. 1303) and establish a public-private partnership pilot program for building or improving GA airports (Sec. 1304).

The measure would seek to streamline current pilot programs for passenger facility charge authorizations at some non-hub airports (Sec. 1401), allow the use of PFCs to finance intermodal access projects (Sec. 1402) and approve the use of PFCs to acquire vehicles that produce lower emissions (Sec. 1404).

Safety: The legislation would require that operations of unmanned aircraft systems are in line with federal, state and local laws (Sec. 2101) and would authorize the FTC to oversee privacy policies of commercial operators (Sec. 2103). The bill would require the agency to establish a public database on information regarding government and commercial operators of drones (Sec. 2104).

The measure would reauthorize use of the seven current unmanned aircraft system test sites until Sept. 30, 2021 (Sec. 2122).

It would direct the agency to charter an aviation rulemaking committee to recommend risk-based, consensus safety standards for UAS (Sec. 2123); reauthorize FAA exemption authority for UAS (Sec. 2125); and codify existing authority to authorize public aircraft operations.

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