President Obama signs FAA bill
President Obama ratified the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 on February 14, putting an end to the five-year-long saga that led to the 13-day partial shutdown of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in July. After 23 temporary bill extensions, the FAA will receive $63 billion through fiscal 2015 to subsidize NextGen air-traffic control modernization projects, safety programs and related operations.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), who sponsored the bill, praised this development as instrumental in improving the American aviation sector. “Today, we have in place sound, multiyear policies that reform FAA programs, eliminate expensive ticket subsidies, modernize our air traffic control system, improve airport infrastructure, reduce air traffic delays and create jobs,” he said in a statement.
The FAA bill also blocks stricter regulations concerning the shipment of lithium batteries and preserves the status quo on aviation taxes, which have doubled over the last two decades.
Airlines for America President Nicholas Calio commended the latter measure, stating that “holding the line on federal aviation taxes and fees paid by airlines and their customers enables carriers to work toward being sustainably profitable, so they can maintain jobs and service to communities and invest in their product.”
The FAA bill also requires the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to use qualified private screeners under federal supervision. “The right of airports to opt out of all-TSA screening in favor of this more-effective, cost-efficient security model has been in place since the agency was created, but the TSA has recently cited its own faulty data to deny airports this option,” according to a press release.
Mica expressed his support of this initiative, remarking that it’s a model employed by most developed nations and has been successfully executed at numerous U.S. airports. It also restarts a measure blocked by the Obama Administration, he added.
Not everyone is completely content about the FAA legislation, however. Thella Bowens, chair of Airports Council International-North America, for instance, has expressed some concern about one provision of the bill, although she lauded its ultimate ratification.
“Passage of a multiyear FAA reauthorization bill provides stable funding for the aviation community, helps airports conduct long-term planning, and should prevent another FAA shutdown,” Bowens said in a statement. “Unfortunately, reduced funding for programs, such as the Airport Improvement Program, will restrict resources for important airport improvement projects and impact the ability of airports to create more jobs.”