• After the November elections, House Democrats vowed to pass the “Six for ’06” bills (minimum wages, stem cell research, energy and so on) in the first 100 legislative hours of the 110th Congress and, to their credit, they did so in 87 hours. However, when those bills were sent to the Senate, three met resistance, one appeared to be destined for a veto by the President and two were subjected to heavy criticism from outside groups.
United States Senate
• So, President George W. Bush won the election and will serve four more years in the White House. Cabinet changes are the subject of speculation, but Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s name has not surfaced as of press time. Troubled by back problems, Mineta may or may not stay on.
• H.R.2115, the “Flight 100-Century of Aviation Revitalization Act” introduced in May by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), was combined with S.824, the “Aviation Investment and Revitalization Act,” introduced in April by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and approved by unanimous consent in the Senate in late November. The bill reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration for four years and provides $59 billion in funding.
The Senate passed the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (the “Highway Bill”) on May 17, which authorizes surface transportation spending through Fiscal Year 2009. The Senate legislation includes two provisions that could have an effect on business aviation if signed into law. The first amendment would expand the limitation on the deductibility of business expenses for entertainment use of employer-provided aircraft to all employees.
• The House of Representatives approved appropriations for Fiscal Year 2006 for the Department of Transportation. The House bill allocates to the FAA $14.4 billion for operations, $3.6 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, $25 million to hire some 600 new air traffic controllers and $8 million to add more safety inspectors in the aircraft certification and flight standards offices.
A Senate amendment that called for severe fines, loss of license and aircraft confiscation for violating the flight restricted zone (FRZ) in the Washington air defense identification zone was stripped from the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill last month.
•Congress took a legislative break from November 18 to December 12 but, before leaving, both houses passed H.R.3058, the FY2006 Transportation, Treasury and Housing appropriations bill that provides funding for those agencies through September. The bill authorizes $13.8 billion for the FAA, $276 million more than the agency’s budget for FY2005, and $1.1 billion more than President Bush requested.
— Congress returned from a 10-day break over St. Patrick’s Day but scheduled another recess in mid-April for Easter. Looking ahead, Congress anticipates shutting down shop in October in preparation for the November elections. Time is running out fairly rapidly for the 109th Congress, and it appears that the second session will meet fewer than 130 days.
• The dog days of August descended on the Capitol right on schedule, and Congressional lawmakers escaped the doldrums as they usually do–by recessing for the month. Most headed for their home districts to catch up locally and
to prepare for the coming elections.
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