House Lawmakers Prep for Vote on FAA Reauthorization

 - April 24, 2018, 12:04 PM

Full House consideration on the five-year FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, H.R.4, could come as soon as tomorrow, following House Rules Committee action later today. But a proposed 64-cent-per-gallon tax hike on non-commercial jet fuel apparently has been shelved and is no longer expected to be in the bill when it comes up for consideration.

The Rules Committee will wade through more than 240 proposed amendments, deciding which ones can be offered to the bill, and then setting the parameters for House action on the full H.R.4. The number of amendments had swelled despite efforts of congressional leaders to keep down the provisions for a bill that they hope to push through without too much controversy.

Despite this desire, one proposal surfaced late last week to increase the tax on non-commercial jet fuel to 88 cents per gallon. But House Ways and Means Committee members were said to have discussed the tax issue yesterday, and the proposal fell by the wayside. Tax changes typically require Ways and Means signoff before they can move forward.

A number of the amendments were filed for consideration in the past few days, including a comprehensive manager’s amendment, filed by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), which would, among other things, establish an “Aerospace Management Advisory Council” to recommend candidates for an FAA COO position and to advise the agency and COO on issues and rulemakings surrounding the air traffic control system and air navigation services. The council, comprising a cross-section of industry, is to serve as the “primary advisory resource for management, policy, spending, and regulatory matters under the jurisdiction of the COO.”

The COO, in turn, will be tasked with appointing a chief technology officer who will be responsible for “proper operation, maintenance, and cybersecurity of technology systems relating to the air traffic control system across all program offices.”

These management reforms are a compromise from the earlier, far more sweeping proposal to carve the air traffic control system out of the FAA into a separate, user-funded entity. However, this, coupled with another measure in the bill to require an ATC cost-allocation study, could be laying groundwork for more significant changes in the future.

The manager’s amendment also would require an FAA/NTSB review on general aviation safety and includes a “Call to Action” for a review on airline engine safety.

Beyond the manager’s amendment, numerous other proposed provisions were filed by various lawmakers hoping to address their own local airport environmental concerns. They cover noise and route studies and could potentially curb operations at airports in Santa Monica and Hawthorne, California, and regions such as the Los Angeles Basin and New York's Long Island North Shore.