What a Christmas Tree has to do with passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act (AIRR)?

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The centerpiece of the Aviation Infrastructure, Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (AIRR), HR 4441, is found in Title II which authorizes the transfer of the Air Traffic Organization to a federal non-profit corporation (ATCC). The author of that transformational proposal is Chairman Shuster (R, PA) who understands how the legislative process works and his mastery of that system is demonstrated by his recent successes, like WOTUS and FAST Act. He has confidently scheduled AIRR to move quickly through both houses. The scorecard suggests opposition; so why is the Chairman so positive?

faa airr reauthorization

The Chairman is the consummate legislative strategist. The two bills cited above show how well he has managed bills through the currently highly partisan Congress; for many members during this contentious period, if the bill is proposed by someone on the other side of the aisle, the vote is no. Rep. Shuster knows the legislative practice known as the Christmas Tree. The tactic and term derived from a 1956 observation of New Mexico’s Democratic Senator Clinton P. Anderson who said: “This bill gets more and more like a Christmas tree; there’s something on it for nearly everyone.” HR 4441 has a lot for Members, who have no direct interest in ATCC, to like (and if something’s removed from the tree might draw her/his attention).

First, it’s useful to examine the aviation yeas and nays. The policy players that have indicated support include A4A, ALPA (ATCC ok, oppose exclusion of most GA from user fee), NATCAReason Foundation and 12 other Think Tank groups; more announcements are likely to be made. The opponents include the other FAA employee unions (AFGE, AFSCME and PASS), Americans Against Air Traffic Privatization, AOPA (user fee only), Delta, EAA, NATA, NBAA, and RAA. Research finds no announcement on the positions of AAAE, ACI and AIA.

Generally, conservative Republican Members of Congress will support “privatization.” Liberal Democrats are likely to oppose any bill which would move about 37,000 jobs off of the federal payroll and lose Congressional control.

Over the course of a legislative year, Rep. Shuster’s committee receives all bills which House Members propose and which involve aviation. Many of these single issue bills have little chance of passing, but reflect strongly held views of the Representatives and in particular their constituents. These are some of the ornaments on the AIRR Christmas Tree.

faa airr reauthorization

Here is a list of SOME (not all) of sections which have obvious aviation relevance (and thus are germane), but may or may not be there to attract Members to vote for HR 4441:

  • §111—which holds the PFCs to a lower $ than the airports wanted, but much favored by A4A: + A4A, – AAAE/ACI (maybe a negotiating point)
  • §122—which facilitates the addition of lactation stations at airports + Rep. Duckworth (D,IL) Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act
  • §125—which designates construction of recreational airplanes as an “aeronautical activity” at hangers + AEA
  • §129—which adds the number of states which may participate in the AIP state block grant program + NASAO, which represents every state with an aviation organization
  • §134—which extends the life of the MBE program (though noting that great strides have been made) + AMAC
  • §135–which supports contract control towers + USCTA very much opposed by the Administration, but the association has strong local roots
  • §135(3)(A)—which authorizes the use of Remote control towers where FAA closes its facility + USCTA
  • §136—which provides support for programs protecting wildlife habitat + AAAE, NWF
  • §138 amendment of FMRA provision on CatEx + Delegations from SAN, PHX, DCA, DFW, ORD, etc.
  • §302—which creates greater FAA oversight favored by the Colgan Air Flight 3407 + Reps. Gibson (R,NY), Tonko (D,NY) and Stefanik (D,NY)
  • §312-318—which pushes the FAA on ODA and many other large/small aircraft certification reforms+ GAMA and AIA
  • §351-354—which would attempt to level the playing field in aircraft certification AND ALLOW THE FAA TO PROMOTE (JDA Journal) + GAMA and AIA
  • And many more §§

The proposed legislation must pass before the old Reauthorization bill expires; so keep a close eye on which of the ornaments remain in HR 4441, which are deleted, which are added and which may be refined. The above “scorecard” may give you some insights as to how Chairman Shuster is managing AIRR through the House.

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2 Comments on "What a Christmas Tree has to do with passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act (AIRR)?"

  1. Add to the scorecard– the Allied Pilots Association says that it’s unfair to have only ALPA on ATCC’s Board–http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160209006432/en/Allied-Pilots-Association-Cites-Flaw-Oversight-Proposed

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