Congress prepping short-term FAA bill

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House and Senate committee leaders are preparing a short-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that is expected to include a handful of permanent policy provisions related to drones and aviation security.

{mosads}The 18-month patch will not contain a controversial proposal to separate the nation’s air traffic control from the FAA, which stalled a long-term House version of the bill and ultimately forced committee leaders to go down the path of another short-term extension.

“It won’t be everything I want,” Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said Tuesday. “But I think we’ve got a package now that should enjoy pretty broad bipartisan support, and we’ll get it to the floor.”

Thune admitted that he was disappointed to be pursuing a short-term bill after shepherding wide-ranging FAA legislation through the Senate on a 95-3 vote in April.

But the FAA measure may include a sizable chunk of provisions from the Senate bill, such as language to beef up airport security, enhance consumer protections for airline passengers and address drone privacy and safety issues.

“There will be some consumer things. There is certainly a number of safety things that we added in, and some of the things having to do with drones,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member on the Transportation panel, told reporters Tuesday.

Lawmakers are just wrapping up final negotiations on the legislation, which will likely be considered on the floor after the July Fourth recess. The FAA’s current legal authority expires July 15.

“We have one or two final items that are being negotiated,” Thune said. “Mainly, there was a Nelson [and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster] discussion about a couple provisions each of them wanted in there.”

Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, muscled a bill that would spin off air traffic control from the FAA through his committee, but the proposal faced strong opposition from GOP tax-writers, appropriators and Democrats.

The short-term extension will green-light FAA programs through 2017, meaning Shuster can soon take another bite at the apple.

But Thune threw cold water on the idea that the 18-month patch might include language favored by Shuster to commission a study on air traffic control reform.

“It’s never final till it’s final, but I don’t see that happening,” Thune told reporters as he ducked into an elevator.


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