New faces, familiar challenges after election

November 8, 2012

As the dust settled from the Nov. 6 elections, aviation advocates began assessing what the new political landscape will mean for the industry and prepared to work with new and familiar faces in Washington, D.C., and in statehouses nationwide.

AOPA President Craig Fuller congratulated the successful candidates Nov. 7, expressing the association’s commitment to continue working with elected officials and defending pilots’ freedom to fly.

“To those who will serve in public office, we want you to know that our deep commitment to protecting our freedom to fly has never been stronger,” he said. “We look forward, at the earliest opportunity, to working with you to build and strengthen the general aviation community at the state and federal level. Your constituents and our members should expect nothing less.”

Fuller discussed the effect of the elections—from state offices to the White House—on GA with AOPA staffers in a segment for AOPA Live. The administration of President Barack Obama has provided funding for NextGen modernization and airport improvements on the one hand, said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Melissa Rudinger, but has also promoted aviation user fees. Obama’s reelection could bring with it the potential for user fees, she said.

With Obama returning for a second term, Republicans retaining control of the House of Representatives, and Democrats holding on to a majority in the Senate, it may seem like little has changed. But new faces on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the nation present both challenges and opportunities.

The House General Aviation Caucus, which had 190 members, lost 39, said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton. The Senate GA Caucus, which had 39 members, lost three. And while the leadership of both caucuses will stay the same, returning members from the current Congress must re-join in the new year.

“Because it’s a new Congress, we need to start from scratch,” said Howerton, adding that some members have already committed to rejoining. The GA caucus offers a venue for lawmakers to learn more about GA and its contributions to the nation, an understanding that has been critical to Congress’s staunch opposition to user fees. Howerton noted that 44 signatories of a recent letter opposing user fees will not return in the new Congress.

In the states, AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro saw opportunity in this time of change. As new governors and state legislators take office, AOPA has an opportunity to explain the economic value of aviation—an issue that will continue to be important to voters and lawmakers. “Good aviation policy creates aviation jobs,” Pecoraro said.

In spite of change, AOPA’s commitment to defending the freedom to fly remains a constant.

“As victories are celebrated and our country reflects on the meaning of this election, we must remember that the same issues affecting us the day before the election are still with us the day after,” Fuller said in a statement. “The members of AOPA, my association colleagues, and I remain dedicated to working in a forthright and constructive way to defend our interests while making every effort to move the country and our economy forward.”