AOPA is fighting state legislation requiring pilot IDs and student-pilot background checks in Maryland, Michigan, and South Dakota, with a wary eye on similar bills in other states. AOPA is asking its members in those three states to familiarize themselves with the legislation and then voice their opposition directly to the appropriate lawmakers.
AOPA is stressing to all state policymakers that "a more logical approach to addressing aviation security and airman requirements should be left to the federal government to implement," which is under way at the FAA. The association recently petitioned the agency to amend aviation regulations to require that a pilot carry a government-issued photo ID.
AOPA wrote to the Maryland House Commerce and Government Committee opposing House Bills 1005 and 1208, which would require identity and criminal background checks for student pilots. H.B.1005 would require prior approval from the state before the first training flight. U.S. citizens "should not be treated as though they are criminals," AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Bill Dunn told the committee.
Michigan Senate Bills 934 and 1006 have passed the Senate and are in the House for debate, on track for a signature by Gov. John Engler. These measures also require background checks to qualify at the state level for flight training. An AOPA letter asked Gov. Engler to veto both bills if they reach his desk.
South Dakota's Gov. William Janklow has already signed Senate Bill 32 into law, which increases the state's airman registration fee and also gives the state the authority to replace paper pilot registration certificates with a photo-identification certificate. Additionally, the new certificate might have to be displayed while on an airport. AOPA says a driver's license will accomplish the goal without burdensome time and economic expense on the state or pilot.
Similar bills have been written in Connecticut, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia. "We are opposed to all of them," Dunn said, noting that AOPA successfully defeated comparable legislation in Florida and New Jersey in their last sessions. Florida tried again this year, but the measure was withdrawn—"We think they got the message," Dunn said.