The New Jersey legislature has sent to Governor James McGreevey a bill requiring criminal background checks on any pilot seeking any flight training. That means that even a certificated pilot seeking as little as an hour of refresher training before a biennial flight review will have to submit to being fingerprinted and undergoing a criminal background and identity check. Prospective students and pilots seeking an advanced rating face similar checks.
AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote a letter to the governor, urging opposition to the pending legislation. In a letter responding to concerns raised by Boyer, Leslie Skolnick, assistant counsel to McGreevey, would only say when the bill reaches the governor's desk, "your comments will certainly be included in his assessment."
"The voice of our members can effect change," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andrew Cebula. "The federal government, not individual states, sets the requirements for individuals to receive flight training. AOPA members in New Jersey need to contact the governor and urge him to veto Senate Bill 432. Let him know the consequences this bill will have on aviation and the flight training industry in New Jersey.
Action by AOPA members can make a big difference. A similar background check bill passed the New York Assembly and was due for a vote in the state Senate on Tuesday. But after AOPA members in that state flooded legislators with e-mails and phone calls, the Senate apparently delayed taking up the issue. And in Maryland earlier this year, action by AOPA members helped convince the legislature to drop a state background check measure altogether.