New Jersey pilots won a reprieve from a proposed background check law when state senators adjourned without ever taking the measure up. AOPA representatives in Trenton lobbied hard to convince the state senate's leadership not to bring the bill up for a vote. AOPA urged its New Jersey members to contact their representatives and senators and urge them to oppose the bill. And AOPA members leapt to action. At least one senator acknowledged rethinking his position after hearing from constituents.
"This demonstrates once again the power of our membership," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "The bill resurfaced quietly at the very last minute, but the quick response of our members let New Jersey lawmakers know that they couldn't hide their actions in the rush to end the session."
Senators spent all night trying to resolve the state's budget impasse and never took up the background check bill, in effect holding it until they return for a lame-duck session following elections in November.
"That's good news for pilots," said Cebula. "It gives AOPA and our members all summer to convince the senators that the background check would be bad law, since it would violate the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution."
"The federal government must be allowed to set a uniform standard for pilot qualifications without interference from the states if we're to have a truly national air transportation system," Cebula said. "New Jersey can't set one standard and Michigan another."
AOPA representatives plan to make good use of the time, explaining to the senators all the steps the federal government has taken since the September 11 terrorist attacks to enhance general aviation security, making the proposed New Jersey law unnecessary as well as unconstitutional.
AOPA is determined not to let the bill become law.
"AOPA took Michigan to federal court over its pilot criminal background check law and is fully prepared to do the same if New Jersey ultimately adopts this bill," Cebula said.