State Rep. Stephen Ehardt (R-Mich. 83rd Dist.)
Michigan State Rep. Stephen Ehardt is the recipient of the 2003 AOPA Hartranft Award, recognizing his efforts to nullify Michigan's requirement for flight student criminal background checks. His bill passed both state legislatures without a single dissenting vote and was signed by the governor in July.
Rep. Ehardt (R-83rd Dist.), an AOPA member and co-chairman of the Michigan Aviation Caucus, accepted the honor during the Grand Finale Banquet at AOPA Expo 2003 in Philadelphia this evening.
He sponsored Michigan House Bill 4704, which eliminated the background-check stipulation, replacing it with common-sense security requirements for the state's flight schools. He and his office worked with AOPA to craft the new legislation and line up support for passage. When it came time for the state senate to consider the measure, Ehardt testified in support of the bill at a senate committee hearing.
AOPA had challenged the old Michigan law in federal court, saying it unconstitutionally usurped authority reserved by the federal government to determine who may and may not be a pilot. Passage of Ehardt's legislation made taking the case to trial unnecessary.
"This cooperation between state officials and AOPA is a shining example of government at its best. The worthwhile effort can be used as an example for other states that might consider restrictions on student-pilot training," said Bill Blake, AOPA Great Lakes regional representative.
AOPA's Joseph B. Hartranft, Jr. Award is presented annually to the political leader or leaders who make the greatest contribution to the advancement of general aviation. It is named for J.B. "Doc" Hartranft, AOPA's first employee and president of the association for nearly 38 years. Hartranft died in February 2002. The selection is made by the AOPA Board of Trustees.
With over 400,000 members, AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization, dedicated to defending the interests of general aviation from unnecessary or burdensome regulation, whether at the local, state, or national level.