Michigan state senators on Tuesday approved without opposition a bill repealing that state's pilot background check law. AOPA worked closely with the bill's original sponsor, Rep. Stephen Ehardt (R-Dist. 83), to draft a bill that satisfied the legislature's security concerns while redressing the constitutional issues.
"This is a tremendous step forward for Michigan pilots," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Lawmakers have recognized that in their haste to deal with the security lapses of September 11, 2001, they went too far. All that's needed to close this sorry chapter is the governor's signature."
AOPA immediately called on Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.) to act swiftly and sign the bill. It will go into effect immediately upon her signature.
The Michigan pilot background check law required anyone seeking any type of flight training to first undergo a criminal history background check. The bill, which has already been approved by the state House of Representatives, replaces the background check with some common-sense requirements for flight schools, such as restricting access to either aircraft or aircraft ignition keys for pre-solo students and requiring a solo-authorized student to have an FAA student pilot certificate (which mirrors federal aviation regulations).
AOPA challenged the Michigan background check law in federal court, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause (Article VI, paragraph 2). Both the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration supported AOPA's position. During the bill's second reading before the state senate, Sen. Jud Gilbert (R-Dist. 25), who chairs the transportation committee, acknowledged that they had learned that federal law preempted the state law.
The lawsuit is still pending before a federal judge, with a hearing on AOPA's request for a summary judge ruling that the Michigan background check law is unconstitutional set for Thursday, July 24.