Late Thursday afternoon, an AOPA-backed bill to repeal the Michigan pilot criminal background check law got a big boost when it passed out of committee. The Committee on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security approved House Bill 4704 after opponents agreed to a compromise. H.B.4704 would repeal the background check requirement and substitute a number of common-sense security requirements for flight schools. Thursday's compromise adds language requiring student pilots to get their student pilot certificates before beginning flight training.
"The pilot license is a federally issued license, and as such, the FAA sets the requirements for who is and is not eligible to receive pilot certification," said AOPA Vice President of Airports Anne Esposito during testimony before the committee Thursday. "The flight school security program proposed in H.B.4704 is more appropriate and will better complement federal efforts on aviation security than the previously implemented criminal background check requirement."
AOPA staff members worked closely with the bill's sponsor, Rep. Steven Ehardt (R-Dist. 83) to craft H.B.4074. Esposito and AOPA Regional Representative Bill Blake spent much of the past two weeks in Michigan's capital pushing for its passage.
Supporting the face-to-face lobbying efforts, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula wrote to legislators urging them to vote for H.B.4704.
AOPA had previously filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state law, arguing that federal law has supremacy in pilot certification matters. Both the FAA and the TSA have written letters supporting AOPA's contention that state efforts to regulate who may hold a pilot certificate are preempted by federal regulation.
AOPA has asked the federal judge hearing the case to issue a summary judgment. A hearing on AOPA's motion is scheduled for July 24, with a decision expected soon thereafter.