AOPA regional reps at the forefront in defending members' interests
AOPA's "front line" in defending members' interests in the states is the association's 13 regional representatives.
"These experienced aviators also have the knowledge and the contacts within the state governments and legislatures to get things done for general aviation," said Roger Cohen, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "Many of our reps are former state aviation officials themselves, so they know where to find the levers of power."
AOPA recently realigned regions in the middle of the country to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the regional representatives. (See AOPA's Regional Affairs Web page.)
The Midwest Region now includes Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, with veteran rep Bob Dickens "re-upping" for another tour. A former FAA official, NTSB investigator, and decorated Army aviator, Dickens is also a fixed- and rotary-wing CFI and Grumman Tiger owner. "We're thrilled to have an experienced hand like Bob back on the AOPA regional affairs team," said Cohen. "He's uniquely situated both geographically and from an experience and professional network standpoint to handle the Midwest region."
Minnesota has been added to the Great Lakes region and the experienced hands of Bill Blake, former head of the Illinois Division of Aeronautics and vice chairman of the National Association of State Aviation Officials.
Shelly Lesikar, who joined AOPA as Southwest regional representative last April, now has Arkansas in addition to New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Lesikar is a third-generation pilot and former Cessna representative, who also has experience in both city government and the Texas legislature.
Photo: Front row: Craig Dotlo, John Pfeifer, Shelly Lesikar; middle row: Bill Leavens, Stacy Howard, Mike Ferguson, Bill Hamilton; back row: Bill Blake, Chris Hudson, Tom George, Bob Minter, Nelson Rhodes.
If you think wading through the FARs is tough, imagine how mind numbing it must be to read more than 6,600 proposed bills in 50 state legislatures. But that's exactly what your AOPA regional affairs staff has been doing since the first of this year to make sure there are no unpleasant surprises for general aviation lurking within the fine print.
"But we're not just looking to stop bills that could harm GA," said Roger Cohen, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "We're also lobbying hard in many state legislatures for bills that provide benefits for general aviation."
One of AOPA's long-term goals is to get laws enacted in every state to provide zoning protection for airports, such as the legislation currently moving forward in Minnesota. Another is universal real estate disclosure, where potential homebuyers would have to be told that there is an existing airport nearby. Such laws make it much harder for homeowners to later claim that the airport is a "nuisance" they didn't know about.
The person tasked with keeping track of all of the state legislative issues is Owen Sweeney, AOPA manager of regional affairs. Sweeney recently joined the AOPA staff from the nation's leading state government relations consulting firm.
Of the 6,661 bills reviewed so far, Sweeney is continuing to monitor about 240 that may have some interest to AOPA members. There are 107 bills so far in the various state legislatures that have a direct impact on general aviation.
"We've been contacting lawmakers and testifying before committees as necessary to protect the interests of our members," said Cohen. "And at the appropriate time, we may ask members to weigh in with their state legislators on a particular bill. Watch ePilot for updates."
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February 17, 2005