On the last possible day, New York Governor George Pataki signed Assembly Bill 2122, requiring New Yorkers to submit to a criminal background check before starting flight training. Flight schools also must request criminal reports on any prospective student.
"As we warned Gov. Pataki, federal law clearly preempts state law regarding aviation security and pilot training and certification," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) already has national pilot training security requirements. We don't think this state law will stand up to a legal challenge."
Neither does the chief counsel of the TSA. At AOPA's request, the TSA's top legal officer penned an opinion that explained "federal law would preempt state-imposed aviation security requirements for threat assessments for flight school applicants.... In light of the comprehensive regulatory scheme governing aviation and aviation operations, courts have routinely recognized the congressional intent to preclude supplementation of federal aviation safety and security requirements by the states."
AOPA made sure that Gov. Pataki and his advisors knew that the FAA and the TSA considered the New York bill an unacceptable encroachment on federal turf.
AOPA members made it very clear to the governor that they thought the bill was unnecessary for security and harmful to aviation and flight training. AOPA and its members urged him to veto the bill.
Nevertheless, Pataki signed the bill last Thursday, the last possible day he could, after it had passed the legislature in late June and had been on his desk for nearly two weeks. It may be no coincidence that he finally acted shortly after the arrest of terrorist airline bombers in the United Kingdom.
"We will pursue every possible venue to get this law overturned," said Cebula. "We succeeded in changing a similar law in Michigan, and we are committed to fight this in New York."
August 23, 2006