By AOPA ePublishing staff
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will replace Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) as ranking member on the Commerce aviation subcommittee when Lott's resignation becomes effective later this month, according to a Dec. 5 report in CongressDaily. And that adds an interesting new wrinkle to the FAA funding battle and the question of user fees.
That's because Lott and Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), are the authors of S.1300, the FAA funding bill that includes a $25 per flight user fee on all turbine-powered flights in controlled airspace. While Lott sponsored user fees, Sen. Hutchison voted for the Nelson-Sununu amendment that would have removed fees from the bill. (The amendment failed by only one vote.)
"We've had an excellent relationship with Sen. Hutchison in the past," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, noting that she had served as chairman of the aviation subcommittee in 2001 when the Republicans had control of the Senate. "And she stood firmly with GA on the user fee issue earlier this year."
On the other hand, three major airlines—American, Southwest, and Continental—are headquartered in Texas, meaning Hutchison has to at least consider their concerns. Further complicating the issue, most observers believe that Hutchinson intends to run for governor of Texas in 2010. Her current and future positions on FAA funding are clearly important to the more than 29,000 Texas AOPA members. (There are more pilots in Texas than any other state except California and Florida.)
But don't expect the aviation subcommittee to take action on FAA funding soon. Congress is scheduled to adjourn Dec. 14. Capitol Hill sources have told AOPA that Sen. Rockefeller is working on other issues that have a higher priority for him than S.1300. So FAA funding will be held over until 2008.
December 6, 2007