By AOPA ePublishing staff
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the ranking member of the Senate aviation subcommittee, announced his retirement on Nov. 26. And the first question to pop into some pilots' minds was: What does this mean for the user fee fight?
That's because Lott and Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.V.), aviation subcommittee chairman, are co-authors of S.1300, the Senate FAA funding bill that includes a $25 per flight user fee. Their position on user fees has so far precluded any compromise with the Senate Finance Committee and its bill that would fund FAA with modest tax increases and no user fees. That's why the funding issue is currently stalled in the Senate.
"At this point, we don't expect that the Senate will act on FAA funding before the end of the year," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And before any action on the bill, the Republican leadership will likely appoint a new ranking member to replace Lott on the aviation subcommittee.
"We don't know whom that will be yet, and it leaves open the question of whether Rockefeller will have the strong Republican support for user fees that he had with Lott."
For 35 years Lott has represented Mississippi in Congress, starting in the House, and later winning election to the Senate. He was viewed by many as a pragmatic, effective legislator.
While AOPA disagreed strongly with Lott on the issue of user fees, he had been helpful to general aviation in past. He was awarded AOPA's Hartranft Award in 2001 for his leadership in pushing AIR-21 through Congress, the landmark bill that unlocked the aviation trust fund.
November 27, 2007