With 46 state legislatures in session in 2014, it promises to be a busy year for AOPA’s state legislative affairs team. In a typical year, the legislative affairs group will review more than 1,000 bills with the potential to impact general aviation. On average, about 400 of those measures warrant close tracking, and AOPA will become heavily engaged in supporting, opposing, or trying to change about 100 of those.
“When legislation could harm general aviation, it’s important to push back so we don’t look like an easy target for states seeking new sources of revenue,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of state legislative affairs. “We like to work directly with local GA advocates like state pilots associations, airport organizations, and aviation businesses whenever possible. And, of course, we get to know the decision makers who are introducing and voting on these measures.”
Lawmakers are often willing to listen to AOPA because the association has no financial interest in the issues under debate.
“We don’t stand to make money from any of the proposals we advocate, and that is important when lawmakers are considering competing views. We also make sure we know the facts and have done our research,” said Pecoraro. “Credibility is vitally important, so we need to approach legislators with hard data and reasoned arguments.”
State taxes and fees on general aviation are perennial concerns for AOPA, which has battled back proposed increases in a dozen states in recent years. But many of the issues that affect flying in the states actually have little to do with aviation on the face of it.
For example, some states want to mandate ethanol additives in all automobile fuel. While that sounds OK on the surface, it’s a huge problem for aircraft that run on auto gas because they can’t operate on ethanol-enhanced fuels. And while AOPA can’t compel distributors to make ethanol-free gas available, the association can and does work with lawmakers to ensure that ethanol-free gas is legal.
Another prevalent issue in many states is the question of liability. AOPA has been working closely with the Recreational Aviation Foundation to promote laws that give private property owners liability protection if they allow public use of airstrips on their land. So far, legislation protecting property owners has been passed in 19 states and efforts are in the works in several others.
AOPA is also working with various state aviation groups to promote marking meteorological towers—something the National Transportation Safety Board encourages.
“Some of the issues sound relatively small, but they’re all a big deal to the pilots who are affected,” Pecoraro said. “It’s important for members to know that if it matters to them, it matters to us.”