Third class medical reform is taking too long and legislation is unlikely to pass this year, but AOPA will keep advocating for change and the prospects for reform in 2015 are good, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon said during an AOPA Live interview.
With the lame duck session of Congress expected to last for about one week in December and the pressing issue of funding for the federal government still up in the air, the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act is not likely to come to a vote in 2014, Coon told AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines during an interview for AOPA Live This Week.
But, Coon added, while reform is much too slow in coming, it is coming.
The FAA’s proposed rule to change the third class medical process is expected to move to the next step—a mandatory review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—in early December following completion of a similar review by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Both reviews are required because the rule is considered to be a significant change to current FAA policy and requirements.
At the same time, Coon said, he expects legislation to reform the third class medical process to be introduced once again when the new Congress convenes early in 2015.
“It takes way too long in my opinion, but the fact of the matter is it’s moving forward. And when Congress convenes anew in January, we’ll start anew,” he said.
Coon added that AOPA will continue to simultaneously pursue both legislative and regulatory action and will respond to whichever comes first. Because 2015 will see FAA reauthorization legislation, which sets the agency’s budget and priorities for spending, AOPA will look for medical reform legislation either as a standalone bill or as part of the reauthorization package.
“If we can’t get that moved through Congress separately, we’ll work as hard as we can to get it included in the FAA reauthorization bill,” Coon said, adding that AOPA would seek the renewed support of those who are co-sponsoring current legislation, as well as newcomers brought to office during the November elections.
“It’s taken too long, there’s no doubt about it,” Coon said of medical reform. “But from where we started to where we are today, it’s light years in government terms. I’m not happy about the pace of how this has gone, but we’ve gone from zero to 180 co-sponsors in the Congress, so there’s strong support….We’re not going to leave any stone unturned. That’s the bottom line.”