Five extra weeks of wrangling saw a large number of important airport and general aviation-related issues and initiatives make their way through the Iowa General Assembly. AOPA and the Iowa Public Airports Association (IPAA) monitored and supported a trio of legislative measures to assure GA’s continued protection in the state before lawmakers gaveled their 2015 session to a close. The three bills assured aviators that their interests would be upheld for aviation education, airport improvement and management, and land use planning.
When an earlier form of a $2.25 million aviation infrastructure improvement bill for publicly owned, public-use airports moved through the House, it contained troublesome language that worried AOPA. The association successfully urged legislators to remove language from House File 650 that could have opened the door to arbitrarily closing or restricting the use of certain airfields if the costs of operating these airports “far exceeds the benefits.” These infrastructure improvement funds will include $750,000 allocated for GA projects and $1.5 million for commercial improvements.
AOPA reminded lawmakers that when publicly owned, public-use airfields receive federal or state grant money, the facilities are obligated to stay open without discrimination to any type of aircraft, as long as it doesn’t pose a flight safety hazard.
“It is not fair or responsible for this taxpayer-generated funding (aviation specific or not) to be lost because an airport decides to close and does not want to pay the obligated grants back,” said Yasmina Platt, AOPA Central Southwest regional manager. “Instead, that funding can be reinvested in other airports with greater grant needs.”
As the measures were making their way through the House and Senate, AOPA members swooped in to contact Iowa legislators and express support for the association’s position on policy making issues.
A pair of aviation-friendly bills on education and proper land-use planning signed into law by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad clarified the state’s positions on flight instruction funding and airport grant assurances.
When the Iowa College Student Aid Commission sought to get a better handle on education fraud at post-secondary schools, it asked learning institutions to register and obtain a bond for $50,000 to prove financial responsibility. Since the majority of flight students pay their instructors lesson-by-lesson, AOPA and IPAA successfully interceded to request an exemption to the overbearing bond burden included in House File 658.
The airport zoning law in House File 655 that Branstad signed cements Iowa’s existing requirements to keep normal airport operations and compatibility at the forefront when considering any land development or restrictions near an airfield.
Platt thanked Iowa lawmakers for their diligence in keeping GA topics on the table. “Special thanks should go to Iowa legislators for working with AOPA on these important issues during their extended 2015 legislative session. State Reps. Gary Worthan (District 11), Terry Baxter (District 8), Ken Rizer (District 68), Zach Nunn (District 30), Darrel Branhagen (District 55), Cindy Winckler (District 90), Cecil Dolecheck (District 24), and Todd Prichard (District 52), as well as state Sens. Brian Schoenjahn (District 32) and Herman Quirmbach (District 23), were instrumental for their help and support.”