Texas lawmakers are considering several bills that are important to pilots, including roughly 25,000 AOPA members in the state. Securing passage of that pro-aviation legislation is among the priorities of AOPA Central Southwest Regional Manager Yasmina Platt.
Five legislative initiatives have been introduced in the current session (with a House and Senate version on the table in two of those cases), all of which are similar to legislation AOPA is backing around the country.
One measure (House Bill 946/Senate Bill 505) would require marking and registration of meteorological evaluation towers, which pose a threat to low-flying aircraft including those engaged in agricultural spraying. The towers, up to 200 feet tall, are too short for FAA regulation to apply, but still tall enough that their threat has inspired action from aviation groups around the country. Both the NTSB and FAA have encouraged states to adopt marking and registration requirements for these towers, and AOPA has consistently supported tower marking bills around the country.
Another initiative (House Bill 1548/Senate Bill 798) would exempt general aviation maintenance from state sales taxes, an exemption currently limited to air carriers (both passenger and cargo), flight training aircraft, and agricultural aircraft. The disparity drives business out of state, as aircraft owners seek services outside of Texas. The situation puts Texas aviation shops at a disadvantage, and, in turn, limits job creation that Texas would otherwise enjoy.
House Bill 750 would level the playing field in a different way: The legislation would clarify the state’s recreational use statute already on the books to include “aviation activities” among the activities for which private landowners are protected from liability associated with the use of their land by others. Without this protection clearly in place, many landowners opt to limit the use of their land. The legislation could open up more than 1,600 private-use airfields, promoting tourism and general aviation activity from out of state. Platt testified in favor of the bill at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on March 3.
Platt is also supporting other GA organizations regarding the passage of House Bill 2294, related to the assessment and collection of taxes on GA aircraft. The state comptroller in 2014 attempted to change the rules regarding the “sale for resale” tax exemption through aircraft leasing. The bill would clarify how the industry handles aircraft leases and related business practices.
Another bill, House Bill 1605, would eliminate the $6 charged for a copy of the state-published airport directory, making the document (which lists the state’s roughly 400 public-use airports) free to all, as the state highway map already is. The state also plans to print an aeronautical chart this year, which will be made available at no charge.
The Texas General Aviation Caucus met March 5 to discuss how general aviation is used for business across the state. Several pilot legislators and sponsors of the bills mentioned above were present.