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Larger issues could delay medical reform, reauthorizationLarger issues could delay medical reform, reauthorization

Ongoing controversy over big political issues, as well as limited floor time available to debate and vote on bills in Congress, is almost certain to delay FAA reauthorization legislation, along with the third class medical reforms that legislation is expected to contain, AOPA leaders said.

With only 10 legislative days scheduled in September and major national and international issues like the Iran nuclear deal and funding for Planned Parenthood taking the spotlight, it would be virtually impossible for Congress to pass long-term FAA reauthorization legislation before the agency’s funding expires Sept. 30, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon told AOPA Live in a Sept. 9 interview. More likely, he said, is a six-month extension that would give Congress time to keep working toward a more comprehensive agreement.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the congressional schedule right now, something that’s really out of our control,” Coon said. “But we’re going to keep doing everything we can to get medical reform for our members as quickly as possible.”

That includes pursuing stand-alone legislation in the form of Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. The legislation was introduced in the House and Senate in February and continues to gain momentum, with another 11 lawmakers signing on as co-sponsors during the August recess. That brings the total number of co-sponsors to 136 in the House and 58 in the Senate.

“We’re working daily to bring more legislators on board, and continuing to increase those numbers is really important,” said Coon. “With Congress facing such a tight schedule, any bill that makes it to the floor must be able to move smoothly through the process.

Having a lot of cosponsors shows that the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 has the support it needs, and that improves the chances it will come to a vote.”

Coon said he is committed to getting third class medical reform “with support from Congress.” And a legislative solution, whether through a stand-alone bill or as an amendment to other legislation, is the most promising course. An FAA notice of proposed rulemaking on medical reform has been held up at the Department of Transportation for more than a year with no sign of movement.

In July, GA supporters tried to attach medical reform language to the Senate’s surface transportation bill, but the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) threw up a roadblock, opposing some of the provisions in the amendment. AOPA leaders say they would like to have ALPA on board and are continuing to discuss their concerns, but will keep pushing for reforms regardless.

With so many different issues affecting the current political situation, it’s likely that final medical reform legislation may be somewhat different from the language now in the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. 

“The FAA reauthorization timeline is uncertain, but we’re committed to getting medical reform and members of Congress are supportive. The question now is exactly what that’s going to look like,” Coon said. “We’re not going to do anything that’s not good for general aviation pilots. That’s why we’re working hard to get this done as quickly as possible and to get the very best deal we can for our members.”

Elizabeth Tennyson

Elizabeth A Tennyson

Senior Director of Communications
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
Topics: Advocacy, FAA Funding, Capitol Hill

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