The Senate has passed an amended version of a House bill to keep the FAA running through July 15, but changes introduced in the Senate mean the measure must now return to the House for final approval before it can become law.
The extension passed the Senate by unanimous consent March 17, just one day before the start of a two-week Easter recess and one day after the Senate Commerce Committee voted to send a separate FAA reauthorization bill to the full Senate.
“It’s our hope that the extension will be finalized and the House and Senate will be able to reach an agreement on FAA reauthorization ahead of the new July 15 deadline,” said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon. “While extensions provide time for lawmakers to iron out their differences, we really need reauthorization so we can move forward with reforms that are important to the general aviation community, particularly in terms of the third class medical and aircraft certification.”
The FAA’s current authorization, which has already been extended once, will expire March 31 unless the House and Senate reach agreement on the extension.
The original extension bill, H.R. 4721, passed the House March 14 on a voice vote. In addition to extending the current FAA authorization until mid-July, the bill passed in the House would have allowed the FAA to continue collecting excise taxes on fuel through March 2017. The Senate rejected extending the tax portion of the bill to March 2017 and instead would extend both the authorization and collection of taxes until July 15.
The change forces the legislation back to the House, which has until March 23, when it adjourns for an Easter recess, to take action. If the House passes the revised version of the bill, it will be sent to the president.
In the meantime, lawmakers are moving forward with FAA reauthorization legislation. On March 16, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to send its reauthorization bill to the full Senate, which could take up the legislation after it returns to work April 4.
Among the provisions in the Senate reauthorization package is third class medical reform language that passed the full Senate in December as part of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. In addition, the legislation would authorize annual increases in Airport Improvement Program funding, streamline certification for light GA aircraft, support a transition to unleaded aviation fuel, and make it easier to install modern safety equipment in legacy aircraft. The legislation would also give the Department of Transportation two years to issue a final rule creating a “small UAS air carrier certificate” for operators using drones for package delivery.