Legislative Activity

Short-Term FAA Reauthorization Likely Soon

The current short-term Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) extension expires on July 15, leaving just four weeks for Congress to pass another short-term extension or a long term reauthorization bill. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) recently admitted that Congress will have to pass another short-term extension to buy enough time to work out a long-term reauthorization bill, after months of saying he did not want a short-term extension or to take up the Senate’s reauthorization bill.

The Senate passed its reauthorization, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 (H.R. 636), months ago, but the House’s bill, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act (H.R. 4441), has faced significant opposition from Democrats and some Republican appropriators and tax-writers.

How long the short-term extension will be is still unclear. Chairman Shuster is expected to advocate for a longer extension, while Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) will likely advocate a shorter extension to keep pressure on the House to take up the Senate’s bill. Complicating matters, FAA reauthorization is likely the only bill with a tax title that Congress will pass this year. Because of this, Members of Congress may attempt to add contentious tax provisions to the FAA bill, making an extension into 2017 more palatable to Members who want to avoid these tax fights during the lame duck period.

Regulatory Activity

FAA May Release Final Drone Rule This Week

The FAA may release its long-awaited final rule that would permit commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) this week. FAA published the notice of proposed rulemaking nearly a year and a half ago, and the UAS industry has been keeping up the pressure on FAA to finalize the rule. While the commercial use of UAS is currently allowed through a limited Section 333 exemption process, the process is cumbersome and takes commercial users a significant amount of time to get approved.

The proposed rule would have restricted UAS operation to daytime hours and up to 500 feet above ground level, among other restrictions. However, the proposed rule received significant criticism from the commercial UAS industry, including because it would limit out of line-of-sight operation.

Both the House and Senate FAA reauthorization bills include significant UAS policy changes, including directing FAA to expand allowable operations and establish a risk-based permitting process.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, June 21, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Preparedness, Response, and Communications will hold a hearing titled “Protecting our Passengers: Perspectives on Securing Transportation in New Jersey and New York.” The witnesses will be:
    • Sonya Proctor, Director, Surface Division, Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement, Transportation Security Administration;
    • Raymond Diaz, Director of Security, Metropolitan Transit Authority;
    • Thomas Belfiore, Chief Security Officer, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey;
    • Christopher Trucillo, Chief of Police, New Jersey Transit Police Department;
    • Martin Conway, Deputy Police Chief, National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK);
    • Sergeant W. Greg Kierce, Director, Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, City of Jersey City, New Jersey;
    • Lieutenant Vincent Glenn, Commander, Emergency Service Unit, Police Department, Jersey City, New Jersey
    • Rick Sposa, Operations Coordinator, Emergency Medical Services, Jersey Medical Center;
    • Captain Richard Gorman, Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Jersey City, New Jersey; and
    • Mike Hollahan, Trustee, Post Authority Police Benevolent Association.
  • On Tuesday, June 21, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet will hold a hearing titled “FirstNet Oversight: An Update on the Status of the Public Safety Broadband Network.” The witnesses will be:
    • Michael Poth, Chief Executive Officer, FirstNet;
    • Jeffrey McLeod, Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety Division, National Governors Association;
    • Major General Arthur Logan, Single Point of Contact, State of Hawaii, and Hawaii Adjutant General; and
    • Andrew Katsaros, Assistant Inspector General for Audit, U.S. Department of Commerce.
  • On Wednesday, June 22, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation will hold a hearing titled “FAA Oversight on Commercial Space Transportation.” The witnesses will be:
    • George C. Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration;
    • Gerald L. Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation Issues, Government Accountability Office;
    • Michael Gold, Chair, Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee;
    • Michael López-Alegría, Vice Chair, Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee; and
    • Taber MacCallum, Chief Technology Officer, World View Enterprises.
  • On Wednesday, June 22, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will hold a hearing titled “Examining Pathways Towards Compliance of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ground-Level Ozone: Legislative Hearing on S. 2882 and S.2072.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, June 22, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation will hold a hearing titled “Part II: Flying Blind: What Are The Security Risks of Resuming U.S. Commercial Air Service to Cuba?” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, June 22, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold an Oversight hearing titled “Investigating the Appropriate Role of NEPA in the Permitting Process.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, June 23, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold an Oversight hearing titled “The Administration’s Response to Findings of Unethical and Criminal Conduct at the Department of the Interior.” The witnesses will be announced.