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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization: An Overview of Legislative Action in the 112th Congress


Bart Elias, Coordinator
Specialist in Aviation Policy

Reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs has been an issue of considerable interest during the first session of the 112th Congress. The previous FAA authorization, Vision 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act (P.L. 108-176, hereinafter referred to as “Vision 100”) expired at the end of FY2007. Attempts to enact a successor law failed in the 110th and 111th Congresses. As a result, aviation trust fund revenue collections and aviation program authority have continued under a series of short-term extensions. Most recently, the Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-30), enacted on September 16, 2011, extends existing authorizations through January 31, 2012.

The House and Senate have passed separate versions of multiyear FAA reauthorization legislation (see S. 223 and H.R. 658), and the Senate has requested a conference to resolve the differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed bills. Whereas the Senate bill only covers FY2010 and FY2011, the House bill would authorize FAA programs through FY2014. For FY2011, the only year the two bills overlap, the House-passed total authorization level for FAA is $2,082 million less than that specified by the Senate. Moreover, the House-passed bill calls for further reductions in authorized FAA funding for FY2012 through FY2014. While these levels reflect broader government-wide efforts to reduce deficit spending, they could pose considerable challenges to ongoing air traffic modernization efforts, and affect FAA’s ability to address its future needs for controllers and technical specialists to operate and maintain the nation’s air traffic system. The Senate bill proposes an increase in jet fuel tax for general aviation and a new jet fuel surcharge for fractionally owned aircraft, while the House bill does not include any changes to existing aviation taxes and fees. Neither bill includes proposals to increase the cap on passenger facility charges, and the House bill does not include the controversial provision passed by the House in the 111th Congress to bring non-aviation employees of express carriers under the National Labor Relations Act instead of the Railway Labor Act.

Key issues addressed in the FAA reauthorization bills include provisions intended to improve the management of and accelerate progress on the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen); address FAA workforce and facility consolidation issues; improve the safety of air ambulance operations; improve runway safety; increase oversight of air carriers and foreign repair stations; integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system; and address aircraft and airport noise and emissions. While there are many similarities in language between the House-passed and Senate-passed bills, particularly with respect to major issues affecting FAA, several important differences remain to be reconciled. Provisions that may be of particular interest during this process include 


• significant differences in authorized funding levels and aviation fuel taxes between House and Senate versions; 
          a labor provision in the House bill that would overturn recent regulations that make it easier for certain employees covered under the Railway Labor Act to unionize;
 
          provisions regarding the allocation of takeoff and departure slots at Reagan National Airport; and
 
          provisions in the House bill to end the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which subsidizes air carrier service to small and isolated communities.


Date of Report: September 29, 2011
Number of Pages: 52
Order Number: R41798
Price: $29.95

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Revised Federal Standards for Traffic Signs: Frequently Asked Questions


David Randall Peterman
Analyst in Transportation Policy

In 2007, the Federal Highway Administration of the Department of Transportation (DOT) completed a rulemaking to revise the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) standard for night-time visibility (retroreflectivity) of street signs. The new standard set a minimum measured value for the retroreflectivity of street signs and required state and local agencies to adopt a method to maintain the retroreflectivity of their signs. Communities are required to comply with this standard by 2018.

In 2010, several press reports conflated this new standard with a 2009 MUTCD revised street sign standard—one having to do with the lettering style of street sign names, which had no compliance deadline—and became controversial, as the press reports made it appear that the federal government was requiring communities to replace street signs just to change their lettering style. This issue has come to the attention of Congress. In 2011 the DOT proposed to amend the target compliance date for the retroreflectivity standard (and several other MUTCD standards) to alleviate possible financial burdens the deadlines may create for highway agencies. Agencies will still be required to comply with the retroreflectivity standard. This report answers a number of questions that are frequently asked about this issue.



Date of Report: September 2
2, 2011
Number of Pages:
9
Order Number: R
41601
Price: $19.95

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Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.