WASHINGTON, DC – Several priorities championed by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) were included in legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that won Senate passage today. The legislation (H.R. 636) reauthorizes the FAA for 18 months and provides increased funding levels for fiscal year 2017. The Booker provisions will improve air travel for passengers, help disadvantaged women and minority-owned businesses compete for aviation-related projects, and help promote the safe commercial use of drones.
"The passage of this bill will enable important investments in our aviation infrastructure and help maintain America’s role as a global leader in aviation, safety, and new technologies," said Sen. Booker, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over aviation in the United States. "I pushed hard for the inclusion of provisions that will directly benefit those who live, work, and travel in New Jersey. These amendments will help create greater opportunities for women and minority owned small businesses to compete for airport construction projects, protect the rights and prioritize the needs of travelers with disabilities, and advance the safe commercial use of drone technology.”
Last week, Senator Booker passed an amendment to the bill that would allow greater participation among women and minority-owned small businesses for airport construction contracting. "I applaud Senator Booker's tireless efforts on behalf of women and minority owned disadvantaged business enterprises here in New Jersey and across the country. The passage of this critical amendment marks an important step in eliminating artificial barriers that unjustifiably inhibit small businesses from competing on a level playing field with regard to federal contracting," said Janus Holder, Board Member of the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) and President & CEO of EJE Travel Retail based in Springfield, NJ with operations throughout Newark Liberty Intl Airport.
In March, when the FAA reauthorization bill was being considered by the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Booker successfully advocated for the inclusion of a number of provisionsincluding improvements for persons with disabilities traveling through our nation's commercial air system and advancements for UAS technology. These provisions were included in the final FAA legislation that passed the Senate today.
Booker floor amendments included in the final FAA reauthorization bill passed today include:
· Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (Amendment #3620)– This Booker-led amendment added to the final FAA bill by a Senate voice vote updates the definition of a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) to be on par with small business definition. This amendment is supported by the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Black Women in Construction, the National Supplier Development Council, the National Association of Minority Contractors, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, and the Airport Minority Advisory Council.
· Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Critical Infrastructure (Amendment #3492)– This bipartisan amendment, led by Booker and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) was added to the final bill by voice vote. This amendment directs FAA to provide guidelines for the safe operation of UAS for purposes of protecting and maintaining critical infrastructure. These activities include inspection of pipelines and power lines, maintenance, and patrolling of property lines in compliance with federal regulations and others. The amendments has support from the Small UAV Coalition, National Rural Electric Cooperatives, American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute, CTIA – the Wireless Association, American Wind Energy Association, American Gas Association, American Public Gas Association, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, American Petroleum Institute, Association of Oil Pipelines, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, 3DR (drone manufacturing company).
· Extension of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Sites (Amendment #3500)– This bipartisan amendment, cosponsored by Sens. Booker, Hoeven (R-ND), Warner (D-VA) and others was added to the final bill by a Senate voice vote, extends authority for the UAS test sites for five years to 2022. Without this amendment, the test sites would have only been authorized through 2017. The test sites are a critical way for advancing research and development around UAS and furthering U.S. leadership in this space. Cape May, New Jersey is part of a UAS test site and this amendment will help provide stability and long term certainty.
Additional Booker Provisions Included in Commerce Committee consideration of FAA Legislation:
· Improving accessibility for persons with disabilities- provisions were included to aid persons with disabilities traveling through our nation's commercial air system. Specifically, the legislation instructs the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study of airport accessibility best practices for individuals with disabilities, requiring the GAO to prepare a report for Congress on air carrier training policies related to assistance for persons with disabilities, and establish an advisory committee for the air travel needs of passengers with disabilities. Obtaining this data will help fuel effective policies that enhance the traveling experience for persons with disabilities, and remove barriers to access.
· Strengthening the Role of the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City and the UAS Test Site in Cape May, NJ– The FAA reauthorization bill includes provisions that create a greater role for designated UAS test sites and the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, NJ. The technical center plays a critical role in advancing aviation safety and R&D and the UAS test site provides critical testing facilities to collect data and inform policies surrounding UAS integration into the national airspace. Senator Booker previously introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, which included similar provisions and would help advance UAS in the United States.
· Boosting the Sharing Economy– This Booker-led amendment added to the bill during consideration in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last month would assess safety issues and regulatory barriers to "flight sharing," the concept of allowing general aviation pilots to share flights and costs with fellow travelers. This amendment was co-sponsored by Senator Daines (R-MT).
· Advancing NextGen Technology– This amendment added to the bill during committee consideration last month would require performance standards for NextGen, helping to promote this essential safety technology. This amendment was co-sponsored by Senator Daines (R-MT).