FAA Bill Back In Play

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After three years on the legislative backburner, it looks like the FAA reauthorization bill is catching fire. Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., will introduce a new bill next week that he says is identical to a bill introduced last year (PDF) that was passed 93-0 by the Senate. The House never did pass it. The proposed bill includes funding for NextGen and sets an accelerated schedule for its deployment under the auspices of the newly created senior position in the FAA to keep NextGen on track. The bill authorizes spending of $34.5 billion over two years and has general support in the aviation world, but politics is not that cut and dried.

Among its provisions is the controversial "passenger bill of rights" that prevents airlines from being able to hold passengers in aircraft for longer than three hours. The Department of Transportation has a similar regulation that allows it to fine airlines for long ramp delays, but this would enshrine it as law. That provision is expected to get a rough ride in the House and could derail the Senate's speedy approach to the bill.