The Long Road To Reauthorization

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An amendment that some said was stalling progress of the long-awaited FAA reauthorization bill has been withdrawn. Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster's amendment passed the House by a narrow margin on April 1 and would have required the FAA to conduct studies and analyze the possible impact of rulemaking with "a mandate that regulations are based on sound science; an assessment of its economic impact; and a reasoned cost benefit analysis," Shuster said in announcing the amendment. He also said the amendment wasn't aimed at any rule in particular but opponents suggested it was targeted at new crew rest rules proposed by the FAA last year in response to the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo in 2009, in which crew fatigue was implicated as a factor. Shuster said Friday his amendment was getting in the way of the broader goal of achieving stable funding for the FAA. "It is apparent that the inclusion of my amendment in the FAA bill may slow down conference negotiations and delay the adoption of this critical legislation to dramatically reform and streamline Federal Aviation Administration programs, modernize the nation's aviation system, and spark much needed job-creation through aviation infrastructure improvements," he said. Shuster's move removes one potential roadblock but FAA reauthorization still faces significant legislative hurdles.

Next week the House and Senate will consider a 19th 90-day funding extension for the agency, but because it's a continuation of the reauthorization that expired in 2007, there's no new funding for high-priority programs like NextGen. However, it's another amendment only tenuously related to aviation that is causing the most problems with passage of the bill. The amendment, which is in the House version of the bill and not the Senate's, would make it easier for employees to organize. Also, the Senate version of the bill is a two-year measure worth $34.5 billion while the House wants a four-year $59 billion package.