Young says bill
speeds project reviews

The bill, which the House passed on Oct. 30 by a slim 211-207 vote, is important to the construction industry because it authorizes $14.2 billion for the federal Airport Improvement Program, which finances construction grants, and a separate $2 billion for installing baggage-screening equipment in airports.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) said, "We need this legislation to pass," and noted that it increases funding for the airport grant program and also expedites environmental reviews of airfield construction projects.


The bill would be the successor to AIR-21--the 2000 Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century. AIR-21 expired on Sept. 30 and as a result, the Federal Aviation Administration has been unable to issue new airport construction grants since then.

House and Senate Republicans had agreed on a new aviation bill in July, but Democrats refused to sign the conference report the GOP lawmakers had produced on the measure. Democrats objected to a provision allowing FAA to contract out air traffic controller positions at 69 towers around the country.

Lautenberg opposes
new version of bill

Under the revised bill, GOP lawmakers stripped out the provisions covering privatization of those towers, a congressional source says. But Lautenberg objected to the new version, which still requires Senate approval. The New Jersey Democrat says he will launch a filibuster when the measure reaches the Senate floor, says Janice Laurente, his deputy press secretary.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association also is opposed to the latest change. The union's president, John Carr, said, "It is a shame that after much arm-twisting, some Republicans reversed their earlier vote to specifically prohibit privatization of our skies."

The AIP funding from the July bill doesn't change under the latest version. The grant program would receive $3.4 billion in 2004, up $47 million from the 2003 level. AIP then would rise by $100 million in each of the next three years, hitting $3.7 billion in 2007.

he House narrowly has approved a four-year, $60-billion aviation funding bill, after deleting provisions that had stalled the legislation for weeks. But the changes don't satisfy one Senate critic, Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who says he will filibuster the revised bill when it gets to the Senate floor.