Rockefeller proposes
6-month bill

With the current aviation funding bill, AIR-21, slated to expire Sept. 30, key Senate Democrats are proposing a six-month extension of that law, with some changes. But Republican leaders on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee are opposed to the idea.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the aviation subcommittee said he planned to introduce a bill on Sept. 16 to renew Federal Aviation Administration programs for six months. If no new bill is enacted by the end of September, FAA would be unable to approve new Airport Improvement Program grants. AIP funds construction and security work.

Lott opposes extension

Rockefeller has the support of Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina, the senior Democrat on the full Commerce committee, and Frank Lautenberg

But Commerce Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) isn't in favor of a short extension. "We don't need it," says McCain. "There's too many things that need to be done to help the FAA, particularly in the post-9/11 world."

Aviation subcommittee Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.) also says he's opposed to an extension.

The House and Senate each had passed differing versions of a multi-year replacement for AIR-21, the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act of 2000. In July, Republican negotiators from each chamber agreed on a compromise bill, but no Democratic lawmakers signed that conference agreement.


Democrats objected to a provision that would let FAA contract out more air traffic controller provisions.That provision is still issue holding up passage of a multi-year aviation bill.

Lott says the Republicans' conference package "is a four-year, $60-billion bill that has a lot of important changes and improvements in aviation. The aviation industry [is] very, very important part of our economy and [Democrats are] trying to kill it over one small provision, that allows, but does not require for some contract [air-traffic control] towers.

(Photos courtesy of Office of Sen. Jay Rockefeller
and Office of Sen. Trent Lott)