Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bill to Privatize FAA Heads to Full House Air Traffic Control Would Be Handled by a Nonprofit

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bill to Privatize FAA Heads to Full House Air Traffic Control Would Be Handled by a Nonprofit

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Blair, parried a barrage of attacks from the left - and a few from the right - on his plan to privatize the Federal Airline Administration and overhaul flight regulations.

His sweeping Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act includes numerous regulatory changes. Lawmakers Thursday inserted provisions that would prohibit passengers from using cell phones and electronic cigarettes on commercial planes but rejected proposals that might have given passengers more leg room on flights.

On a 32-26 vote, the amended bill passed out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It now heads to the full House, where a vote is expected by month's end.

"This bill provides the transformational reform necessary to modernize our antiquated [air traffic control] system, ensure the system is safe and efficient, and ensure the U.S. leads the world in aviation," said Mr. Shuster, who chairs the committee.

In a marathon session Thursday, the transportation panel took up 70 amendments - some aimed at strengthening Mr. Shuster's bill and others that would have effectively dismantled it.

One key piece of the sweeping bill creates a nonprofit corporation to perform air traffic control functions now handled by the FAA. Mr. Shuster says the change would create stability because the new entity would be unaffected by government furloughs, funding sequesters and short-term authorizations that inhibit long-range planning and modernization.

But committee member Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said those congressionally inflicted problems are no reason to give away $50 billion in public assets to a board that is not accountable to the public.

Rep. Pete DeFazio of Oregon, the committee's ranking Democrat, offered an alternative that was rejected along party lines. It would have moved the aviation trust fund off budget to protect it from the effects of sequesters and government shutdowns.

Political rivals question Mr. Shuster's impartiality since he began dating Shelley Rubino, a lobbyist for Airlines for America, which represents the largest airlines, including United and Delta. …

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