News & Information You’ll Want To Know In Ohio, Michigan, Indiana,
Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota & South Dakota
by Bryan Budds
Manager, AOPA Great Lakes Region
As you all know, the first half of the year is always a busy time in the statehouses across the region and 2016 has been no exception. A number of pieces of legislation have been introduced and passed that I believe show lawmakers’ interest in promoting general aviation as a critical part of their individual state’s aviation system. I wanted to briefly highlight some of these pieces of legislation.
Michigan has been a hotbed of aviation legislation over the past several years, and the culmination of efforts by many individuals and organizations have been clearly observed. Late last year, Senators Wayne Schmidt and Geoff Hansen spearheaded a package of bills that was approved by the legislature and Governor Snyder. This collection of bills redirected aviation fuel tax revenue collected from general aviation aircraft operators from the general fund to the state aeronautics fund for use in airport infrastructure investment. This establishment of a dedicated revenue stream provides an additional $5 million to the State of Michigan to provide direct grants to local airports and secure additional FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants. Also in Michigan, Representative Triston Cole led an effort to reform the state’s tall structure permitting process to require marking and registration of nearly invisible meteorological evaluation towers that can be constructed in a matter of hours and pose a significant threat to agricultural operators in the state.
I believe that this level of attention to aviation issues in Lansing laid the groundwork for the revitalization of the Michigan Aviation Caucus, which also held its kick off meeting in February 2016, following the passage of these aviation reforms. Co-chairs Sen. Wayne Schmidt and Rep. Jim Tedder met with nearly 20 legislative colleagues and industry representatives to discuss ways to continue the impressive trajectory of aviation in the state of Michigan.
In nearby Ohio, AOPA is supporting a bill sponsored by Representative Rick Perales to include an image of the “Wright Flyer” on the Great Seal of Ohio. Supporting this bill, which attempts to make only a minor change to state law, allows AOPA and a host of other aviation and aerospace organizations to highlight the incredible contributions by aviation to the state of Ohio. In AOPA’s written testimony on the legislation, we were able to describe the more than $13 billion annual economic impact by aviation to the state, and the importance of recognizing Ohio’s aviation roots.
AOPA is also working with allies in Columbus to loosen Ohio’s restrictions on seaplane operations. Current state law essentially bans seaplane operations on any state-owned lakes and this prohibition in a state that promotes itself as the birthplace of aviation has not been sitting well with statelawmakers. AOPA and a group of dedicated Ohio-based seaplane pilots have laid the groundwork for reform in 2016.
Across the plains, Governor Jack Dalrymple proclaimed March 2016 to be aviation month in North Dakota. He noted the diverse nature of aviation’s contribution in technological advancement, commercial transport, and agricultural support contributing to an economic impact of $3.6 billion annually.
While these are seemingly small gestures, I can assure you simply having general aviation on the minds and in the mouths of policymakers in state capitals has a tangible impact on AOPA and others’ ability to bringing about change to important issues in each state. Stay tuned to this column in future issues of Midwest Flyer Magazine and twitter.com/aopagreatlakes for more!