by Bill Bill Blake
AOPA Great Lakes Regional Representative
I am very pleased to report that the states of Iowa and Missouri have been added to the AOPA Great Lakes Region, bringing the total to seven (7) states. I look forward to working with Iowa Aeronautics Director Michelle Mc Enany, and Missouri Aeronautics Director Joe Pestka, as well as the various aviation organizations in those states, on issues affecting general aviation. The states in my region now include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
You may remember that in the last column I reported that although Illinois had serious budget issues, it was continuing to fund its capital improvement program for airports. However, a problem has developed. A state appellate court recently ruled that the legislation funding the capital construction projects for the state was invalid. The Illinois Supreme Court has stayed any action on the appellate court’s ruling pending review. In the meantime, new bills have been introduced to correct the short comings cited in the appellate court’s ruling. Hopefully, these actions will allow the airport construction season to proceed as planned. Other bills introduced in Illinois that would have a positive impact on general aviation include:
HB 167 & SB 1709, which make it a crime to shine laser light into a cockpit. Although, we have not had reports from members being distracted by laser lights being flashed into the cockpit, it is good to provide some proactive protection. I believe there is discussion about similar legislation at the national level.
SB 1049, which provides some protection from hazardous structures being built too close to privately-owned, restricted landing areas.
SB 1726, which prohibits the construction of windmills at locations that would obstruct a restricted landing area.
HB 1090, which would exempt aircraft from the state use tax if the aircraft was not eligible for a certificate of airworthiness from the FAA, because it is not in a condition for safe operations.
In late January, I attended the aviation legislative day hosted by the Aviation Association of Indiana. This annual event begins in the morning with committee meetings and a discussion about possible legislation that might impact aviation. The major concern this year was convincing the legislature that it was important to provide enough funding to allow the state to return to providing a 2 ½% matching share for funding grants from the federal airport improvement program. I suggested that perhaps a legislative aviation caucus should be formed similar to what has happened in the U.S. Congress. The idea being, that we would help caucus members stay up-to-date on aviation issues and that the caucus would work to promote and protect aviation in Indiana. We are now trying to identify legislators from both parties who would have an interest in serving on the caucus. If you know of Indiana legislators who have an interest in aviation, please drop me a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lunch for legislators that followed gave us an opportunity to explain the importance of the federal grant program to Indiana airports and the state’s economy. I think most legislators in attendance got the message.
As you may remember from my previous column, during the closing weeks of the previous session, a bill was introduced in Michigan to dedicate part of the state sales tax on aviation fuel and aviation products to the state airports fund. The bill was not passed before adjournment. However, HB 4025 was recently introduced in the current session providing for a similar dedication of sales tax.
AOPA supports this bill. We believe that some of the sales tax on aviation should be dedicated to support aviation facilities. We believe that such a dedication is particularly fair since the percentage-based sales tax being charged to buyers of aviation products and fuel has dramatically increased in recent years due to the rapidly increasing fuel prices and product prices. HB 4021, which dedicates some of the revenue from state-owned oil and gas leases to the airports fund, has also been introduced in the current legislative session.
Although by the time you read this column, Michigan House Resolution 29 proclaiming February 27 to March 5 “Aviation Week” in Michigan, I think it is important to note that the legislature does have some understanding of the importance of aviation to the state.
Over the next few weeks I will be meeting with those individuals actively engaged in addressing aviation issues in Iowa and Missouri. I plan to attend the Missouri Pilots Association (MPA) organized “Aviation Day” at the Missouri state capitol on March 29th and have been asked to speak at the Missouri State Aviation Council (MoSAC) and Missouri Airport Managers Association (MAMA) Annual Spring Conference, April 13-15. I also plan to attend the Iowa Aviation Conference, April 20-21. I will be reporting on those events, as well as other events, which traditionally take place in the region during the spring, in my next column.
Speaking of spring, it is here! It is time to go flying (and take a friend).
For more information on these and other issues facing general aviation, please visit www.aopa.org.