The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, at 10:00 a.m. to consider the following legislative measures and a nomination.
1. S. 2658, The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, Sponsors: Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
2. Nomination for Promotion in the United States Coast Guard
Results of the markup are available here.
Executive Session Details:
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
10:00 a.m. in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253
A live video of the markup and additional information will be available at www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman John Thune
"Good morning. Thanks to everyone for being here today. While we await our quorum, I’d like to say a few words about today’s agenda.
"Our focus today will be Senator Nelson and my “Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016.” This bill benefits Americans who fly and even those who don’t.
"This bipartisan legislation will reauthorize the FAA through fiscal year 2017, address safety and privacy concerns of unmanned aircraft systems – also known as UAS or drones – improve the aircraft certification process, increase consumer protections and aviation access, make critical safety improvements, and address general aviation safety and pilot protection issues.
"While some might be disappointed that this bill did not go further when it comes to air traffic control reforms or increased airport infrastructure funding, I believe this bill is a significant step forward and provides this Committee and the U.S. Senate with an opportunity to make important changes that should not have to wait. These include making our skies safer, promoting responsible drone usage, making economically significant aerospace manufacturing reforms, and adopting beneficial new protections for the flying public.
"I appreciate the efforts of Senator Nelson in reaching agreement to advance this bill and I look forward to working with members of the Committee today as we process amendments. It is my hope that the full Senate will be able to turn to this bill in early April and I then look forward to working with Chairman Shuster of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to find common ground with his innovative proposal.
"The other item for today is a Coast Guard promotion: Rear Admiral Karl Schultz, who has been nominated for promotion to be Vice Admiral. If confirmed he will serve as Atlantic Area Commander for the U.S Coast Guard. Admiral Schultz currently serves as the Director of Operations for U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida. This is a non-controversial promotion and we expect it to move by voice vote today.
"Before I turn to Senator Nelson, I’d like to say a word about an item we have postponed until our next markup, the FCC Reauthorization Act of 2016. As many of you know, the FCC has not been reauthorized in over 25 years, and during that time the technology and communication landscape has changed dramatically. To begin the process of reinstating regular FCC authorizations, I have introduced a bill designed to avoid issues that could lead to partisan fights. This modest bill authorizes the FCC for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, examines the agency’s regulatory fee structure, and avoids disruption in Universal Service funding.
"Due to the substantial debate we are expecting on the FAA Reauthorization today, Senator Nelson and I have agreed to delay consideration of this measure until our next markup in April. During the next few weeks, we are committed to working together with all of you to try to build bipartisan consensus for a package that will hopefully enable the FCC reauthorization to pass the Senate by unanimous consent. "Finally, and not to steal Senator Udall’s thunder on this point, but I would note that today is Brain Injury Awareness Day. Senator Udall has been a tireless advocate on the issue of traumatic brain injury and concussions, and I look forward to working with him on his Youth Sports Concussion Act to make some modest improvements with an eye towards processing this legislation in the coming months."
"Today’s markup might be a little longer than normal, so I again want to thank everyone for their patience and their help in maintaining a quorum as we process amendments. Ranking Member Nelson, would you like to make any opening remarks?"
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today's markup. I'll try to keep my comments somewhat brief.
I want to thank you for working with me to reach a general consensus on the FAA Reauthorization Act that's been months in the works.
In drafting this legislation, we started with the premise that we would work in a bipartisan fashion and focus on areas of agreement while refraining from controversial proposals such as the plan to privatize air traffic control that has stalled the House FAA bill.
Mr. Chairman, while I believe we have a good bill before us – I recognize that this is a robust process and I welcome the amendments we’re going to consider today.
That said, I want to make one thing clear – there’s been continuing chatter coming from the House that there somehow will be “a change of hearts and minds” when it comes to this side of the aisle supporting ATC reform. That’s not happening.
While the bill is far from perfect, it includes many new consumer protections for airline passengers, critical improvements in drone safety, and reforms to boost U.S. aircraft manufacturing and exports.
When it comes to the growing list of airline fees and charges, consumers who feel “nickeled and dimed” deserve greater transparency and some relief. This bill makes some progress on that front.
Last summer, I released a report that found airlines failed to adequately disclose extra fees and add-on costs charged to the flying public. This legislation builds on recommendations from that report.
Among other things, it requires fee refunds for lost or delayed baggage, new standardized disclosure of fees for consumers, and increased protections for disabled passengers.
This legislation will also bolster efforts to keep drones away from airports and other sensitive areas. This was especially important to me given several incidents involving drones near Florida airports.
Last year alone, the FAA recorded over 1,000 drone sightings near airports and aircraft. The bottom line is that we need to do everything we can to protect the flying public from the threat posed by drones.
This bill creates a pilot program to test various technologies to keep drones away from airports and requires the FAA to work with NASA to test and develop a drone traffic management system.
Last, but certainly not least, this legislation also provides reforms in the FAA certification process that will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and – most importantly – create good jobs for Americans.
To conclude my remarks, I want to briefly mention the nomination of Karl Shultz to be Vice Admiral of U.S. Coast Guard.
If confirmed, he is slated to serve as Commander of the Atlantic Area, replacing Vice Admiral Lee, who is retiring. Rear Admiral Shultz has provided excellent service in his current assignment as the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Director of Operations and is most deserving of this critical position. I thank him for his service to the American people.
With that Mr. Chairman, let's get on with the markup.