Airport Alert: House Overwhelming Approves Final FAA Reauthorization Bill

House Overwhelming Approves Final FAA Reauthorization Bill
President Expected to Sign the Bill into Law This Week
May 15, 2024

The House today approved by a vote of 387 to 26 a multi-year bipartisan and bicameral FAA reauthorization bill that will increase AIP funding to $4 billion annually, authorize $200 million annually for resilience and runway safety projects, and help airports transition to fluorine-free firefighting foam. Today’s action clears the way for the president to sign the bill into law before May 17, when the current short-term extension is slated to expire. House passage closes the book on a long reauthorization process that has resulted in numerous airport wins and provided much-needed certainty for the FAA and the aviation industry through fiscal year 2028.
As we reported previously, the Senate late last week passed H.R. 3539, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 after Maryland and Virginia lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to eliminate language in the bill that will expand the number of slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) used procedural maneuvers to prevent lawmakers from offering a long list of aviation-related amendments and non-germane proposals that Senators tried to tack on to the bill.
The process was smoother in the House where rules make it easier for lawmakers in that chamber to clear non-controversial bills. House leaders placed the FAA bill on the suspension calendar which prevented lawmakers from offering amendments or raising points of order. The House passed the FAA bill with limited debate and without making any changes, avoiding the need to send the bill back to the Senate.

During the yesterday’s floor debate, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Sam Graves (R-MO), Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA), Aviation Subcommittee Chair Garret Graves (R-LA), and Raking Member Steve Cohen (D-TN) urged their colleagues to support the multi-year FAA bill. The four leaders also released a video with a similar message – a move that underscores how closely they worked together to help produce a bipartisan bill.
“This bill ensures robust investments in infrastructure for airports of all sizes, with special emphasis placed on the thousands of smaller and general aviation airports that make up the bulk of our Nation’s airport system,” Chair Graves said on the House floor yesterday. “Further, it is a personal point of pride for me that this bill includes the first-ever general aviation title in the FAA reauthorization bill.”
Ranking Member Larsen told his colleagues yesterday that “the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 is a bipartisan, bicameral good faith effort that ensures U.S. leadership in safety, sustainability, innovation, and jobs creation.” He also highlighted how the bill will increase AIP funding to $4 billion annually.
What’s Next?
Since both chambers have approved the FAA reauthorization bill, the legislation now goes to the president for his signature. He is expected to sign the bill into law before the current extension expires on May 17.
What’s In?
Airport Infrastructure Funding: The final bill increases AIP funding from $3.35 billion to $4 billion annually through FY28. It also authorizes $200 million annually for discretionary grants that focus on resilience and runway safety. It also requires the FAA to issue Letters of Intent to small airports.
AIP Formula Changes: The final FAA bill includes a long list of AIP formula changes. For instance, the measure reduces the turnback for large and medium hubs from 75 to 60 percent, and it boosts the minimum entitlement for commercial service airports from $1 million to $1.3 million. 
It creates a sliding scale that ramps up from the $150,000 non-primary entitlement to the $1.3 million minimum primary apportionment. And it helps general aviation airports by increasing the non-primary entitlement from 20 percent to 25 percent of the total amount available for AIP grants. 
PFC Streamlining: The final bill takes steps to streamline the time-consuming PFC application process by allowing airports to “file a notice of their intent to impose a PFC rather than file an application to do so.” But it allows the FAA to bypass the streamlined process for certain projects including those that establish significant policy precedent, raise significant legal issues, and garner significant controversy.
PFAS Replacement Program: The final bill authorizes up to $350 million for a PFAS replacement program for airports. It also requires DOT to reserve up to $30 million of that amount to make grants to Part 139 airports to replace ARFF vehicles.
VALE Program: The final bill also expands the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions program to all commercial airports – not just those in non-attainment or maintenance areas. 
CATEX: The final bill increases the number of FAA activities that are presumed to be covered by categorical exclusions for purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act. It creates a CATEX for airport projects that receive less than $6 million in federal funding and for the rebuilding of facilities damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster.
Land Use: The last FAA bill included a provision designed to give airports more control over non-aeronautical land that they purchased without federal funds. The new reauthorization bill seeks to address airport concerns about how the FAA implemented that section, and it limits the agency’s involvement except to ensure the safe and efficient operation of aircraft and safety of people.
Contract Tower Program: The bill includes several proposals to address staffing challenges and equipment needs at contract towers. For instance, it calls for the Departments of Transportation and Labor to review the outdated Wage Determination for controllers. It also allows contract tower controllers to use ADS-B and other equipment to increase situational awareness. 
Other Small Community Programs: The final bill increases Essential Air Service funding to $350 million by FY28 but includes some EAS reforms. It also increases funding for the Small Community Air Service Development program from $10 million to $15 million annually.
Aviation Workforce Development Programs: The bill authorizes $20 million annually for each of three aviation workforce development programs aimed at supporting the education of pilots, mechanics, and aerospace workers.
Details of the final, long-term FAA reauthorization bill are available in our earlier Airport Alert.  
What’s Out?
What’s not in the FAA bill may be just as important as what’s in the final legislation. Early in the reauthorization process and during recent Senate consideration of the bill, AAAE, ACI-NA, and airports successfully pushed back on several controversial proposals that would have adversely impacted airports including:
Cruz/Security Escorts: The final bill does not contain a controversial proposal from Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would have required TSA and ultimately airports to provide security escorts to lawmakers and other federal VIPs along with their staffers and family members. 
Merkley-Kennedy/Facial Recognition: The final bill does not include a bipartisan proposal from Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and John Kennedy (R-LA) that would have prohibited or severely restricted the TSA from using biometric facial matching technologies at security checkpoints. 
Brown/Ground Transportation: The bill does not include an amendment from Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that called for federal regulation of local fees that airport operators charge ground transportation providers.
Warren-Hawley/Gates: Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) tried unsuccessfully to add a bipartisan amendment that would have required airports to ensure that at least 25 percent of their gates are common use and not more than 50 percent are exclusive use. 
Budd/Transient Ramp Space: The bill does not include a proposal from Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) that would have required airports to provide transient ramp space for GA pilots who don’t want to use FBO services. The final bill also excludes two proposed grant assurances that were knocked out by the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this year – one would have prohibited airports from imposing “unreasonable fees” for transient parking and another would have required chain FBOs to publish their fees.
Good Jobs for Good Airports: Lawmakers also rejected the so-called, “Good Jobs for Good Airports Act.” The labor-backed proposal, which Majority Leader Schumer supported, would have required airlines and concessionaires to pay service workers certain wages and benefits.