DC Update: Travel Ban Back in the News; House and Senate Mark Up FAA Reauthorization Bills

Despite the buzz surrounding the healthcare bill, DC was still working on issues this week that may affect the remote-production industry.

Most notably, the Trump administration threatened to expand its laptop ban to all U.S.-bound flights from anywhere in the world for airlines that fail to take additional security measures against concealed explosives. The restrictions would also apply to checked luggage in an effort to avoid the concerns over storing lithium batteries inside planes’ cargo holds. Under the new policy, airlines are able to escape the ban if they adopt additional screening procedures. The U.S. has not announced when the new restrictions would take effect but said some airlines could adopt the enhanced security measures as early as this summer. DC Update will continue following this issue.

On Tuesday, the House Transportation Committee marked up the House version of a FAA reauthorization bill. The hearing lasted almost 10 hours, with the bill being approved almost entirely along party lines. The marked up version includes Chairman Bill Shuster’s proposal to separate air traffic control from the FAA, and it is likely it will be brought to the floor for debate in July.

On Wednesday, the National Academies of Sciences panel concluded that the method of FMCSA’s Safety Measure System – the system it uses to single out carriers it deems are at a greater risk of being in a crash – is “defensible” and “not overly biased against various types of carriers.” However, the report also concluded that the determinations made should be based more on empirically validated data, rather than solely on “subject-matter expertise.” The American Trucking Association reacted to the study’s release by saying its findings “substantiated many of the concerns” the industry has with SMS. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the top Democrat on the House Transportation highways and transit subcommittee, now wants a hearing on the report.

On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up its FAA reauthorization bill. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) offered an amendment to make cargo airlines follow the same crew rest and duty rules as passenger airline pilots. Logistics giant FedEx is already playing defense against the amendment. Stay tuned for updates on whether it is included in the final version.

Thursday also marked the 94 day countdown until DOT appropriations run out. FAA reauthorization expires in 94 days, and highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,190 days.

With the healthcare vote postponed until next week, lawmakers will be heading home Thursday for the holiday weekend and district work period. Stay tuned for next week’s DC Update.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!