Congress has officially passed a bill pushing a decision on FAA funding out until July 15. The House of Representatives passed the legislation earlier this month to postpone a decision on FAA Reauthorization proposals; the Senate has now also cleared the extension. The measure was passed by voice vote and now goes to the president’s desk, as Congress leaves for a two week recess. The extension was a necessary move, as current FAA authorization expires on March 31 – and with it all FAA programs and the authority to collect aviation taxes.
With the extension it becomes unclear when Congress will finally decide on FAA Reauthorization proposals – including drone regulations that could be critical to the industry. The Senate Commerce Committee, after heavy debate, passed their proposed FAA Reauthorization Act for full Senate consideration; and the bill should go to the Senate floor for a vote sometime next month – but that is only another stop gap measure. The Senate proposal would only last until September of 2017, a short 15 months from the new July deadline; a timeframe that will put Congress quickly back into the position of readdressing the issue before another deadline.
The House, on the other hand, cleared their proposed FAA Reauthorization package through committee weeks ago. The House proposal – the AIRR Act – would have lasted for another five years; but it was tabled indefinitely as members could not reach agreement on several of the more controversial aspects of the Act, including the privatization of Air Traffic Control.
With the new extension in place, Congress will have until mid-July – the last day in session before the GOP and Democratic presidential conventions, followed by the annual August recess – to agree upon a new FAA funding bill, including drone regulations. After mid-July, neither the House nor Senate will be back in session until after Labor Day.
The timeframe may conflict with the FAA’s release of their final Small UAS Rules, which Deputy Michael Whitaker has said will be completed by June 2016. The Small UAS Rules were required as part of the expiring 2012 FAA Reauthorization package, with a deadline of September 2015. The FAA missed that deadline and since has changed the expected release date several times.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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