Today, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously passed its FAA Reauthorization bill, sending the bill to the full Senate
The robust aviation policy package includes several priorities championed by Senator Reverend Warnock, including efforts to strengthen control tower operators’ training and retention, strengthen consumer protection for flyers, and update critical safety regulations
Senator Reverend Warnock also secured key provisions of his AIRWAYS Act in the final legislation, which will bolster workforce development in our nation’s aviation industry
Additionally, Senator Reverend Warnock secured provisions in the legislation to increase annual revenue for Clayton County through aviation fuel taxes
FAA reauthorization occurs every five years; the bill is the main legislative vehicle for the nation’s aviation programs, policies
Senator Reverend Warnock: “This bill is a victory for Georgia’s aviation economy and workers in every corner of our state”
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), a key member of the Senate Commerce committee which oversees the nation’s transportation policy, supported the unanimous passage of the bipartisan FAA Reauthorization bill, formally titled the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023 out of committee. The FAA Reauthorization is the main legislative vehicle for the nation’s aviation programs and policies and is considered by Congress every five years.
The reauthorization legislation includes several provisions supported or championed by Senator Warnock that will strengthen Georgia’s aviation economy, invest in growing the aviation workforce, and enhance the infrastructure, efficiency, and traveler experience in our state’s airports, including new efforts to protect consumers, resources to increase air traffic controller training and retention, new investments to modernize the nation’s airports, aviation fuel tax policy changes that will bring additional revenue to Clayton County, new policies that will expand the industry’s clean energy footprint and public health measures, and federal authorization for new flights that will support Georgia-based airliner Delta’s 30,000 employees. Additionally, last year Senator Warnock introduced the AIRWAYS Act, his top aviation priority, and was able to secure key provisions of this workforce development legislation in the FAA Reauthorization bill to help ensure students from all zip codes have the opportunity to work in the aviation industry, which will significantly bolster the aviation workforce amid an industry worker shortage. The bill will now go to the floor for consideration by the full Senate.
“This bill is a victory for Georgia’s aviation economy and workers in every corner of our state, and I am proud to have secured key provisions in this package that will bolster our aviation workforce by recruiting and training students from all zip codes for careers in the aviation industry,” said Senator Reverend Warnock.“This is a crucial step towards strengthening our workforce pipeline and fortifying the future of a critical sector of our state and national economy. I remain committed to advancing our aviation industry and addressing the challenges and opportunities it presents, including helping Georgians and Americans access all the educational opportunities and good-paying jobs that the aviation industry has to offer.”
Senator Reverend Warnock added: “From the pilots to the mechanics, technicians, and more, our aviation workers keep our communities connected
, and our loved ones never too far from home. This bill is an example of the good we can accomplish when we come together to center the people in policymaking.”
See below for a detailed summary of all the Georgia priorities Senator Warnock secured in the FAA Reauthorization Bill:
- Aviation Workforce Development: The committee’s reauthorization bill authorizes $350 million for workforce development in the aviation industry amid a nationwide shortage of workers. Thanks to Senator Warnock’s amendment, an additional $150 million was added to the original $200 million allocated for workforce development. The bill broadly expands opportunities for educational institutions to receive grant funds to help establish a more resilient and representative workforce pipeline. Educational institutions can use these funds to establish new, or expand existing programs, provide scholarships, train teachers, purchase equipment, and much more. Separately, the bill also includes provisions designed to expand the air traffic control workforce which will improve the safety and efficiency of airspace operations.
- Investing in Under-represented Communities: Senator Warnock successfully secured two amendments to support Georgians under-represented in the aviation industry, such as women, people of color, and individuals in economically disadvantaged geographic areas and rural communities, including through funding for minority-serving institutions like HBCUs. The first permits the Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider under-represented applicants when awarding federal dollars. The second directs DOT to create a national plan for aviation workforce development that includes recommendations on how FAA is reaching under-represented communities. These amendments follow Senator Warnock’s successful efforts to secure a provision in the Fiscal Year 2024 government funding package that would improve the FAA’s workforce programs by requiring the Department of Transportation to report on the effectiveness of the FAA’s workforce development grant programs in creating a resilient, and next-generation aviation workforce.
- Consumer Protections: The bill includes an assortment of consumer protection provisions co-sponsored by Senator Warnock, including those broadly related to passenger rights as well as unrealistic and deceptive scheduling, refund requirements and transparency, customer service, increased penalties for violations, a dedicated office of consumer protection, and regulations on family seating. Senator Warnock has been a proud proponent of these robust consumer protections.
- Address Air Traffic Control Shortage: The legislation provides FAA with the resources to increase their air traffic control training capacity and retain current air traffic controllers.
- Increased Airport Funding: The bill includes $20 billion for the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) which provides federal grants-in-aid for projects such as new runways and taxiways; runway lengthening, rehabilitation, and repair; and noise mitigation near airports. This is an increase of more than $3 billion over the last reauthorization bill and the first increase in funding since 2012.
- Increased Revenue for Clayton County: The bill includes key elements of the Senator’s State and Local General Sales Tax Protection Act, which will allow Clayton County to once again begin collecting taxes on aviation fuel at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This is expected to lead to an additional $9 million in annual revenue for the County, which has struggled to fund its education system and various infrastructure projects since the FAA changed its rule on aviation fuel taxes in 2014.
- Modernizing Aviation Certification: Senator Warnock’s bipartisan FAA Advancements Act improves the FAA’s ability to safely, effectively, and efficiently certify new aircraft aviation technology; the bill was adopted into the Committee’s reauthorization text.
- Investing in Public Health and the Clean Energy Economy: The bill includes key bipartisan provisions to authorize $350,000,000 to reimburse airports for the replacement of PFAS-based firefighting foam and related infrastructure and directs a progress report on the national transition to PFAS-free firefighting foam at airports. Current scientific research suggests that exposure to high levels of certain PFAS may lead to adverse health outcomes, including decreased fertility, developmental effects, and increased risk of some cancers. Senator Warnock was an original co-sponsor of the PFAS-Free Firefighting Foam Transition Reporting Act.
- This legislation also reauthorizes the FAA’s Aviation Sustainability Center (ASCENT), a program which collaborates with research entities like Georgia Tech to assist in the development, qualification, and certification of the use of aviation fuel from alternative and renewable energy sources, such as SAF.
- Relief for Growing Airports: The legislation includes a provision co-sponsored by Senator Warnock that allows airports transitioning from small-hub to medium-hub status to retain small-hub funding levels for a period of five years. This allows transitioning airports to retain a level of funding certainty while they wait for passenger revenues to increase sufficiently to make up for the reduction in funding that accompanies a transition to medium-hub. This provision will benefit Georgia airports like Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, which is in the midst of such a transition.
- Federal Assistance for Administrative Costs: Georgia is a block grant state, meaning the Georgia Department of Transportation is responsible for administering AIP funds for small and non-primary airports in the state. This legislation authorizes the FAA to cover the administrative costs for states that have Block Grant Programs for administering AIP funds, specifically for projects funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- Supporting Delta’s 30,000 Georgia employees. Senator Warnock negotiated additional flights in and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). This will support Delta’s over 30,000 Georgian employees and lower ticket costs by increasing competition that will potentially add additional flights to Georgia airports. Last year, Senator Warnock introduced the bipartisan DCA Act to increase slot capacity out of DCA.
Senator Warnock is a longtime champion for Georgia’s aviation priorities. In June 2023, the Senator visited Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport to observe progress on federally funded projects at the site, including construction on a security checkpoint expansion. In April 2023, Senator Warnock met with local aviation workers and leaders at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Chamblee, Georgia to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing folks on the frontlines of the aviation industry. Last year, Senator Warnock announced a series of federal investments in Georgia’s airports and aviation economy, including a July announcement of $11 million for infrastructure upgrades at airports across Georgia, an announcement in June of $17 million for Georgia’s airports, and an announcement in May of $12 million. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, championed by Senator Warnock, included roughly $619 million for Georgia’s airports to improve efficiency, upgrade terminals, and more.