FAA Reauthorization Passes Senate

By a vote of 75 to 20, the U.S. Senate passed the bill that re-authorizes the Federal Aviation Administration for four years. Before the vote, Democrat Mark Begich spoke of the importance of money for runway improvements, upgrades to air traffic control systems and the vital nature of air travel in Alaska where he said, more than 80 percent of communities are off the road system.

“This conference report makes significant investments in the essential air service program, otherwise known as EAS, which serves rural or isolated areas. Forty-four communities in Alaska will continue to receive minimal level of scheduled passenger service. Sensible reforms that will exclude communities in the Lower 48 with fewer than 10 passengers per day,” Begich said.

Senator Murkowski joined Begich in supporting the bill.

The legislation passed the house last week. Today’s passage by the Senate is significant. Begich says since 2003 there have been 23 short term extensions for the FAA. The reauthorization runs through 2015 and allocates $15.9 billion annually for all sorts of runway and airport improvements, construction projects and modernization of the air traffic control system.

Begich denounced controversial rules that were added to the legislation that affects the ability of unions to organize. Now 50 percent of a company’s employees would have to want a vote on union representation rather than 35 percent. Begich says the language had no place in the bill, but he said it was time to move on and get the reauthorization passed.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori