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.