Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the House-Senate conference agreement to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (H.R. 302), including provisions authored by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) to support veterans and to curb human trafficking. The bill also includes critical funding for our nation’s aviation system and helps address airplane noise in our community. It is expected to be passed by the Senate and signed into law in the coming days.

“I am pleased that the final FAA conference agreement supports the critical role our local airports play in Ventura County’s economy and includes several provisions that I spearheaded, including my bill to help more veterans succeed in the job market, several provisions to address air travel barriers for veterans and other individuals with disabilities, and a provision I authored to help stop human trafficking,” said Congresswoman Brownley.

“Many veterans with disabilities, especially those who require the use of a wheelchair, face significant hurdles when traveling and sometimes have their specially configured wheelchairs damaged in transit. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we eliminate these barriers to make air travel more accessible to disabled veterans, as well as to other individuals with disabilities. We can also do more to ensure that our airlines and airports are not conduits for human trafficking, which is why I authored legislation requiring training for frontline airline employees on how to properly report suspected human trafficking to law enforcement.”

Improving Travel for Veterans and Other Individuals With Disabilities

As Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee, Brownley worked with veterans organizations and spearheaded House efforts to include three provisions in the FAA bill that will improve travel for veterans and other individuals with disabilities. Specifically, the final bill establishes a Select Subcommittee on air travel needs of passengers with disabilities; requires a study on airport accessibility best practices for individuals with disabilities and a review of air carrier and airport training policies; and requires a study on feasibility of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems.

Brownley has been working with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and stakeholders to ensure these provisions, and others that will improve travel for individuals with disabilities, were included in the final legislation.

Helping Veterans Succeed in the Job Market

The final conference agreement also incorporates Brownley’s bill, the Federal Aviation Administration Veterans’ Preference Protection Act (H.R. 3007), to help more veterans succeed in the job market after their service. Brownley’s bill will ensure veterans’ preference in hiring decisions at FAA, including giving veterans specific legal protection to enforce those rights. Brownley’s legislation, which she originally added during the Committee mark-up last year, will allow veterans to better compete for vacancies and give preference to military and veterans’ spouses.

Preventing Human Trafficking

Air travel is sadly a major pathway for the illegal trafficking of children and other victims of forced labor and the sex trade. Brownley’s legislation, incorporated into the final bill, will help to curb this insidious crime and save lives by requiring more airline personnel to be trained to identify possible victims of human trafficking and to ensure that those frontline employees, like ticket counter agents and gate agents, know how to properly report suspected trafficking to law enforcement.

Safely Integrating UAVs into Airspace and Better Protecting Privacy

The bill also includes amendments that the Congresswoman co-authored with Congressman Jason Lewis (R-MN) to ensure the FAA’s various pilot programs will better inform FAA and Congressional decision-making on the future of UAV integration into the national airspace.

Southern California has long been the home of pioneers in aerospace development, and the integration of UAVs into our national airspace offers even greater opportunities for small businesses and jobs growth throughout the region.

UAVs have also proven helpful for firefighters, such as during the Thomas Fire, when the California National Guard used them for aerial surveillance and to help direct resources to areas of critical need.

The final bill will ensure that state and local stakeholders will have a greater say in how UAVs are used in their own communities, and it will better protect personal privacy and the private property rights of individuals.

Supporting Ventura County’s Airports, Protecting Consumers, and Addressing Airplane Noise

Overall, the FAA bill included a number of critical provisions to better protect aviation consumers, improve safety and security, and improve our national airspace.  

The bill provides FAA with the long-term funding it needs to carry out its safety mission and ensures the United States will continue to be a world leader in aviation. The bill requires FAA to issue regulations on minimum seat size, improves rest time for flight attendants, requires new aircraft to be built with secondary cockpit barriers, prohibits airlines from involuntarily removing passengers from flights after they’ve cleared the boarding gate, and requires airlines to better communicate with customers during mass flight cancellations and groundings.

The final conference agreement also includes language on airport and aviation security, provisions to reduce airplane noise, and the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which Brownley has supported. Brownley recently authored an op-ed on the importance of this legislation, especially for helping to prevent and to mitigate the negative impacts of wildfires like the recent Thomas Fire.

The legislative text has is available here. A summary of highlights of the package is available here.

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