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"Bush To Sign Aviation Security Bill"

November 16, 2001

Bush To Sign Aviation Security Bill 

President Bush on Monday will sign the aviation security bill crafted by
House and Senate conferees that will convert the nation's aviation
security screening system into a federal workforce. 

The conference committee report, which calls for a one-year transition
while the Transportation Department hires and trains screeners, was
approved by Congress Friday. The House cleared the report by a vote of
410-9, while the Senate approved it by unanimous consent. 

DOT Secretary Norman Mineta held a press briefing shortly after the
conferees finished their work on Thursday and announced he already has
begun a series of meetings with aviation industry officials "to map out
a structure and schedule of next steps." His first meeting was with
airline officials, he said. "We had a wide-ranging discussion on
security matters, the upcoming holiday travel season and how we must
continue to work together to create a Transportation Security
Administration, which will reflect the high standards the American
traveling public expects and deserves," he said. 

Key provisions of the legislation provide: 

   . DOT will be in charge of the new Transportation Security Agency
that will administer the program. 

   . DOT is required to assume existing contracts between the airlines
and private screeners within 90 days. Within one year, the government
will replace the private screeners with its newly trained federal
workforce of more than 20,000 employees. These new officers will not be
permitted to strike and can be removed for cause. They must be U.S.
citizens, proficient in English and may not have criminal records. 

   . In a compromise nod to the House, which wanted the President to
have the option of using private contractors, after two years in the new
program, local airport authorities may request permission to opt out of
using federal screeners and ask that the federal government contract out
the function to private companies instead. 

   . The bill permits demonstration projects in which five airports may
now private contractors instead of federal employees to screen
passengers. The five airports that will participate in the demonstration
program will vary by hub size. 

   . The measure authorizes, but doesn't appropriate, $1.5 billion to
reimburse airports for their security costs in fiscal years 2002 and
2003. It contains a non-binding "Sense of the Congress" provision that
suggests airports should meet with their concessionaires to discuss rent
adjustments to account for tenant revenue losses. It also suggests that
airlines should meet with airports to discuss "payment of applicable
rates, charges, and fees." 

   . The bill gives all airports flexibility to use Airport Improvement
Program (AIP) and PFC funds to pay for security-related expenses in
fiscal year 2002 only. 

   . The bill will allow airport operators to consult with state or
local law enforcement authorities to conduct a threat assessment of the
airport to determine whether vehicles should be permitted to park within
300 feet of a terminal. If the airport operator determines that
sufficient safeguards are in place and so certifies in writing to DOT,
the department would have a certain amount of time to decide whether it
is necessary for the airport to continue complying with the 300-foot
rule. DOT will have 15 days to respond to non-hubs, 30 days to reply to
small hubs, 60 days to respond to medium hubs, and 120 days to answer
large hubs. If DOT does not explain why the 300-foot rule is necessary
at a specific airport within that time, the requirement at that airport
will expire. 

   . All checked baggage, as well as carry-on luggage, must be screened
for explosives within 60 days of the bill's signing. Only 47 airports
now have explosives detection machines and until the end of 2002, when
all commercial service airports must have the automated devices, baggage
must be screened by other means. 

   . All individuals and vehicles entering secure areas of airports
would have to be screened or searched. 

   . The nation's sky marshal force will be beefed up. DOT is already
receiving applications for entry into the marshal's service. 

   . Part of the cost of the new program would be paid for by passengers
who would pay a $2.50 per flight segment fee, which would be capped at
$10 per roundtrip. Airlines would also pay a portion. 

   . Cockpit doors must be strengthened. Most airlines have already
completed this directive. 

   . Liability protection would be extended to numerous parties facing
lawsuits stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks.

   Post your comments in the CAA Legislative Forum


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