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"U.S. Airport Groups to Split Lobbying Efforts"

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Airport Groups to Split Lobbying Efforts
By Tom Smith
Airport Business

RENO - As the aviation industry prepares for a long legislative struggle to
secure the renewal of the funding for the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA), the two airport industry trade groups are going their separate ways
in lobbying Congress.

The Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) and the American
Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) will no longer have a joint
legislative affairs unit. ACI-NA will have its own legislative affairs staff
supplemented with outside lobbyists, said Steve Grossman, the 2006 ACI-NA
chairman and the director of aviation for the Port of Oakland.

The group is looking to hire a new senior staff member to head the
legislative affairs office, said Greg Principato, the ACI-NA president. The
new legislative director may then in turn hire one or two additional
staffers. A request for a proposal will be issued shortly to the Washington
lobbying establishment. Principato hopes to the have the staff and outside
assistance in place by the end of the year.

The separation is not be looked upon as a divorce, he said, but as an
"augmentation" of the current efforts. It builds on what will be the
ACI-NA's strategy to ensure that passage of the new FAA authorization meets
the needs of the airports - the force multiplier effect.

The trade group will be reaching out beyond the aviation community to secure
the support of trade groups representing state and local governments and
business associations. Airport board members will be encouraged to galvanize
their local community leaders, suppliers and passengers to urge their local
congressmen to support airports when the debate on the reauthorization
begins next year, he said.

ACI-NA will continue to work with AAAE on the reauthorization and other
common legislative projects, Principato said.

Prior to the merger of the two legislative units in 2000, Grossman said the
two groups worked closely on a number of issues with each devoting more
manpower to the effort. Back in the 1990s, he added, the two airport groups
agreed on "98.9 percent of the issues."

The legislation that structures the funding for the FAA - and with it the
trust fund that underwrites airport construction - expires on Sept. 30,
2007. The administration is now expected to submit its proposals to Congress
next February or March. At that point, the administration will be one year
behind its original timetable.

Because new and potentially controversial funding formulas, including
possible user fees, are anticipated to be part of the proposal, the Bush
Administration had wanted to get its plan on the table early this year so
that a consensus and compromise could be reached by the September 2007
deadline. A similar debate to reauthorize the funding for highway
construction lasted until nearly a year after its deadline. Transportation
officials were hoping to avoid that debate debacle.

As part of the information campaign, James May, president of the Air
Transport Association (ATA), and Edward Bolen, president of the National
Business Aviation Association (NBAA), will debate their respective positions
on user fees on Wednesday before a general session of the ACI-NA members.

In its position papers for the next FAA reauthorization, ACI-NA has not
taken a position on the user fee issue. Instead, it does call for more
funding for the Airport Improvement Program and greater flexibility on the
use of the funds, hiking the cap on Passenger Facility Charges and
reclassifying airport bonds so that bond holders are not faced with
alternative minimum tax payments.

A compromise will be needed to secure legislation favorable to the entire
industry, Principato said. While the environment in Washington works against
compromises, he said the industry needs to work towards one.

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