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Sun, Jun 20, 2010

CA Flight Instructors Ready To Lobby For (AB) 48 Exemption

But The Effort Will Be Expensive, And A Win Is Not A Sure Thing

On Monday June 7th, about 50 concerned flight school owners and flight instructors traveled to Sacramento, CA for the Bureau for Private Post-secondary and Vocational Education (BPPE) hearing, and to plead their case for exemption from (AB) 48. While the flight school owners and instructors presented a united front to fight what could be an industry crippling or killing piece of legislation, they were not encouraged by the outcome.

The law would require small flight schools and individual flight instructors to register, pay hefty fees, and comply with restrictive regulations to continue to offer flight instruction in the state of California. It treats individual flight instructors the same as other post-secondary educational organizations, and the conventional wisdom is that it will be devastating to the flight instruction industry in the state.
BPPE's opening comment was that they did not write the bill. It was written and passed by the State legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Their role is to administer and enforce the law. Bureau representatives told the flight instructors that their "concerns and recommendation would be taken under advisement and they would respond to each and every issue raised." But barring a substantial shift, or an exemption from the bureaucracy, on August 1st anyone who has not submitted application and continues to do flight training in the State of California is out of compliance and subject to a $50,000 fine.

The California legislature as well as the BPPE have continued to hold that flight instruction is not exempt from the law, and Jim Brannan, President of Mazzei Flying Service in Fresno, CA and a board member of SAFE, said in a letter to California flight school owners that the national lobbying organizations may not be effective in convincing the California legislature to exempt flight schools. "Their area of expertise is Washington politics and federal rule making. They are doing their best to help us but they are playing catch up," he wrote. "The horse is already out of the barn. This is new territory for them. They are most effective in the proposed rule making process not in changing law."

Brennan urges a continued letter-writing campaign on the part of California flight instructors and schools, which he says have been successful in making the CA legislature aware of the situation. He says NATA has been working to find a Sacramento lobbyist to represent the group's interests and help navigate the legislative process. The suggested strategy is to push for a flight training exemption to be added as an urgency clause to an existing bill and get it to the floor for a vote before the end of August. Brennan says Assemblyman Portantino, the author of (AB) 48, has agreed to seek an urgency clause in (AB) 1889 which is a clean-up bill for (AB) 48, but that the Governor has said he will veto the bill as it now stands, based on a few line items for increased spending in the bill which he has said he will not approve.

Brenan said that along with that effort, the lobbyist they hope to retain is proposing a separate single line item urgency bill with an exemption for flight training if needed. But a lobbying effort requires money for the lobbyist. Brennan says NATA and some of the other groups will be lending financial help, but a California problem needs California support.

Brennan says NATA will contract with the lobbyist on behalf of California flight instructors, and escrow payments to be disbursed by them as required. He is asking California flight schools and instructors to contribute to the effort. He says the lobbying effort will cost approximately $35,000, and that does not guarantee success. But doing nothing, he says "will have catastrophic consequences to our industry." 



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