I was honored to attend the presentation of Senate Bill 335, presented by Senator Maldonado, in Sacramento in early April. The bill would require the appropriation of $15 million annually, 2005 to 2009, from the General Fund to the Division of Aeronautics for the purpose of funding grants for airport security, safety, and capacity needs?. I was a fill in for one of the California Pilot Associations Director-at-Large who had to work (remember we are all volunteers). The California Pilots Association felt it was important enough to make other arrangements which landed me the replacement task. Previous to this, I had never attended any kind of legislature hearing. The California Pilots Association was there to provide support, and to help send the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee a message that SB 335 is an important bill. I attended as a ?witness in support of the bill, along with AOPA?s California Regional Representative John L. Pfeifer, and Mark Bautista, Salinas Airport Manager and Airport Executive Association President.
It was both an interesting and frustrating experience, which confirmed what I already knew; I was not cut out to be a professional politician. Senator Maldonado wasn?t able to completely present the bill before 3-4 of his peers (Senator Maldonado is also part of this committee) started asking pointed questions. They were confused by the wording and stopped at ?security?, immediately jumping to 9/11 the federal government. The question was ?why isn?t the federal government picking up this cost?? Through the careful explanation of John and Mark (I couldn?t testify as only two witnesses were allowed this day, however, I did give my name, organization I represented, and advised we were in support) they were able to turn the discussion around to the operational budget issues that all airports are concerned with.
The bill went forward sans funding as the committee suggested that funding should be taken up in the Budget Committee. Based on the questions that John and Mark, as well as Senator Maldonado, had to field, it was clear to me that this committee did not understand the importance of this bill. I sat there listening and wondered why? The easiest reaction would be to place the blame on the Senators in the committee. After all, they are politicians right? Not so fast. It occurred to me that California?s pilot/aviation advocate population of has not done its job. It is our job to educate our Senators, and make sure they understand our (the voters) wishes. We are talking about $338 MILLION which aviation generates in taxes in California (source: Caltrans Division of Aeronautics) which goes into the dreaded ?General Fund?. It appeared that some of the Senators on the committee didn?t care who generated the money, and what we as the users, want done with it. They only know the state is in deep financial trouble. It is time for all of us communicate to our senator how we feel about the funds we generate. We have some ideas on how to help get the message across, so stay tuned.
Newsletter/Web Site Editor
California Pilots Association