By Yasmina Platt,
AOPA’s Central Southwest Regional Manager
The 84th Texas Legislature is in full swing and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Accociation (AOPA), along with other aviation stakeholders, is working on several initiatives to promote and protect general aviation in the state. We are tracking about 50 bills in Texas. Below are some of the ones we are most interested in, including the bill numbers and a brief summary. If you are interested in seeing the progress of a specific bill search http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/.
- HB 946 / SB 505 – Marking/Registration of Meteorological Evaluation Towers (MET Towers): MET towers are temporary structures used to measure wind speed and direction to identify locations for future wind turbines. They pose a continuing hazard to low-altitude aviation operations, such as agricultural, helicopter flights, and search and rescue. These towers are below the 200-foot Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) threshold for evaluation, are very difficult to see from the air, and are usually erected overnight and without notice. Both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FAA have published documentation encouraging the states to mark and register these towers. These bills follow the research and recommendations of both of those agencies.
- HB 1458 / SB 798 – Tax Exemption on the Maintenance of General Aviation Aircraft: Tax exemptions for general aviation maintenance help to increase aviation activity, generate jobs and raise revenue for maintenance businesses. Only operators using aircraft as a certificated carrier of persons/cargo, for flight training, or for agricultural use are currently exempt from the sales and use tax (including both parts and labor) when repairing, remodeling, or maintaining aircraft. This bill would include all general aviation aircraft and activities. Texas aircraft are often flown to other states which do not apply sales taxes to obtain cheaper maintenance. This means local companies are losing business.
- HB 1605 – TxDOT Airport Directories: TxDOT-Aviation prints the Texas Airport Directory every few years for use by the public and the aviation community. The directories include information about all public use airports (approximately 400) in the state. By state law TxDOT charges $6 per airport directory but, as a state resource, it should be available to the public for free from public facilities, the Texas highway maps. This bill would offer the directories for free. TxDOT-Aviation will be printing an aeronautical chart this year and they could be distributing both resources for free at the same time.
- HB 3287 / SB 1396 – Texas Sales/Use Tax: In 2014, the Texas Comptroller attempted to change the tax rules and standards that impact the ownership and operation of aircraft in Texas. The proposed rule tried to change when operators could qualify for the “sale for resale” exemption through aircraft leasing. This legislation would recognize the leasing of aircraft as a legitimate transaction eligible for resale exemption, allowing aircraft to be brought into the state for completions without being subject to tax. The bills also would address out of state use and related party transactions and exempt fractional programs from sales/use tax.
- HB 3077 / SB 1493 – Emergency Medical Air Transportation Account: These bills would create the above mentioned account and the commissioner of State Health Services could use the appropriated funding to fund and reimburse emergency medical air transportation.
- HB 3901 / SB 1133 – Repossession of Aircraft: A repossession agent may file a petition for a writ of assistance for the repossession of aircraft in a justice court.
You can get more updates about these and other developments in our region, by visiting http://www.aopa.org/Advocacy/Airports-and-State-Advocacy.aspx or following me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/AOPACentralSW or @AOPACentralSW).