VAI’s Government Affairs team provides updates on legislative developments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, and New York.

It’s been a very busy year so far for the VAI Government Affairs team. Our comprehensive monitoring and advocacy efforts across all 50 states have enabled us to track and engage with significant legislative developments at both the state and federal levels. Below are some recent examples of state issues; for a review of the recent FAA reauthorization bill, please see “2024 FAA Reauthorization Impact Summary” on p. 10.

California

In February, California State Sen. Caroline Menjivar (D) introduced Senate Bill (S.B.) 1193, which aimed to restrict the use, sale, or distribution of leaded aviation gas (avgas) by airport operators and aviation retail establishments. The goal for the legislation was to mitigate the public health and environmental risks linked to the use of leaded avgas at California airports.

The bill’s proposed timeline would end the use or availability of leaded avgas in 60% of California’s airports by January 2026. This deviated from the FAA’s established goal of eliminating the use of leaded aviation fuels in piston-engine aircraft by 2030.
VAI held extensive discussions with the California Department of Transportation and Senate Transporta­tion Committee members, and Chuck Street, VAI Western US regional representative, provided testimony during the bill’s initial hearing alongside Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) representatives.

The California Senate Transportation Committee amended the bill to exempt those airport operators and aviation retail establishments that have been determined by their county board of supervisors to have no access to commercially available unleaded aviation replacement fuel. Airport operators and aviation retail establishments would be permitted to submit written requests to their county board of supervisors for such determinations. The bill was also amended to exempt airports operating under federal grant assurances until those grant assurances expire. Following approval and amendments in the Transportation Committee, the bill proceeded to the Appropriations Committee, where it remained as this issue went to press.

While VAI supports the transition to unleaded fuels, the piston-engine rotorcraft community currently lacks a leaded-fuel alternative that has been approved by the FAA. Adhering to the FAA’s 2030 timeline allows for certification of a safe alternative, as well as the establishment of adequate infrastructure and supply chains to facilitate a smooth and efficient transition. VAI is a proud member of the Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) initiative, the government–industry partnership to end the use of leaded aviation fuel by 2030, and remains committed to a safe and responsible approach to this important goal.

Colorado

In February, Colorado State Rep. Kyle Brown (D) introduced House Bill (H.B.) 1235. Initially, the bill set conditions for state aviation grants in densely populated residential areas, mandating a plan to phase out leaded gasoline, enact sound-mitigation measures, and comply with aviation easements or contracts by January 2026.

After extensive industry feedback and testimony, the bill underwent several amendments. Notably, it now seeks to convey explicit authority in the existing state aviation grant program to fund infrastructure enabling the sale of unleaded aviation gasoline and to subsidize purchases of such fuel at airports with significant general aviation activity. The bill designates a portion of grants annually to accelerate the transition from leaded to unleaded avgas, prioritizing airports with substantial general aviation traffic in urban and suburban areas.

Additionally, the bill would allocate funds for airport sound-­monitoring devices, education on sound prevention or mitigation, and future on-airport charging infrastructure for electric aircraft. Grants would be prohibited for airports in densely populated residential areas unless they comply with specified conditions, including adopting a phase-out plan for leaded aviation gasoline sales by 2030 and implementing sound-abatement measures.

Moreover, H.B.1235 would mandate the appointment of two new members to the Colorado Aeronautical Board, prioritizing individuals who are familiar with airport infrastructure and who reside in communities significantly impacted by airport traffic and, particularly, sound or lead emissions. These amendments aim to ensure a smoother transition to cleaner aviation fuels while addressing community concerns.

As of late May, when this issue went to press, the bill had gained approval from both the House and the Senate. Colorado’s legislative session ended on May 8, leaving Gov. Jared Polis until Jun. 7 to either sign or veto the bill. Failure to sign by Jun. 7 would automatically enact the bill into law.

Hawaii

In January, the Hawaii State Senate introduced Senate Bill (S.B.) 2747, a bill that proposed insurmountable insurance rates on air tour operators. While the bill originally introduced in January required liability coverage of at least $1 million per person per incident, as amended, the bill required air tour operators to maintain aircraft liability insurance coverage of $20 million per person per incident.

From the beginning, VAI took proactive steps to oppose S.B.2747, collaborating with industry stakeholders including its Hawaii members, AOPA, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA).

In addition, VAI engaged in constructive dialogue with Hawaii state legislators to address the vertical aviation industry’s concerns about the bill. These included the impracticality of obtaining the specified insurance coverage at a reasonable cost and the risk of violating FAA grant assurances, potentially jeopardizing Hawaii’s federal funding for airport improvement programs.
At the end of the session, the bill did not move to conference, which means the bill was stopped.

New York

In April, the New York City (NYC) Council reviewed multiple resolutions that call upon local, state, and federal authorities to restrict or prohibit helicopter operations within the city. Suggested actions include urging the FAA to ban charter and tourist flights and limiting operations at city heliports to electric-­powered rotorcraft.

Additionally, there are proposals to amend New York’s 1998 Hudson River Park Act to prohibit heliport use and establish a sound tax. Another resolution seeks to install sound-level meters in areas prone to helicopter sound for data collection and reporting by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

VAI opposes legislation that would ban nonessential helicopter operations as well as any proposals to restrict the use of New York City’s heliport system.

Katia Veraza, VAI manager of government affairs and regional relations, testified before the NYC Council on Apr. 16 on behalf of our members, highlighting the importance of our industry. She emphasized that the proposed measures would adversely affect small businesses, essential operations, and infrastructure crucial to the city and the region. It’s also worth noting that the city’s efforts to regulate helicopter operations based on sound concerns conflict with the FAA’s sole authority to regulate aviation operations.

VAI State Legislative Priorities

As you can see from the above examples, VAI has been monitoring and engaging with state legislation to protect the interests of our members. By keeping a close eye on legislative activities, we’re able to proactively address proposed laws that could negatively impact the industry. At the same time, we use our monitoring efforts to support measures and initiatives that benefit our members and the industry. This helps us contribute to well-­informed policies and create a positive regulatory environment for growth.

As VAI’s influence expands, we’re unlocking new opportunities and forming partnerships with stakeholders who share our values and priorities. We’re asking states to enact legislation that focuses on enhancing infrastructure, zoning, workforce development, advanced air mobility planning, tax incentives, and funding for state aviation departments while maintaining the federal government’s authority in aviation regulation.

Please reach out to [email protected] if you believe there is any legislative activity in your state or region that could affect the industry. Your input helps VAI remain proactive in safeguarding your interests. Together, we can make a real difference in shaping policies that support our industry’s growth and prosperity.

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Cade Clark

Cade Clark

VAI’s chief government affairs officer, Cade Clark has directed association advocacy programs for over 20 years. Growing up, he worked at an FBO where Cade learned to fly, washed planes, got in the mechanics’ way, idolized the old-timers and their stories, and deepened his love for all things general aviation.