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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 10, 1996


I am pleased to sign into law today H.R. 3539, which will improve the security of air travel and carry forward our fight against terrorism.

After the TWA 800 disaster last summer, I asked Vice President Gore and a commission of experts to recommend improvements in our aviation security practices to protect against terrorist or criminal attacks. The Vice President's Commission on Aviation Safety and Security delivered its recommendations to me on September 9 -- 45 days after it began its deliberations -- and this bill complements and builds upon those recommendations.

The bill, for instance, gives the Federal Aviation Administration new authority to require criminal history checks for airline security screeners. Airline passengers will benefit from safety provisions such as the new requirement for airlines to share information on pilot performance to help make better hiring decisions.

The bill also codifies and builds upon my recent decision to give the National Transportation Safety Board responsibility to serve as the primary contact and liaison for families who have lost loved ones in an air disaster. Now, the families will know exactly where to go and whom to speak to in the Federal Government if such a tragedy occurs.

In addition, the bill provides for continuing critically needed funding for airport development work in order to advance the safety, security, and capacity of our Nation's airports. Similarly, it authorizes appropriations for the FAA's operations; research, engineering, and development; and facilities and equipment programs through the end of fiscal 1998. This authorization comes upon the 50th anniversary of the Federal airport grant program.

Moreover, this bill also marks another historic occasion for aviation in America. Almost 4 years ago, my Administration set out to achieve the kinds of new authority, flexibility, and empowerment that the FAA needed to meet the increasing challenges posed by a dynamic air transportation industry. This year, working with the Congress, we achieved FAA personnel and acquisitions reform, helping to pave the way for faster, cheaper, and better air traffic control system modernization.

Nevertheless, we still needed to press for FAA financial reform. Congressional aviation leaders on both sides of the aisle have joined with us to help ensure that as we shrink the Federal Government and constrain the budget, the FAA can obtain the resources so necessary for its vital safety, security, airport development, and air traffic control work. The National Civil Aviation Review Commission, established under H.R. 3539, will create the foundation for a careful analysis of what funding mechanisms will best address the needs of our air transportation system. This is a tremendous step towards a predictable, stable source of future funding for the FAA.

The bill's reform provisions also will help foster an improved FAA-aviation industry partnership through the establishment of a Management Advisory Council to advise the Administrator. They also complement the personnel and acquisitions reform that we achieved earlier by giving the FAA new tools to streamline day-to-day operations and by establishing new goals for speedier agency rulemaking actions.

I am very disappointed that the Congress included a controversial amendment of the Railway Labor Act in this legislation without the benefit of public debate or hearings. I have, however, signed H.R. 3539 into law because the sponsors of the amendment and the Committee of Conference have assured me that section 1223 merely restores the exact legal standards for coverage under the Railway Labor Act as they existed prior to the effective date of the ICC Termination Act of 1995. Neither the amendments to the Railway Labor Act, nor the fact that it has been amended, should be interpreted as affecting coverage under the Railway Labor Act.

The bill that I have signed into law contains many important aviation provisions. This achievement would not have been possible without a strong spirit of bipartisanship as well as a tremendous amount of work on the part of many. The new tools provided the FAA, along with the safety and security enhancements of this legislation, will benefit air travelers for years to come.



October 9, 1996.

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