OKLAHOMA CITY — The legislative session has concluded, and the aviation and aerospace industry in Oklahoma benefited from several bills ensuring the viability of the state’s second largest industry.
Over 20 bills were filed directly or indirectly affecting the aviation community.
Among those filed were measures that would sunset exemptions to the aircraft excise tax, prohibit drones from flying over agriculture lands, provide airport immunity, require a private-use airport setback and provide tax deductions for aerospace companies that donate engine and equipment for educational purposes.
A measure to create an aerospace training center through the State Board of Career and Technology Education was also introduced and heard in committee.
These measures did not pass this session but are eligible to be reconsidered next session.
Three aviation bills were signed into law, the most significant being HB 2118 authored by Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, and Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa.
The new law requires that underlying federal processes administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) must be complied with before a wind developer constructs a wind turbine in Oklahoma.
Notice of the proposed constructing of a turbine and proof these processes were complied with must be submitted to both the Corporation Commission and Aeronautics Commission. The bill passed with an emergency clause, placing it into effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.
Victor Bird, director of Aeronautics, said, “HB 2118 was crafted to ensure that the military had the airspace it needed to fulfill the mission of training new pilots and that the wind energy industry had the opportunity to continue its robust growth in Oklahoma. The two can mutually coexist in Oklahoma.”
Grayson Ardies, deputy director for the Aeronautics Commission, who had a significant role in drafting the bill, stated “military aviation (our three Air Force bases, two Air Guard units, and aviation components of the Army National Guard and at Ft. Sill) is extremely important to the state of Oklahoma. As we learned from the recent ‘Oklahoma Aviation & Aerospace Economic Study,’ completed by the Aeronautics Commission, the aerospace and aviation industry is the second largest industry in the state responsible for $43.7 billion in annual economic impact.
“We must ensure that Oklahoma’s Air Force bases and other military installations have the military airspace they need to fulfill their training and readiness missions.”
Another important piece of legislation benefiting aviation was HB 2518 which extended the maximum length of the primary term of a contract, lease or other arrangement that a municipality may enter into regarding facilities or services at an airport it owns or controls, from 40 years to 50 years.
This was a request bill from the Oklahoma City Airport Trust.
The measure was authored by Rep. Tammy West, R-Oklaoma City, and Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City.
Bird stated, “Airports are economic engines. From the same economic impact study noted above, we learned that the economic impact of the 108 public airports in the Oklahoma Airport System (OAS) is $10.6 billion. ... These general aviation airports are premier Regional Business airports in the OAS. Economic activity is generated by aerospace businesses such as these located on the airports, and businesses that use the airports like Quik Trip at Tulsa International, Devon at Will Rogers, Michelin at Ardmore Municipal, and Seaboard Farms at Guymon.”
The Oklahoma Department of Commerce Aerospace Commerce Economic Services (ACES) Program also received a two-fold increase in their appropriation from the legislature to $1 million.
Created by Sen. Rosino during the 2018 session, the program has a mission to build partnerships with aerospace companies, agencies and academia to grow the state’s aerospace industry.
To further embolden the aviation and aerospace community, a newly formed AERO Caucus was also active throughout the session meeting monthly to discuss legislation and other issues within the sector.
The Caucus hosted an airmen appreciation assembly with over 200 airmen from bases across the state during the aviation advocacy day in March and toured Tinker Air Force Base during their May meeting.