Addressing an aviation and aerospace industry that supports thousands of jobs and contributes millions of dollars to the Virginia economy, state policymakers introduced more than 20 aviation-related bills in the 2018 Virginia legislative session.
Many of the bills aimed to support the growth of the aviation and aerospace industry and mirrored suggestions by Virginia’s Joint Commission on Technology and Science in its 2017 report, “Aerospace in Virginia: An Opportunity for Economic Growth.” The report recommended the state aggressively search for opportunities to position itself as a leader in the industry and work to support, strengthen and market its existing aerospace assets.
Included in the bills that passed both the Senate and House chambers and have now gone to the governor’s desk for signing, are policies dealing with taxes on military and fighter aircraft; the ability of law enforcement to use unmanned aircraft without a warrant in certain situations; making permanent a prohibition on a local government’s ability to regulate unmanned aircraft; and funding measures that address Virginia’s ability to comply with the FAA’s REAL ID requirements:
- Tax exemptions for certain fighter and attack jets — SB 213 (Cosgrove) and HB 799 (Stolle) expand the definition of public aircraft to include fighter or attack jets owned or leased by a private entity, provided the aircraft are used in service to the military. Currently, public aircraft are not subject to sales and use tax, and clarifying that fighter and military jets that are owned or leased by private entities will better ensure that aircraft used in service to the military are treated uniformly for tax purposes.
- Workgroup on unmanned aircraft — SB 307 (Cosgrove) directs the Department of Aviation to convene a work group, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration and other responsible agencies, to explore issues related to unmanned aircraft system activities, including integration into Virginia’s air space.
- Unmanned aircraft and law enforcement — SB 508 (Carrico) and HB 1482 (Thomas) allow unmanned aircraft to be deployed without a warrant to survey the scene of an accident for the purpose of crash reconstruction where a law enforcement officer is required to make a report of such accident because of personal injury, death, or property damage of $1,500 or more.
- Prohibition on local regulation of unmanned aircraft — SB 526 (Obenshain) and HB 638 (Collins) make permanent a prohibition on a political subdivision’s ability to regulate the use of privately owned unmanned aircraft systems. The bills also establish that any person who knowingly and intentionally causes an unmanned aircraft system to enter the property of another and come within 50 feet of a dwelling house to coerce, intimidate, or harass another person or, who after having been given notice to desist, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill also puts in place provisions related to the use of UAS by individuals required to register with the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry.
- Funding for REAL ID — To comply with the REAL ID Act and ensure Virginia’s driver’s licenses are compliant for domestic air travel, funding was sought through the state budget to provide for the administration/issuance of these new licenses by Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Individuals in Virginia will need the new ID beginning October 1, 2020, in order to board a domestic flight using a driver’s license. The legislature was unable to finalize a budget before adjournment, and a special session has been scheduled for April 11, 2018 to discuss the budget.