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Senators file NTSB reauthorization, reform legislation

Highlights of reforms in the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Reauthorization Act (S. 2202) include closing loopholes that allowed the release of confidential information by other federal agencies obtained during NTSB investigations.

   The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, along with three other committee members, on Dec. 7 introduced legislation to both reauthorize the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and reform the agency to improve transparency.
   The National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization Act (S. 2202), would reauthorize the NTSB at an average level of $113.4 million through fiscal year 2023. It also offers several key reforms to modernize and improve transparency in the safety agency’s investigations, recommendations, and board member discussions.
   Highlights of the reforms in the proposed reauthorization include adding still images to items the NTSB may disclose during the course of an investigation in order to increase transparency to the public about the circumstances of accidents.
   The bill also improves information sharing by closing loopholes that allowed for the release of confidential information by other federal agencies obtained during NTSB investigations. Additionally, it requires the NTSB to better document its data collection and evaluation process underlying safety recommendations. 
   Proponents say the legislation promotes collaboration and communication between NTSB members by allowing a majority of members to meet privately and discuss official business via strong disclosure requirements.
   The NTSB, which investigates all civil aviation accident in the United States and significant railroad, highway, marine and pipeline accidents, was last reauthorized in 2006. The Senate Commerce committee exercises legislative jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the agency.
   U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the Senate Committee chair and ranking member, respectively, released statements in support of S. 2202.
   “After tragic accidents, we ask NTSB to get facts and tell us what went wrong,” Thune said. “This legislation expands the agency’s ability to explain causes and improves the NTSB’s recommendation process so that we can more effectively address our most pressing safety challenges.”
   “The National Transportation Safety Board is the driver of safety improvements for our transportation system – whether it’s investigating accidents or making recommendations to improve our safety laws,” Nelson said. “This bill will expand the board’s tools and give them the resources they need to make sure that major transportation accidents are thoroughly investigated.”

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