SENATORS MARK UP AVIATION SECURITY BILL
The Senate Commerce Committee has sent a bill to the Senate floor for debate that includes a plan to measure the effectiveness of allowing trusted, or 'known' shippers, to haul freight in the bellies of passenger planes.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, co-sponsor of the Aviation Security Improvement Act, said strengthening the “known shipper” program is essential to keeping the air-freight and airline industries afloat, adding that 22 percent of all domestic freight moves in the bellies of passenger planes. Hutchison was commenting at the committee's executive session Thursday to mark up the bill.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who co-authored the air-freight section (Title 2 of the bill) with Hutchison, supported language calling on the Transportation Security Administration to run a pilot test to determine the effectiveness of the known shipper program. TSA would then submit its findings to Congress. Snowe said the legislation needs to be passed as quickly as possible to maintain the effectiveness of the known-shipper program.
“Time is not on our side,” Snowe said. “We need to close the glaring loopholes that exist.”
Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., introduced the bill Tuesday to the Senate. The aviation bill calls for the TSA to conduct background checks on cargo handlers, and random inspections of air cargo shippers and their facilities. It also calls for random TSA inspections of foreign and domestic indirect air carriers.
A Senate aide predicted the bill would pass a vote on the Senate floor, and that soon Senate staff would consult members of the House Transportation Committee in the meantime. While the aviation bill was security-based, the Senate committee intended to keep it separate from homeland security legislation, which is undergoing debate in Congress.