Alexander: Department of Transportation Should Finish Rules to Ban Cell Phone Calls on Flights

Posted on June 7, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 7, 2018 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that directs the Department of Transportation to finalize regulations to ban cell phone calls on commercial airplanes, which Alexander says “may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but surely it is enshrined in common sense.”

“I fully support the bill, and I especially appreciate the language included in the bill that directs the Secretary of Transportation to finish a rule to prohibit the use of cell phones to make calls during flights on commercial airplanes,” Alexander said. “I would suggest that any senator who opposes banning cell phone conversations on flights be sentenced to sit next to a loud businessman talking to his girlfriend on a six-hour flight between New York and California. Keeping phone conversations off commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but surely it is enshrined in common sense.”

Alexander continued: “This bill also provides critical funding for Tennessee projects and priorities – such as helping build roads and bridges, supporting housing needs and enhancing aviation safety at Jackson, Millington and Smyrna.”

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which includes:

  • Language directing the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a rule prohibiting the use of cell phones for voice calls on flights. The language included in the appropriations bill is similar to bipartisan legislation Alexander introduced with Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in June of 2017. In December, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began considering a rule change that could allow for the use of cell phones for phone conversations on flights.  In April 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai terminated this rulemaking however future chairmen could reopen similar changes.
  • $45 billion for the Federal-aid highway program to support road and bridge construction nationwide.
  • $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, which were formally known as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery “TIGER” grants. The BUILD program awards competitive grants to communities in Tennessee and across the country to fund significant transportation projects, including highways and bridges, public transportation systems, passenger and freight railroads and port infrastructure.
  • $3.36 billion in funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides funding to low and moderate-income communities to support economic development, housing and infrastructure needs in Tennessee and across the country.
  • $168 million for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Contract Tower Program, which will enhance aviation safety at Jackson, Millington and Smyrna.

The Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is consistent with the spending limits included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 approved by Congress, and signed by President Trump, in February. The legislation is now ready to be considered by the full Senate.

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