Senator Markey Applauds Senate Committee Passage of His Air Travel Task Force, Bioeconomy Research Legislation

The following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey, who was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. He is a Democrat.

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WASHINGTON DC – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) this week applauded the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s bipartisan passage of two of his bills.

The first bill, the Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act, is an amended version of Senator Markey and Senator Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) previously introduced Restoring Safety in the Skies Act.

This legislation instructs the Departments of Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to establish a joint task force – advised by aviation, security and public health experts – that will develop recommended requirements, plans, and guidelines to ensure safe and healthy air travel during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

“The coronavirus has had an enormous impact on every person and industry in the United States, but air travel has been uniquely affected by the current pandemic,” said Senator Markey. “That’s why experts across all of the relevant agencies and groups must come together to address the immediate challenges to safety in our skies, as well as start planning for the ‘new normal’ after the coronavirus subsides. I applaud the Commerce Committee for advancing my legislation, and I will keep fighting to make sure Congress creates this essential task force.”

“Unanimous bipartisan approval of this important legislation is a welcome first step toward rebuilding consumer confidence in air travel,” said Senator Blumenthal. “A task force created by our bill will tackle the unprecedented aviation challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This measure should provide a path to restoring consumer trust in air travel with sensible rules for health safety. I am fighting for swift Senate passage.”

“AFA applauds the introduction and markup of the ‘Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act of 2020’,” said Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO. “This bill provides a coordinated federal response to address the health and financial crisis aviation faces. The Joint Task Force will address health and safety issues for passengers and workers during pandemics, like requiring all passengers and frontline workers in aviation to wear masks, and build a plan to recover once the virus is contained. The Task Force will help ensure the U.S. aviation industry is ready for recovery. Thank you Senators Markey, Blumenthal and the members of the Senate Commerce Committee for addressing this critical need.”

“This is a critical point for airport operators and we appreciate the speed in which the Senate has moved on Senator Markey’s bill to create a federal task force,” said Lisa Wieland, CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority. “Consistency across U.S. airports will be essential to restoring public confidence in the overall system.”

“The airport industry appreciates the Senate Commerce Committee coming together and acting so quickly on this important bill, spearheaded by Senators Markey and Blumenthal, to establish a task force to examine health, safety, and security measures for air travel,” said Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO of Airports Council International – North America. “Airports around the country continue to work diligently to provide for the health and safety of the traveling public and airport workers. As we look to the future of air travel and prepare for the return of more travelers, a task force of federal agencies and aviation industry partners will be very helpful in developing meaningful guidelines and recommendations to address the challenging operational and infrastructure issues related to COVID-19 recovery and pandemic planning.” 

“We applaud Senators Markey and Blumenthal for their leadership to ensure we have a coordinated, government – industry approach to protecting the health and safety of passengers and crews in this time of a global pandemic,” said Captain Joe DePete, President of the Air Line Pilots Association, International. “Airline pilots are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, transporting health care workers and critical medical supplies – and we will be on the frontlines of helping our industry recover financially from this crisis. However, the first step to ensuring an economic turnaround is to have uniform, mandatory guidelines for airlines to follow when it comes to airplane cleaning and disinfecting, employee notification of exposure to COVOD-19 and the use of masks for passengers and crew. Hoping for voluntary compliance with these public health standards will not cut it because hope is not a strategy – nor does it offer an appropriate flight path for recovery.”

“Covid-19 is an unprecedented crisis for the aviation industry, and I applaud the Senate Commerce Committee’s bipartisan actions today,” said Julie Hedrick, National President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. “The leadership of Senator Markey and Senator Blumenthal, along with Chairman Wicker, were instrumental in getting this critical bill moved promptly out of Committee. We need uniform transportation safety policies to combat this pandemic safely and effectively, and we are hopeful that this task force is a step in the right direction. Senator Markey’s willingness to work across the aisle was a critical factor in moving this legislation forward.”

“AMFA strongly supports the creation of a task force to deal with the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on aviation and wants to thank Senators Markey and Blumenthal for this important legislation and their leadership on this crucial topic,” said Bret Oestreich, National Director of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. “By bringing together aviation experts, including the aircraft mechanic labor voice, the industry will have a more complete view of the future for air travel.”

The second bill, the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act, is an amended version of bipartisan legislation previously introduced with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). As scientists and researchers rush to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, this legislation will strengthen biotechnology and life sciences research by establishing an initiative to advance research and development, advance biomanufacturing, develop the future bioeconomy workforce, and support research in ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and societal issues. The legislation will also establish a committee to coordinate research in engineering biology across the federal agencies.

“Biotechnology and life sciences innovation drives our bioeconomy, and this legislation will ensure that the United States remains a leader in engineering biology research and innovation, supporting the hundreds of thousands of workers in the health, energy, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors that contribute to this field,” said Senator Markey. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how important it is to coordinate science research and stay at the forefront of health technology, whether it is detecting new viruses or rapidly developing vaccines. I applaud the Commerce Committee for passing this important legislation and am committed to ensuring it gets signed into law.”

“Microbiologists play an essential role in a strong bioeconomy, which is why the American Society for Microbiology supports efforts like the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2020,” Stefano Bertuzzi, Ph.D., MPH, American Society of Microbiology’s CEO. “These efforts seek to harness the potential for profound and everlasting positive impact on human and animal health, air, soil and water quality, food production, safety, and national security. The bioeconomy is made stronger when federal agencies and stakeholders work together to advance research, technology development, and infrastructure to support the rapid pace of scientific discovery.

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