By Ryan Riesinger, President, Airport Association of North Dakota and Executive Director, Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority
2021 was a busy one for the Airport Association of North Dakota (AAND). We kicked off the year with the North Dakota State Legislative Session, participated in the successful Fly-ND Conference virtually and the first annual Fly-ND Summerfest in Washburn, ND, and closed out the year with a win in the Special Session. I would like to highlight a few of these accomplishments.
The AAND strategy going into the 2021 Legislative Session was to take a team approach and split up the responsibilities of tracking and testifying by bill. This worked well and resulted in the following for our state’s airports:
Bills that PASSED
Legacy Fund Infrastructure Loan Program and Bank of North Dakota Revolving Loan Fund: this bill will give airport authorities two additional financing tools for larger capital projects.
Transportation Network Companies (TNCs): in this bill, airports will now be allowed to enter into agreements with TNCs at their airports.
Airline Taxation Issue: this bill closed a loophole in the North Dakota Century Code, so that an airline must now pay a central assessed tax if they make a regularly scheduled landing.
State Interoperability Radio Network: this bill allows airports to receive a discount for radios purchased on the new state radio system.
Aeronautics Bill: we successfully supported the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission bill.
Bill that was successfully DEFEATED
Eminent Domain: this bill was defeated, which would have imposed numerous penalties on airports that use eminent domain to acquire land and would have restricted zoning changes.
These were all significant accomplishments during the Session and I would like to thank all of the individuals who assisted in these efforts. A special thanks goes to Odney, our legislative consultant team.
In March, the 2021 Fly-ND Conference was held virtually for the first time. It ran very smoothly and was a good opportunity to have speakers participate from other parts of the country. In August, we were able to get together in person at the first annual Fly-ND Summerfest in Washburn, ND. It included a golf tournament, with proceeds going to support youth aviation scholarships, and a wonderful dinner and presentation to honor 2021 North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame inductee, Bill Beeks. Feedback on the event was very positive and there are plans to keep it going annually and move around the state.
With fall came the North Dakota Legislative Special Session to determine how to distribute up to $1 billion of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. This was a unique process, with Senate and House Appropriations Committees holding hearings and receiving testimony on nearly 200 proposals totaling $10 billion in requests. A coordinated effort with the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission and strong assistance from Odney resulted in securing $5 million in funding for state airport grants.
Yes, 2021 was busy! However, it was not without its challenges. Mask mandates, potential vaccine mandates, workforce shortages, and air service concerns are on-going topics as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. But North Dakota airports are strong and brighter days are ahead.
We look forward to seeing everyone in person at the 2022 Fly-ND Conference in Fargo, ND, at the Delta Hotel from March 6-8. Please note that when you register online for the conference, you will have an opportunity to sponsor the Jim Lawler Scholarship Endowment Fund. This is an awesome way to honor Jim and will establish a perpetual endowment in his memory. Those who sponsor will be recognized at the conference.
Here’s to an incredible 2022! Keep ‘em flying.
Ryan Riesinger, President, Airport Association of North Dakota and Executive Director, Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority