Monday, November 5, 2001
Council Supports Senate Bill for Federalization of Airport Screeners
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The City Council Friday voiced its overwhelming support for proposed U.S. legislation to federalize baggage and passenger screeners, departing from a presidential preference to keep the thousands of workers privately employed.
The council unanimously adopted a resolution to support the Senate version of the airline security bill, which passed without opposition three weeks ago. The measure would create a 28,000-person federal workforce to screen baggage.
On Thursday the House narrowly rejected federalization of the screeners, choosing instead to keep private guards to do screening under federal supervision, a move supported by the Bush administration.
“I think it is very appropriate for this city to go on record supporting the Senate version so that we send a clear message that it isn’t sufficient for workers who are screening security measures at the gate to be under federal supervision,” Councilman Jack Weiss, who introduced the airport security resolution, said.
Mayor James Hahn, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ task force on airport security, must give final approval to the resolution.
Hahn was unavailable for comment Friday.
But Hahn’s sister, Councilwoman Janice Hahn, said he is lobbying the federal government to make baggage and passenger screeners federal workers.
“The mayor of Los Angeles is urging federalization of these employees,” Janice Hahn said.
Councilman Nate Holden agreed with supporting the Senate Bill, saying safety, not money, should be a priority.
“We’ve got to put safety before dollars,” Holden said. “[The federal government] can either pick up the tab or put a surcharge on the ticket. I’d be willing to pay that.”
Holden amended Weiss’s motion to reflect the council’s support for the Senate version of the airport security bill.
The two versions of the bill will go to a conference committee of members of the Senate and House, who must resolve differences between the two bills before sending it back to Congress for final approval.
The council also voted to support legislation which would bring federal supervisors to airport screening checkpoints immediately after Councilwoman Ruth Galanter argued the city must not wait for Congress to work out the details.
“We would like Congress to implement this but even if they do it’s going to take a while to put it in place,” Galanter said. “In the meantime, at least start us out with federal supervisors.”
Michael DiGirolamo, deputy executive director of airport operations for Los Angeles World Airports, said he wants federal supervisors, or checkpoint security supervisors, in place within 30 days.
Airport Police Chief Bernard Wilson said he would support either the House or the Senate version of the bill, but cautioned that problems already exist in recruiting baggage screeners and adding stricter federal regulations to becoming a passenger or baggage screener might deter potential employees even more.
“Anything is better than what we have now,” Wilson said.
The motion also calls for legislation which would require all baggage to be screened and linked to a passenger aboard the plane, and federal funding for facial recognition technology to screen passengers and others entering secure areas of the airport.
“We absolutely must have federal legislation that requires that all domestic checked baggage be screened prior to being placed on an airplane,” Weiss said. “We don’t want to have bags go on planes when passengers don’t,” Weiss said.
Janice Hahn contended federalization of the screeners would help standardize the process.
“Every airport should have a standard approach to checking people and baggage in,” the councilwoman said. “We must be safe and we must feel safe.”
“We can have all the National Guard roaming the airports all we want, but if we have not fundamentally changed how we are checking baggage people are not going to feel safe,” she said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company