Charlotte airport bill gets tentative nod in House

Posted July 25, 2013

— On Thursday morning, a bill changing how the Charlotte Douglas International Airport is run emerged in committee and then was promptly withdrawn

Two hours later, the measure returning the airport to city control, but with big strings attached, returned and passed despite objections from Mecklenburg County Democrats.

In the afternoon, Senate Bill 380 received a tentative nod from the state House, but that vote may not guarantee takeoff.

If the measure were to pass, it would undo a law that took effect earlier this month that takes the airport from Charlotte and turns over control to a regional commission. The city has already sued to block that measure. 

In the place of the outside authority, the new bill creates a commission that would be part of city government but have near absolute control over the airport. The commission would be immune from oversight by the Charlotte City Council, but the city would maintain ownership of the airport, if only in name. 

"I actually think this will work really well," said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg. "I like the authority option, but I don't want my airport bill tied up in a court for a long time."

After she finished speaking, House leaders cut off debate, allowing only two more speakers on the bill.

"We're being hijacked," Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, said.

While she opposes creating the outside authority, Carney said the pending lawsuit will eventually sort out that debate.

"Please vote no and let the courts take care of this," she said.

The measure passed 70-42, but Carney and at least one other representative raised a procedural objection. The upshot of that objection is that the House must vote on the measure again Friday to send the bill to the Senate.

Normally, that would not be a big hurdle, but the General Assembly is preparing to adjourn for the year. House leaders said they would return to session around 9 a.m. Friday morning, but Senate leaders have said they will hold at session at 12:01 a.m. and adjourn soon thereafter.

If that timing holds, the House will not be able to send the bill to the Senate before the Senate leaves for the year. That would stay the measure until May 2014.


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