Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers are hoping to dislodge a dispute over the fate of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport from a legal stalemate through a bill put on the legislative fast-track Tuesday.
The measure, which cleared the Senate Finance committee Tuesday, makes more than a dozen small changes to a law the General Assembly passed last year to put the airport into the hands of a newly created commission, which has been embroiled in a lawsuit almost from the moment it passed the legislature.
Charlotte leaders objected to the move, saying legislators were taking a valuable asset away from the city's control. Lawmakers say they were merely trying to ensure the entire Charlotte region had a stake in the airport's operation and that it would continue to operate in a modern manner.
That battle has been stuck in court, with a judge not wanting to rule on the case until the Federal Aviation Administration issues a certificate to operate the airport to the new commission.
"The FAA doesn't want to issue a certificate because they say it isn't real clear as to who actually controls the airport," said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg.
This measure, she said, makes clear that Charlotte still owns the airport but that the commission will be responsible for its operation. The measure also requires the city to help the state make the needed clarifications with the FAA.
Sen. Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg, opposed the measure, saying the state should have consulted with the city. He read a letter to the committee form Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter, a former state senator, the stated, in part, "I am disappointed in this new piece of legislation."
Clodfelter and Democrats on the committee asked that Charlotte be given time to figure out a consensus solution to the stalemate with members of the city's business community.
The measure passed committee on a voice vote. It will next go to the Senate floor.