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Airport Authority Measure Ready For Take-Off

Julie Rose

It's back to the runway with imminent take-off for a bill to create a Charlotte Airport Authority. The measure easily cleared a final house committee on Wednesday morning and is poised for full legislative approval.

This is the ninth version of the Charlotte Airport Authority Bill, and it differs from the original in several key ways.

Primarily, it gives the City of Charlotte more say in creating and influencing the regional authority to govern the airport. The first version of the measure let Charlotte appoint just one person to the 13-member authority board.  This latest version creates a smaller board of 11 people and city officials get to appoint four of them. Mecklenburg and the five counties surrounding it still get to make appointments – as in previous versions. An 11th member would be chosen by the rest of the appointees.

The governor and General Assembly no longer have a say in making appointments to the board - mainly because a consultant hired by Charlotte says the city really needs to retain a big voice with the airport, which it has built up and run for more than 70 years.

The new measure also orders the airport authority to consider whether the city should be compensated for its investment in the airport all these years.  

The airport authority board would be appointed in October 2013, but the airport would not transfer into the authority's hands until January 2014.

Republican State Representative Ruth Samuelson says sponsors of the bill are stung by the city of Charlotte's refusal to accept a compromise that would have created a study commission, instead of immediately forming an airport authority.

"We offered to them co-equal voting power," said Samuelson, during the House Finance Committee hearing.  "What they offered to us was 'Why don't you come and sit in the audience and listen to our study and provide some feedback, but we will keep the final vote?' We didn't feel like that was good faith."

Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey believes the study commission would have been slanted toward an airport authority.  She's adamant the airport remain a division of the city. 

Full house approval of the airport authority measure is likely this week, followed by Senate concurrence next week.  The signature of former Charlotte Mayor- turned Governor Pat McCrory is not required because the bill is considered "local."