Lawmakers shoot down city's versions of airport authority bill - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Lawmakers shoot down city's versions of airport authority bill

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey sent a bill to the North Carolina General Assembly Monday night that would give the city more say in an independent airport authority. 

In the city's release Kinsey says she sent the bill at the request of Rep. Ruth Sameulson, R-Mecklenburg, but on Tuesday afternoon Samuelson told WBTV that she never requested or told the city to send her anything, only that she would be willing to work with city council on the current legislation.

Republican lawmakers were quick to shoot the plan down Tuesday morning and approved the bill that would immediately strip the City of Charlotte from control of the airport that it has operated for more than 70 years.

"We viewed it as very ambiguous and very vague," airport authority bill sponsor and Mecklenburg County Republican Ruth Samuelson told WBTV immediately after the bill passed the third and final reading in the House.

The debate on the House floor was from members of Mecklenburg County's legislative delegation.

Calling the vote to approve the authority a "tremendous mistake," Democrat Kelly Alexander cited the move "Cook Hand Luke" by saying that there was a "failure to communicate" between state and local officials.

Democrat Becky Carney said that she would "plead" with lawmakers to vote no and said it would be better if there were a bill to create a study commission to see if the airport needed an authority.

But Samuelson pointed out that repeated efforts to work with the City of Charlotte were met with rejection.

"We put on the table a willingness to work as equals on any option that the group came up with as a possible solution for the airport and we were turned down," Samuelson argued just minutes before the cote.   "It's not the Charlotte way, it's not the Ruth Samuelson way, but it's the only way we've been left with when we can't get the other side to sit at the table and deal with us as equals."

The bill that passed the House now needs only the concurrence of the Senate to become law.

The City's last minute proposal was designed to avoid litigation and remove the cloud of uncertainty hanging over Charlotte Douglas International Airport's future, according to a news release from the city of Charlotte.

The City's bill would have created an Airport Commission to provide alternative governance for the airport, much like the authority proposed by the General Assembly.

The Commission would be an operating structure that would achieve the benefits of an authority without the disadvantages or unintended consequences of Raleigh's proposal.

The Commission proposal would avoid any conflicts with the Federal Aviation Administration, airport bonds, and employment of airport employees.

"Representative Samuelson asked me to submit a proposal that the City could support and that would avoid litigation, and I worked with the Council to do just that," said Kinsey.  "Council's proposal creates a new structure and enables us to move forward aggressively to ensure that we demonstrate to the new American Airlines that Charlotte is the best and lowest-cost airport in their entire system.  Acceptance of this proposal by the General Assembly would show that Raleigh is focused on the business of the airport and not a partisan power grab."

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