After more than two years of effort by AOPA and local pilots, there was an important victory for Minnesota airports last Friday, fueled by the quick action of AOPA members. Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law a bill that offers a host of protections for general aviation airports.
"The signing of this bill by Gov. Pawlenty was significant for the future of airport preservation in Minnesota," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "AOPA members played a pivotal role in rallying to the cause by urging the governor to sign the legislation into law."
Legislative battles are often a fight to the very end. AOPA had heard that the governor was getting pressure from the real estate community to veto the bill, which triggered a flurry of activity from concerned pilots.
Kevin Rebman, AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer for Crystal Airport, stayed up nearly all night Thursday sending out e-mails to rally the troops. On Friday morning, AOPA utilized its new advocacy tool, an e-mail system that put out a call for action to Minnesota AOPA members, asking them to contact the governor's office. AOPA President Phil Boyer also sent a letter to the governor.
The response was overwhelming. Gov. Pawlenty signed the bill Friday afternoon.
The new law declares airports an essential public service, making it more difficult to close or put restrictions on them. It withholds funding from any municipality that adopts a comprehensive airport plan incompatible with the state aviation master plan. It requires sellers of real estate to disclose airport zoning regulations that affect the property. And it requires the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to report annually on the vital reliever airports they operate in the Twin Cities, establishing accountability for their management of the airports.
The AOPA staff had long lobbied legislators for these important airport protections and MAC reforms. Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports, was in the capital on several occasions, testifying before legislative subcommittees in support of these measures. He also met with legislators, local pilots, and ASN volunteers in developing the appropriate strategies.
Led by Sens. Ann Rest and Mike Jungbauer, and Rep. Mike Beard, the legislation passed in the closing days of the Minnesota legislature.
June 6, 2006