It was a prime example of the adage, “All politics is local”: A longstanding contentious relationship between a local airport authority and county officials in Tennessee led to proposed legislation that would have jeopardized the statewide system of airports by providing for the summary closure of airports.
In order to deal with an issue regarding the Sumner County airport authority, lawmakers from the county introduced a bill in the Tennessee state legislature to allow municipalities and counties in the state to dissolve their airport authorities. The bill contained language that also would have allowed governing bodies to close airports with a two-thirds vote. AOPA involvement helped convince the bill sponsors to propose removing the clause regarding airport closure, and the bill awaits further action in both chambers of the legislature.
AOPA Southeast Regional Representative Bob Minter said the legislation, H.B.1122, still proposes to address a local problem with a sweeping statewide change. The measure would facilitate the dissolution of an airport authority “without sufficient process or accountability, nor proper consideration of the complexities or the ultimate consequences of such an action,” he said.
“For more than 70 years Tennessee has enjoyed extraordinary support for aviation and airports from the General Assembly, the result of which is a statewide system of airports that is the envy of many states across our nation,” Minter said. “Tennessee airports are economic engines for the communities they serve and are a cornerstone of our state’s transportation infrastructure.”
Tennessee should not pass a bill that could have such a broad effect on the state’s airports simply to resolve a local issue, he added.
AOPA worked with aviation groups, the bill sponsors, and officials around the state to alert lawmakers of the bill’s potential consequences. As a result, members of the state house and senate have submitted amendments exempting dozens of counties from the legislation, and bill sponsor State Rep. Debra Young Maggart has since proposed amendments to the bill to eliminate the damaging airport closure language. A vote on the bill has been delayed twice; both houses of the legislature are now scheduled to vote on May 18.