Who will control Charlotte’s airport?

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The N.C. Senate on Tuesday tentatively approved a bill that would transfer airport control from the city to an independent authority. Senators voted for the measure 33-16. Democrats tried unsuccessfully to derail or at least delay the measure.

Senator Malcolm Graham (D) of Charlotte urged colleagues not to “rip out the heart of the region.” And Senator Daniel Clodfelter (D) of Charlotte said, “If the bill is a great idea today it will be a good idea tomorrow. “If … the bill is a bad idea today,” he added, “I sure would like to know it before I jump off the cliff.”

But Republicans turned back an effort to study the bill and two other Democratic amendments. The city has already launched a study expected to be finished by May.

Senator Bob Rucho, Republican and main sponsor, argued that an authority would ensure the continued success of one of the nation’s busiest airports and an economic engine for the region and state.

Graham argued against changing a management structure proven to work since 1935. He criticized what he called the “lack of transparency” with the legislation, which he said has been pushed by “unnamed, faceless business leaders.”

Rucho has said the idea came from local business leaders, whom he has declined to name. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, has characterized the fight as a dispute between “factions” in City Hall and the business community. Gov. McCrory wouldn’t have the chance to sign or veto the bill because it’s considered a local issue. He’s asked fellow Republicans to slow down the process.

The Charlotte City Council member Andy Dulin said he was surprised his fellow Republicans voted to allow an unelected authority to seize land. The bill gives the authority the power to acquire land through eminent domain, even in an expedited “quick take” process.

“My party is supposed to be for property rights,” Dulin said. “That just blows my mind.”

GOP council member Warren Cooksey, who was also at the legislature arguing against the bill, alluded to Rucho’s citation of a report by a task force led by former Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. The task force concluded that “no local government should control or regulate the development of those regional assets.” But, it added, “further investigation and legal expertise is needed.”

“I didn’t realize I voted for Bob Rucho to carry out Democrat policies,” Cooksey said.

Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt of Asheville alluded to last year’s legislation that transferred control of Asheville’s airport to a regional authority. In a statement, Nesbitt later said Republicans were intent on a “power grab” and attempted “seizure” of the airport.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/03/13/3910463/nc-senate-moves-to-take-airport.html#storylink=cpy


Melanie Schmitz Legal Trainee/Rechtsreferendarin BridgehouseLaw Charlotte

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