Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, called the airport bill a result of partisan politics, decided by a few individuals.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
JACKSON The Mississippi Legislature would control the sale of all Jackson airport land under changes the Senate approved today. The expanded Jackson airport commission cannot sell the land itself without legislative action under amendments to Senate Bill 2162.
The Senate concurred this morning with those amendments that would shift the control to the State, but Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, held the bill on a motion to reconsider holding from landing on the governor's desk.
Sen. Josh Harkins owns and lists land near the Jackson Airport. He says it's not a conflict of interest, though.
"We haven't even looked at that there is any real need for the change in governance," Horhn said. "It's just the decision of a few individuals, and it's come down on partisan lines that we are going to change the governance of the airport."
The Senate voted to concur 31-15 in favor, but the motion holds the bill until another vote that could take place at any time during the weekend session planned for the Legislature.
Horhn said that the Legislature had not considered how the bill would affect contracts, development and other factors surrounding the current board's control of the airport. "It's only happening to one airport in the state," Horhn said, calling the bill "smoke and mirrors."
"This is not about the airport. This is not about flights," Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said. "This is about commercial development on property only controlled by the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority."
"This is about what happens on the land ... and who is going to profit from that land," Blount said. "That's what this is about."
Under the House's changes, the State would not have to approve leases, however.
The House's two amendments requires the governor and lieutenant governor to appoint Jackson residents to the commission. Prior to the "takeover" bill, state elected officials did not have power to appoint commission members.
"Basically, they cannot sell any property at the airport without the permission of the Legislature," Sen. Josh Harkins, the Flowood Republican who authored the bill, said. "I guess there is some speculation that there is some ulterior motives to the land, so this will help clear up the speculation."
Republican lawmakers from outside the capital city announced in January a plan to take control of the Jackson airport.
Blount said the result of this bill would be litigation and stagnation of the airport while awaiting Federal Aviation Administration approval of the change. He warned against the precedence the bill creates.
"Next time it could be you," Blount said.
If the bill does make it into law, litigation will be the next step.
"We can assure you we're going to fight it," Sen. Sollie B. Norwood, D-Jackson, said, "and we're going to fight it until the end."
Read more about the airport "takeover" at jfp.ms/airport. Email city reporter Tim Summers, Jr. at [email protected]. See more local news at jfp.ms/localnews.