The composition of Nashville’s airport board could soon be changed and taken over by state officials as HB 1176 advances to the House for consideration and voting. Under the current set-up, members of the airport board are appointed by the mayor. However, under the proposed bill, the appointing power falls in the hands of the governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate. Each of these entities is to make three appointments to the new 10-member board. Meanwhile, the remaining seat will be given to the Nashville mayor or his designee, who will serve as a non-voting ex-officio member.
The proposed bill has sparked controversies and debates, with some arguing that it could cause issues with the airport’s future federal grants.
As The Tennessean reported:
“This bill will cause substantial conflict and it will be expensive,” said airports consultant Kirk Shaffer, who resigned from the FAA in response to the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. “The consistency and constancy of governance for which Metro Nashville Airport Authority has always been known will be jeopardized.”
He said the bill could jeopardize federal grants and land the state in a lengthy legal battle, citing examples in Charlotte, Atlanta and Jackson, Mississippi. The Republican House sponsor countered that those cases involve the creation of new agencies and aren’t comparable.
On Monday, Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, the sponsor, argued the bill to take over airport appointments would not have any negative impacts because it will not change any other operations or governing rules.
“This is simply allowing appointments through representatives of the state,” Garrett said. “The reason is because the state funds the airport.”
Rep. Yusuf Hakkeem, D-Chattanooga, criticized the targeted attacks on Nashville and questioned whether they would spread to other cities.
“Big government taking over local control? Where does it end?,” Hakkeem said. “Does it stop in Nashville or does it go to other metropolitan areas. I don’t see the benefit.”