RALEIGH, N.C. -- Voting largely along party lines, the N.C. House Thursday tentatively approved a bill to transfer Charlotte’s airport to a new authority by Jan. 1.
Final approval by the House and the Senate is expected next week.
Lawmakers say barring any last-minute concessions by the city, the bill could become law as early as Tuesday. The vote was 72-42. As a so-called local bill, it would become law without Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature, even though an authority has little support in Charlotte.
Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey said Wednesday night that the city was “keeping the lines of communication open.”
An Observer poll in May found that by a 3-1 margin, Charlotte voters want the city to keep control over the airport. Another poll of Charlotte voters found only 16 percent supported an airport authority.
The prospect of a transfer first arose publicly in February. Since then, city officials have fought it unsuccessfully. This week city council member Andy Dulin, a Republican, called it “an intrusion by state government into local issues.”
“Quite frankly,” he said, “the people aren’t going to forget.”
“We regret that it’s gotten to this,” she said.
The House bill differs from an earlier, Senate-passed version.
The 11-member authority would no longer have appointments by the governor and legislative leaders.
Instead the mayor and City Council would each have two appointments, half of whom would have to live on the westside. Mecklenburg and five surrounding counties – Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln and Union – would each have one appointment. Their terms would begin Oct. 1.
Those 10 members would appoint the 11th by Dec. 1.
The bill specifies that the authority’s first executive director will be the city’s aviation director as of Feb. 14. That would be Jerry Orr.
Unlike some earlier versions, the bill also calls for the authority to pay the city unspecified compensation for “unreimbursed or unrecovered cost to the city of acquiring the airport property” not paid with airport revenues or federal money.