Atlanta council to vote on measure opposing state takeover of airport

A Delta jet lands, while an electronic board at Hartsfield-Jackson welcomes visitors to Atlanta. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
A Delta jet lands, while an electronic board at Hartsfield-Jackson welcomes visitors to Atlanta. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

With Georgia lawmakers set to reconvene in January, the Atlanta City Council is preparing to vote on the city's legislative package with a measure opposing a state takeover of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

A bill for the state to take control of the world's busiest airport from the city of Atlanta failed to gain final passage in April before the General Assembly adjourned.

The state Senate voted in favor of an airport takeover. The Georgia House did not.

But in the biennial legislative session, the bill remains alive when the session resumes.

The Atlanta City Council's legislative package includes a measure saying the city "opposes any legislation or action which seeks to change the ownership, operations and governance of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport. This includes the creation of any entity that would provide oversight responsibilities for governance and/or operations."

The City Council's finance committee voted unanimously in favor of the package this week, and it now goes to the full council for approval.

The resolution says the City Council urges the Georgia General Assembly to support the city’s legislative package, and that the city’s clerk would transmit a copy of the resolution to the General Assembly.

However, state Sen. Burt Jones, the Jackson Republican who spearheaded the state airport takeover effort, said the takeover bill remains on the table.

“I don’t think any of the news that has come out of the city of Atlanta, particularly surrounding the airport in the last year, has done anything to improve anybody’s opinion of what the legislation was seeking,” Jones said.

He noted that the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission are all looking into the Atlanta airport.

In April, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said, "If we see additional corruption arise or indictments arise or something we can't foresee, I think the conversation will continue to go on."

"If the next 12 months doesn't produce any corruption or indictments or anything like that, that's a great step in the right direction," Duncan said.

In July, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the FAA was launching a new investigation into Hartsfield-Jackson, alleging it may have unlawfully diverted revenue to the city of Atlanta.

In September, the city's former director of its Office of Contract Compliance, Larry Scott, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of wire fraud and tax evasion after federal prosecutors said he was paid $220,000 over five years from an undisclosed side business that helped companies get government contracts.

Last month, the AJC reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had opened an investigation into the city of Atlanta's use of airport funds.

Jones said now “it’s a matter of working with the House and seeing if they have a different opinion from where they were last year.”

“We just have to wait and see,” Jones said. “I can’t speculate on what my next move might be until I have a better understanding of what obstacles are looming out there.”

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