State senator introduces bill for state control of Hartsfield-Jackson

State Sen. Burt Jones has introduced a bill that would create a state authority to control Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The legislation -- opposed by the city of Atlanta, which owns and operates Hartsfield-Jackson and Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, its largest tenant -- faces an uphill battle.

Senate bill 131 introduced by Jones, R-Jackson, and co-sponsored by state senators Tyler Harper, Brandon Beach, Matt Brass, Jeff Mullis and Mike Dugan, would create the Georgia Major Airport Authority. It follows a series of study committee meetings on the matter chaired by Jones last year, which included scrutiny of the management of the airport by the City of Atlanta.

The bill as written says “operation of major airports significantly affect the public welfare of the state” and that “the public welfare of this state is best served by having an authority over such activities for major airports for such purposes as provided by this chapter.”

Hartsfield-Jackson is the only major airport hub in Georgia. But Jones has said a state authority would enable full vetting of the idea of a second commercial airport to serve the region.

A spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a statement Wednesday saying: “For years, Hartsfield-Jackson International has been lauded as the world’s busiest, most efficient airport and there is not an iota of evidence the State could improve upon or even maintain that stature. There has yet to be a single reasonable argument posed to justify any State takeover, or theft of the airport from the people of Atlanta who have worked for decades to make it the economic engine that it is for the state, region, country and world.”

As written, the legislation would create a state authority whose members would include the governor or governor’s designee, the lieutenant governor or a designee, the speaker of the house or a designee, the transportation commissioner, public safety commissioner and four people with experience in business, aviation, law or accounting appointed by the House speaker and the Senate president. The appointees would serve terms up to six years long.