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Opinion: The state’s evolving thoughts on airport oversight, control

From the original Ga. Senate Bill 131:

The General Assembly finds and declares that the construction, equipment, improvement,maintenance, and operation of major airports significantly affect the public welfare of the state. The General Assembly further finds and declares that, for reasons of safety, security, economy, and efficiency, 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.

This Act shall become effective on July 1, 2020, unless a Joint Governance Plan is entered into by the City of Atlanta and the General Assembly. If such Joint Governance Plan is entered into prior to July 1, 2020, this Act shall not become effective and shall stand repealed on July 1, 2020.

From an op-ed by the original bill’s sponsor, Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson:

Since the late 1980s, the airport has been at the center of allegations ranging from bribery to unfair contracting, and most recently, F.B.I. investigations and indictments. Most of these accusations and convictions stem from issues with the procurement process. There have also been charges for unethical behavior resulting from council members taking bribes or lush campaign contributions in exchange for contract awards to those who fill their pockets, instead of those who may be the most capable. Time and time again it has been proven in court that the airport has fallen victim to documented procurement issues and misappropriation of funds over the past four decades, regardless of who was in charge of the administration at the time.

From a Ga. House substitute to SB 131, passed Thursday by the House:

… To create the Airport Transparency Legislative Oversight Committee; to provide for membership; to provide for availability of certain executive branch personnel for assistance to such committee; to provide for subpoena power; to require cooperation with such committee; to provide parameters to the oversight duties of the committee … . The committee shall periodically inquire into and review the operations, contracts, safety, financing, organization, and structure of commercial airports.

In the discharge of its duties, the committee shall evaluate the performance of any authority or local government overseeing a commercial airport in providing aviation and related services consistent with the following criteria:

(1) Public safety;

(2) Prudent, legal, and accountable expenditure of public funds;

(3) Equitable and transparent procurement practices for the provision of services at the airport; and

(4) Efficient operation.

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