/One hurdle left for contested expansion of Jackson airport board

One hurdle left for contested expansion of Jackson airport board

After several Jackson-area Democrats opposed changes to the House, the measure was passed 31-15. The bill was delayed by Bryant’s motion to reconsider and was remanded. Tony Yarber, Jackson Mayor, stated that the vote was a step to “take away Jackson taxpayers’ voice by stripping operation, maintenance and control” of the airport, as well as Hawkins Field. Hawkins Field is also managed by the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. Yarber stated that “we stand ready to take every measure, in a court or law if necessary to protect our citizens. Their assets and their sacrifices.” Senator Josh Harkins (R-Flowood) sponsored legislation to replace the five-member Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. A nine-member board will be formed, with members drawn from the greater Jackson region, which includes Rankin and Madison counties. Harkins stated that the airport serves the metropolitan area, and the board should reflect the area. He also suggested that the members of the board should have experience in aviation. The legislation stipulates that five members of the nine must be from Jackson. They will be selected from a mixture of Jackson officials, the lieutenant governor, and the governor. Harkins, a real-estate agent, added an amendment that required the Legislature to sign off before any property is sold by the board. This should dispel the notion that he would make a profit from an airport board switchover. An airport is not designed to provide food for contractors. Harkins stated that an airport was there to serve citizens. Senator David Blount (D-Jackson) said that the legislation raises important questions about property rights. “With this bill they are trampling on the law. Blount stated that they are trampling local government because they have the votes. Rosie Pridgen (chairwoman of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority) stated that the board intends to defend the airport and may even take legal action. Pridgen stated that it was wrong for a state to have such a broad reach. She suggested that the JMAA might join forces with Jackson, whose officials also pledged to fight the bill for airports if it becomes law. Monica Joiner, Jackson’s city attorney, said that they are looking into the constitutionality of the legislation and any other state claims. In anticipation of handling legal actions, JMAA has appointed Fred Banks of Phelps Dunbar, a former justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court. Banks declined to comment on this story.