Mississippi House passes controversial airport bill

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JACKSON, Miss.– The Mississippi House took up a controversial bill on whether or not to create a Jackson Metropolitan Airport Authority and dismantle the current airport board.

As WJTV’s Lucy Dieckhaus reports lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had fierce debate.

Passionate speeches, bible verses, pointing to racial motivations, and even reading the bill word for word.

The fighting continued Thursday as Democrats spoke out against what they call a high jacking of the Jackson and Hawkins Fields airports

“This bill it is not in the best interest for the city of Jackson the state of Mississippi or its people: white black, brown, or green,” said Democratic Representative Christopher Bell.

But it didn’t matter how hard they fought in the end; it didn’t stop the airport takeover legislation from passing in the House with a 74 to 46 vote mostly down party lines.

Republican Representative Mark Baker says creating a Metropolitan Airport Authority will include representation for thousands of people who live in outlying counties.

“Nothing will be taken from the city of Jackson the Airport Authority will be transferred number of commissioners will be expanded to nine and they will be five from the City of Jackson,” said Baker.

House democratic caucus leader David Baria accuses Speaker Gunn of going back on a promise to kill this bill, and Speaker Gunn pushes back and says reading bills is costing the Mississippi people.

“So either you’re reading the bills because you didn’t do your work before you got in here, and you’re not taking advantage of the computer that the taxpayers bought you or you’re delaying for the purpose of delaying, and costing the taxpayers additional money either way it’s disrespectful to the taxpayer dollars,” said Gunn.

Democrats say this fight isn’t over yet. They say this will be tied up in court for years to come.

“They have to get the stamp of approval of the Federal Aviation Administration it has to get some sort of approval,” said Representative Edward Blackmon.

The FAA has told us they would need to review and approve any changes in sponsorship to the airport.

The bill will now head to Governor Phil Bryant and he will decide to sign it or not.

We also received a statement from the current chairman on Jackson’s Municipal Airport Authority Board of Commissioners.

She told us she was disappointed that the house passed senate bill 2162.

“We certainly appreciate the support of legislators who recognize that the JMAA is healthy and stable, and all aspects of the board and operations should remain as presently structured. The ownership of Jackson’s airports is the city of Jackson and it is sad to see what the state is attempting to do,” said Dr. Rosie Pridgen.

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