by Dan Way
True to his word, state Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, has pulled SB81 from the Senate calendar today.
The bill would transfer operation and ownership of all assets of Charlotte-owned Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to a newly created, multi-county authority. It had been approved by both the Rules and Operations of the Senate Committee and Senate Finance Committee.
During Finance Committee debate on Wednesday, senators from both sides of the aisle said they were very uncomfortable passing the bill because of unanswered questions about the impact on some $800 million in airport-issued revenue bonds if ownership of the airport was switched from the city to a regional authority. A bond lawyer for the City of Charlotte has issued an opinion that transferring ownership would cause the bonds to go into default. State Treasurer Janet Cowell has yet to render an opinion.
In the face of criticism about moving the legislation forward before obtaining an answer to the bond question, Rucho told committee members he would not put the measure up for a vote on the Senate floor until the matter was resolved. It was for that reason he moved the floor discussion to next Wednesday, he said today.
There was “a lot of misinformation and smoke screens” from opponents of the legislation during Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting, Rucho said. He wanted to “wait till I get the accurate information” to schedule the bill for a vote. “I want to be perfectly sure we’re doing all the due diligence that needs to be done.”
He said he is not concerned about the red flags raised over the bond issue.
“The assurances that I got is that this can be handled,”Rucho said.