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CLT airport bill on House panel’s list, but action uncertain

RALEIGH A bill to transfer control and ownership of Charlotte’s airport from the city to a new, independent authority is scheduled to be taken up by a House committee Wednesday, but a main sponsor told the Observer that he doesn’t expect any action.

Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican, said the bill was automatically placed this week on the House Finance Committee’s calendar. It’s on the agenda along with 11 other bills.

“It was in the queue,” he said. “We weren’t expecting it to pop up.”

Brawley said on Monday that he was working to find a compromise on changes to the legislation before having it heard by the committee. On Tuesday, Brawley declined to say whom he was talking to about a possible compromise.

“The wheels have come off on this so many times due to premature disclosure of information,” he said.

Sen. Bob Rucho, also a Matthews Republican and a main sponsor of the bill, said he planned to attend Wednesday’s committee hearing.

The measure previously passed the House Transportation Committee with only slight changes from an earlier, Senate-passed version. If approved by the Finance Committee, the bill would move to the House floor.

Supporters of a new authority have said that Charlotte Douglas International Airport must be “depoliticized” and that the city is driving up costs for US Airways, endangering the city’s hub status. Aviation Director Jerry Orr, a city employee who has run the airport since 1989, has said he supports creating an independent authority.

The city, however, strongly opposes the current bill. Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee has said it could throw the airport into “chaos.”

The bill under consideration by the House would create an 11-member authority with seven appointments made by the surrounding counties and the General Assembly. If approved by both chambers, the bill does not need the signature of Gov. Pat McCrory, Charlotte’s former mayor, because it’s a so-called local bill.

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