Governor’s signature prompts challenge from airport authority

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Now that Gov. Phil Bryant has signed a bill to reshape the Jackson airport board, current officials associated with the airport are circulating petitions to block the change from taking place.

State Sen. Josh Harkins

Gil Ford Photography

Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood

The only announcement of Bryant’s signing came late Wednesday via a Facebook post from Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, who sponsored and championed the bill that would replace the current five-member airport board with a nine-member commission.

Currently, the city of Jackson picks the commissioners. Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, five of the nine board members, selected by a combination of picks from the governor, lieutenant governor and Jackson officials, must come from the city of Jackson.

“I believe that this will have a great impact on the future of our airport and its economic impact on our state,” Harkins wrote on Facebook.

Airport and Jackson officials have said they are looking into the possibility of challenging the constitutionality of the law in courts, but have not announced a timeline for doing so.

In the meantime, the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority launched a petition drive to collect 10,000 signatures by the end of May, WLBT reported. Airport authority officials plan to send the petitions to the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the nation’s airports.

The text of the petition accuses the state of “disregarding the ownership of Jackson’s airports, disrespecting the exemplary leadership of the airport enterprises, and is forcibly trying to take the ownership by changing its board.”

In late April, Jeffery Stallworth, a local pastor and former airport board member, filed a federal lawsuit against the state to stop the airport change.