NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — When it comes to the upcoming law to scramble the BNA airport authority and hand much of its appointing power over to the Republican-controlled state, Democrats raised the question: Why isn’t this happening in other cities?
As it turns out, it might be coming.
“I think that’s going to be looked upon and see how we can further partner with those airports to do the same thing we’re doing with the airport that impacts Nashville,” Rep. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville) said.
Garrett, the House Majority Whip, sponsored the legislation to change the Nashville Airport Authority board.
Prior to Garrett saying that, Democrats have continuously maintained the bill is meant to target the capital city.
“Well there’s airports in Knoxville, there’s airports in Memphis, there’s a sports authority in Knoxville, there’s a sports authority in Jackson, there’s a sports authority in Memphis,” Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) said. “I didn’t see them going after all those places and taking those over.”
But now that venture seems possible, though Garrett said it’ll depend on how those airports are already structured.
“I think that’s a very valid question and I think we would be looking at that,” he said. “I’m going to be forthright, I’m not sure how the Memphis Airport, the Knoxville Airport, the Tri-Cities Airport and the Chattanooga Airport, how they’re structured.”
Democrats have chastised the upcoming law since its inception as a bill, saying it’s an overreach of state government and a retaliatory tactic after Nashville denied the 2024 Republican National Convention.
“They’re putting off an impression to the public of what’s everything wrong with politics and society,” Mitchell said. “‘If I don’t get my way, I’m going to punish you.’”
Garrett said the airport serves Tennesseans from one side of the state to another, and he’s been contemplating this legislation for years. “As it stands right now, all Tennesseans would not have a voice on that board for their taxpayer money that’s going to fund a portion of the operations of this airport.”
The airport authority currently has seven members, and the Metro-Nashville mayor appoints all of them.
When this law takes effect, it would make it so three state leaders (the governor and speakers of both chambers) each appoint two members while the mayor gets two.
Each of the appointers has to select at least one person from Davidson County.
At the same time this bill nears law, several top Republicans have scolded the Department of Justice for pressing a lawsuit over the state’s gender-affirming care ban, calling it ‘overreaching.’
“We’re not changing how the airport has been run whatsoever. That’s not what the Department of Justice is doing,” Garrett said. “The Department of Justice is saying we can’t do something, which the legislature believes we are protecting children.”
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) signed off on the airport bill Wednesday. Once Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton signs it, it’ll head to the governor before going into effect on July 1.
News 2 reached out to Gov. Bill Lee’s (R-Tennessee) to see if he planned to sign off on the legislation. His office wrote back, “As always, the governor will review final legislation when it reaches his desk.”