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State of Georgia moves closer to taking over Atlanta airport

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Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms likened the takeover push to “an act of war”

White Delta planes pepper the tarmac at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Concerns of corruption are in part driving the push for a state takeover.
Ramin Talaie, Getty Images

The tug-of-war over the world’s busiest passenger airport just got a bit more complicated, as the Georgia State Senate approved a measure that would allow the state government to take control of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from the City of Atlanta.

The measure was approved last Thursday after fierce debates between proponents of the takeover—mostly Republican senators—and their opposition—state Democrats and city leaders, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The legislation, proposed by state Sen. Burt Jones, a Republican representing Jackson, Ga., is largely propelled by supporters’ concerns of corruption at City Hall.

For years, there has been a dark cloud hanging over the city government, as federal investigators are probing alleged bribery schemes between municipal officials and airport contractors.

If the state takes control of the airport, Jones and others claim, these pay-to-play deals would be no more.

But opponents of Jones’ bill, such as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Delta Air Lines, assert that Hartsfield-Jackson is not only the busiest, but also the most efficient airport in the world, and there’s no evidence the State of Georgia would be able to run things better.

Delta Air Lines sided with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to oppose a state takeover of the airport.
Karon Warren

Bottoms told GPB in an interview that the state lawmakers’ push to claim control of the airport is “ridiculous” and “what I call an act of war.”

The proposal, Senate Bill 131, now heads to the state House of Representatives, where it’s likely to weather more scrutiny.

Gov. Brian Kemp is yet to announce his stance on the matter, although he’s told news media that he’s actively tracking the debates.

If the bill becomes law, however, city officials would have until 2020 to agree to a “joint governance plan” with the General Assembly, which would split control of the airport between state and city agencies.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

6000 N Terminal Pkwy, Atlanta, GA 30320 (800) 897-1910 Visit Website