(The Center Square) – Metro Nashville has control of the Nashville Airport Authority again.
A three-judge panel that a Tennessee law to create an eight-member board with two appointees each for the mayor, governor, House speaker and Senate speaker is unconstitutional and that new board is now vacated.
Power for the Metro Nashville Aviation Administration is now granted back to the previous seven-member board, appointed by Nashville’s mayor and approved by the Metro Nashville Council.
The panel included Chief Judge Anne C. Martin, Judge Mark L. Hayes and Judge Zachary R. Walden.
The panel ruled that the law that changed authority for the airport board appointments violated the constitution’s Local Legislation Clause, Anti-Ripper Bill Clause and Equal Protection Guarantee.
Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, vowed that the state would appeal the panel’s decision. Garrett sponsored the airport board bill.
“The court’s decision on the Airport Authority is a major setback for transparency and fair representation for TN taxpayers,” Garrett wrote about the ruling. “We will continue to fight for the success of our state’s investments. I appreciate the hard work of @AGTennessee and I look forward to an appeal.”
Metro Nashville filed a lawsuit in June to challenge the new law, arguing the state cannot create legislation that only applies to one municipality, The panel agreed that’s what the new law accomplished as it only pertained to Nashville.
State lawmakers argued the state’s increased funding for airports means the state should have more control over how the airports operate.
This year, Lee gave the state’s five major airports $59.5 million in his budget amendment while the state is giving $23.7 million to the smaller airports in general aviation support.
Those numbers have increased over the years as Tennessee installed a cap on its aviation fuel tax. FedEx paid $45 million in annual aviation fuel tax when the cap was first installed and will be down to $1 million for the 2024-25 fiscal year.
Two of the previous board members, Jimmy Granbery and Bobby Joslin, forfeited their spots on the Metro-appointed board by joining the state-appointed board.