The future of five members of Charleston County Aviation Authority is in limbo after state lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on a bill before the legislative session ended Thursday.
The bill, in its initial form, tried to correct an error made a year ago when the state aeronautics law was rewritten. Lawmakers inadvertently scrapped a section and removed North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and board members Pat Waters and Spencer Pryor from the local airport board.
They didn’t realize the mistake until The Post and Courier pointed it out in February.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, introduced legislation to reinstate the members, and it quickly sailed through the House.
When it reached the Senate, Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, attached an amendment to ditch a law adopted in 2007 that placed him and Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, on the Aviation Authority. The law allows the chairman and vice chairman of Charleston County legislative delegation to serve on the board. Campsen and Limehouse hold those positions, respectively.
Campsen refuses to take his seat on the airport board, saying it is unconstitutional and dual-office holding. Limehouse, who co-crafted the law, served as chairman of the Aviation Authority until January, and believes the issue should be handled by the courts. A lawsuit challenging the 2007 law is currently on appeal.
Unless the Legislature acts to correct the mistake made a year ago, Summey, Waters and Pryor don’t legally have a seat on the board. Summey has not attended a board meeting since the issue surfaced, but he has sent a representative. Waters and Pryor continue to serve.
“It would be kind of bad not to have someone representing the city in which the airport is located on the board,” Summey said.
He added that he will continue to serve or send a proxy until someone challenges it.
Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, one of three members of the House committee set up to reach a compromise with three members of the Senate, including Campsen, said Friday they could meet again when the Legislature comes back in session to take up gubernatorial vetoes June 18 or June 25.
Unless someone changes his mind, the issue could be dead for this year and remain in limbo until lawmakers return in January, he said.
“My top priority is getting those members back on the board,” Stavrinakis said.
He supports Campsen’s amendment to kick Limehouse and Campsen off the board. Senators on the conference committee do too.
Limehouse, for self preservation on the airport board, along with Rep. Mike Sottile, R-Isle of Palms, do not.
Sottile holds the pivotal vote.
On Friday, he said he voted with Limehouse because he believes the courts should settle the issue.
“I support the bill,” he said. “We are hung on the amendment.”
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.