Bill reducing Charleston airport board on way to Haley

Jenny Sanford stands to lose her seat on the Charleston County Aviation Authority if the governor signs a bill repealing a law passed in 2007 that added two members to the board. If so, she has agreed to continue to chair the Airport Art Committee until work is completed on the terminal makeover.

A bill reducing the size of Charleston’s airport board will soon be on its way to the governor, and former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford is a signature away from losing her seat.

The House voted unanimously Thursday to remove two lawmakers or their designees from the Charleston County Aviation Authority, repealing a contested law passed in 2007. The Senate passed the legislation in February.

The bill only needs ratification before heading to Gov. Nikki Haley for her signature. A Haley spokesman did not return a call or email for comment.

Sanford sits in for Sen. Chip Campsen of Charleston as his designee and she is aware of the bill’s effect, she said. Sanford said Friday she is willing to continue serving as the Airport Art Committee chairwoman until the terminal redevelopment project is completed early next year.

The other affected seat is vacant because Rep. Peter McCoy of Charleston, like Campsen, doesn’t think the 2007 law is constitutional. He has declined to appoint a representative.

The bill removes the chairman and vice chairman of the Charleston County legislative delegation or their appointees from the airport board. Campsen is chairman. McCoy is vice chairman.

It also reinserts language inadvertently omitted in 2012. The omission removed North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and two other legislative appointees from the board.

If the governor signs the bill, the board will be reduced to 11 members from 13.

“This made clear we were re-establishing the original 11-member makeup of that board,” state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis said. “There needs to be no question about the legality of the board. We had to make sure those votes could not be questioned. We need to get the fix done to protect the board and the decisions they’ve made and end that lawsuit.”

A lawsuit filed in 2012 questions the legality of the 2007 law. It is currently in the S.C. Court of Appeals, which heard arguments in March.

Waring Howe, a Charleston attorney and former airport board chairman who helped bring the lawsuit, said if the legislation becomes law it will render the lawsuit moot.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if one party or the other makes a motion to have the suit dismissed,” Howe said. “It was just an ill-advised thing that is finally being righted.”

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