Nashville airport, sports venues target of state takeover effort

  • A bill would create a new 11-member board for the Nashville Airport Authority.
  • The other would create a new 13-member board of the sporting authority.
  • In either case, the heads of state would appoint the majority.

Tennessee Republicans filed new bills Tuesday to exercise their control over the boards of directors at Nashville Airport, Nissan Stadium, Bridgestone Arena and other Music City landmarks.

The new bills would reshape the boards and give state legislatures and the governor the power to appoint the majority of members.

The legislation comes as the battle between Democrat-led Nashville and legislative Republicans heats up and the city’s politics undergo a major upheaval. Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced this week that he would not be running for re-election, setting the stage for a wide-open mayoral election in August.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, introduced a bill to demolish the Music City Center — another venue whose board is currently being appointed by the mayor — and another bill by House Majority Leader William Lamberth to R-Portland, could reduce the size of the 40-member Metro Council to no more than 20 members.

What would the bills do?

Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, introduced HB 1176, which “adds the Governor and Speakers of the General Assembly as appointing authorities for board positions” for state airport authorities.

The bill establishes an 11-member board of directors for the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. This is how the appointments would work:

  • Four members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
  • four members appointed by the Senate speaker;
  • Two members appointed by the governor;
  • The mayor of Nashville or an appointee would be the final member of the board and would serve as an ex officio voting member.

The members of the Board of Directors must be residents of Davidson County as required by law.

A view of the east bank of the Cumberland River from the Kelly Miller Smith Bridge Tuesday December 6, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, proposed HB 1197, which “reorganizes governing bodies for sports agencies.” It would give the heads of state majority control of the board that manages Nissan Stadium, Bridgestone Arena, First Horizon Park and other athletic venues in Davidson County.

The law creates a new 13-member board. This is how the appointments would work:

  • Three members appointed by the Mayor of Nashville;
  • Four members appointed by the governor;
  • Three members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
  • Three members appointed by the Senate Speaker.

Under the legislation, some members of the athletic board could live outside of Davidson County.

Both bills apply only to areas with metropolitan governments and only those with more than 500,000 residents. Only Nashville-Davidson County meets the criteria.

This is an evolving story. Check for updates again.

Sandy Mazza can be reached by email at [email protected], by phone at 615-726-5962, or on Twitter at @SandyMazza.

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