The Virginia General Assembly will likely delay the seating of Gov. Robert F McDonnell’s appointees to the board of the authority that operates Reagan National and Dulles International airports and is managing construction of the $6 billion Metrorail expansion to Loudoun County.
The House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday allowing McDonnell (R)’s two appointees to be seated. But an emergency clause, which would have allowed the bill to be signed into law immediately, failed to get the needed four-fifths vote.
In November, McDonnell appointed Todd Stottlemyer of Oakton, chief executive of the Silver Spring-based technology firm Acentia, and Caren Merrick of McLean, a businesswoman who ran for the state Senate, to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
House Minority Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said Democrats agreed with the bill’s purpose, but were resistant to the emergency clause. “We didn’t know why there was one,” he said.
“The intent of seeking the emergency clause was to bring MWAA into compliance with federal law as quickly as possible,’’ Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton said. “MWAA is facing a multitude of challenges, and Congress chose to reform the Authority. It is the responsibility of Virginia and the District to implement those reforms as soon as practical.”
The appointments come out of congressional legislation introduced by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) to expand the board from 13 to 17 members. Virginia would get two new appointments; Maryland and the District would each get one more. Before the bill was passed, Virginia had five representatives, the District and the federal government had three, and Maryland had two.
Wolf’s legislation also prohibits members from serving past the end of their terms. Members could also be “removed for cause.” The governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of the District could remove their respective members. The executive branch of the federal government already had that authority.
The airports board voted in September to authorize Chairman Charles Snelling to publicly oppose Wolf’s efforts.
The MWAA has been criticized over how it operates and for its management of the 23-mile Dulles rail project. Phase 1, which is under construction from Falls Church to Reston, could run as much as $150 million over budget. The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation is conducting an audit of MWAA that is to be completed in the spring.