Congress May Use Leverage in Wright Battle

Congress could motivate local officials to create an authority to run the airports -- and to sort out issues over long-haul flights from Love -- by holding back federal funds.


DART

Ms. Johnson said the research service report backs up her contention that local officials in North Texas must come up with a plan for sorting out the controversy over the Wright amendment. She pointed to the creation of Dallas Area Rapid Transit as an example of how local communities can reach consensus on regional transportation issues.

"A regional authority has to be decided on by the regional people," Ms. Johnson said.

The report said an attempt by Congress to create a regional authority may violate the 10th Amendment, which seeks to limit the federal government's authority on local issues.

"While Congress' power to regulate matters affecting interstate commerce is broad, it is not unlimited and, in recent years, has been constrained by the [Supreme] Court's interpretation of the 10th Amendment," the report said.

"Applying these cases to a proposal for a congressionally mandated regional airport authority, it appears possible to argue that a proposal of this type improperly intrudes into state sovereignty by conscripting or commandeering the governments of Dallas and Fort Worth to carry out a federal mandate."

But the research service said the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right of Congress to tie conditions to the receipt of the federal funds. It noted a 1987 decision upholding the right of Congress to tie federal highway funds to South Dakota's adopting a drinking age of 21.

In this case, Congress might take a less heavy-handed approach if local officials reach an agreement to set up a regional board. Lawmakers might appropriate federal funds to cover the cost, tying the money to its actual creation.

E-mail rdodge@dallasnews.com

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