Three North Texas House members, including Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, will testify on the Wright Amendment on Thursday during Senate hearings on the law that restricts Dallas Love Field service.
The addition of the House members to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Aviation Subcommittee witness list ratchets up the issue because the House has not scheduled any hearings, and the 32-member Texas delegation is divided on the issue.
Granger is firmly in the "Wright is right" camp, while the views of the other two House witnesses -- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas -- strongly oppose each other.
"Clearly, this is an issue the Senate is taking leadership on," Hensarling said in an interview.
"It is good solid progress. It's not scoring a touchdown, but it's moving the ball 20 yards down the field."
Hensarling is a co-sponsor of the "Right to Fly Act," which would repeal the Wright Amendment, the law that restricts service from Love Field to points within Texas and seven states. The congressman, elected in 2002, said Transportation Department data show that North Texans pay one-third more for long-distance travel than the national average.
"We need to educate members as to why this is a national issue and not just a local issue," Hensarling said.
But Johnson, who has Love Field in her district, views it as a local issue and has threatened to introduce legislation to shut down the close-in airport if Wright is repealed.
"This is a divisive debate that could and should be avoided," Johnson said. "This is also an issue best resolved locally. ... This balance between our two airports has served the North Texas community well."
The hearings were already highly anticipated, with a face-off between American Airlines' chief Gerard Arpey and Southwest Airlines' founder Herb Kelleher at the witness table anticipated.
Fort Worth-based American supports the Wright Amendment as vital to the economic prosperity of D/FW and the North Texas region.
Love Field-based Southwest wants to expand its service without having to move to D/FW.
Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald will be in Washington to support the Wright Amendment and is scheduled to speak at a news conference Wednesday.
The Abilene City Council endorsed a resolution that supports the Wright Amendment out of concern that repeal could result in reduced air service at Abilene Regional Airport.
Because of the additional witnesses, the Senate panel announced that the hearing will be moved up to 8:30 a.m. Central Time.
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