Information Sources for Airport Operators

By Jeff Wagner, Shareholder
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C.

Many airports in Mississippi are operated by authorities or commissions composed of individuals with little experience in government and all the rules and regulations that may apply to governmental entities. Although many legal questions or issues will continue to require professional assistance, we are lucky to live in an age when there is a tremendous amount of information available (in these cases below, at least) for free to anyone with an Internet connection. Only a few years ago, much of this information was only accessible to those with the specialized knowledge of how to find it using paid subscriptions to legal databases.

Mississippi Code. Have a question about what the Mississippi Airport Authorities Law (Miss. Code Ann. §61-3-1 et seq.) or the Mississippi Public Records Act (Miss. Code Ann. §25-61-1 et seq.) says? The Mississippi Code is a public document. As part of its arrangement with Lexis-Nexis Publishing to sell printed copies of the Mississippi Code, the state requires Lexis-Nexis to make the Mississippi Code (without annotations) available free of charge on the Internet (http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/mscode/). Interested in looking at a bill that is currently before the Mississippi Legislature or has been signed into law but has not yet been incorporated into the Mississippi Code? The Mississippi Legislature’s website (https://www.legislature.ms.gov/Pages/default.aspx) provides access to, among other things, copies of bills going back to 1997.

Ethics Commission. Have a question about what is allowed under the Mississippi Ethics in Government Law or other ethical requirements for public officials (which includes unpaid airport commissioners)? The Mississippi Ethics Commission website (https://www.ethics.ms.gov/) provides access to advisory opinions on questions posed by governmental officials under the Ethics in Government Law. In addition to the Ethics in Government Law, the Ethics Commission is now charged with oversight of the Mississippi Public Records Act, the Mississippi Open Meetings Law and the Mississippi Campaign Finance Law. The Ethics Commission posts orders and opinions under these laws on its website as well. Statements of Economic Interests for individuals who are required to file (which includes all airport authority commissioners and each executive director or chief executive of an airport authority), are also available on the Ethics Commission website.

Attorney General Opinions. Have a question on the application of Mississippi law under a particular set of circumstances to a government official or governmental entity? The Mississippi Attorney General is authorized to issue opinions on these questions to governmental entities and officials. Searchable copies of the opinions are available on the Attorney General’s website (http://www.ago.state.ms.us/). For those of you who are not accustomed to using “Terms and Connectors” searches, I recommend selecting “Natural Language” as the search option.

Federal Aviation Administration. Have a question about the grant assurances that accompany each grant of airport development funds? The Federal Aviation Administration website (www.faa.gov) provides access to federal statutes, regulations, advisory circulars and guidance on all matters under the FAA’s jurisdiction.

Jeff Wagner is a shareholder in the Jackson, Mississippi, office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C., and may be reached at 601-973-3610 or by email at [email protected]