An effort to nullify the recently activated Camden County Spaceport Authority stalled Thursday when State Sen. Sheila McNeill posted a letter to Facebook opposing the repeal effort.
“Sunsetting the Spaceport Authority would hamstring the County’s ability to attract private investment and sends the wrong message about economic development in our community,” the Republican from Brunswick wrote.
As the county’s state senator, McNeill’s opposition to the local legislation makes it more difficult to pass.
Georgia Rep. Steven Sainz (R-St. Marys) introduced H.B. 1590 on Tuesday to sunset the Camden County Spaceport Authority, less than three weeks after the county named the board’s first members.
Sainz said his “Camden County Spaceport Authority; repeal act” responds to the March 8 referendum vote in which voters rejected the county’s plan to purchase land for the spaceport. Sainz feared the authority could be used to circumvent the will of the voters. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Rep. John Corbett whose district includes the Kingsland area in Camden County.
State lawmakers created the authority in 2019 at the request of the Camden County Commission. But no members were named to the body until four days before the referendum. The authority has no funding and has not yet held a meeting.
The referendum was a yes or no vote on repealing a County Commission resolution to purchase the 4,000-acre Union Carbide property. Voters opposed the purchase by a nearly 3-1 margin.
Despite the landslide, McNeill interprets the voters’ message narrowly.
“While the voters indicated in the March 8th referendum that they did not want Camden County to purchase the property for the Spaceport Camden project, they did not vote to end the project or relinquish the recently issued FAA license.”
She also cited concerns about the “haste in which this legislation was introduced.” But Sainz and Corbett had a short window for action. The authority members were named on March 4 and the legislative session is scheduled to end April 4.
McNeill, who was elected to the state senate in 2020, is not seeking re-election.
Camden resident Jackie Eichhorn, who was among the residents the county subpoenaed in its challenge to the validity of the referendum, wrote to McNeill Thursday. She shared her letter with The Current.
“Throwing your support behind continuing the existing Spaceport Authority Act, without any credible evidence of the project’s success, and with direct evidence of the commissioners’ dogged determination to overturn the public will — despite the dangers to taxpayers that the Spaceport Authority Act makes possible — is a blow to democracy, reason and accountability,” she wrote. “I sincerely hope you’ll reconsider your fateful decision.”
County officials, including County Administrator Steve Howard and County Commission Chairman Gary Blount, who is also a newly named member of the Camden County Spaceport Authority, did not respond to repeated requests for comment Thursday.
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