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story.lead_photo.caption Former President Bill Clinton walks on stage at the 2013 dedication of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

A Conway state senator has filed a bill that is aimed at requiring Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field to change its name.

Under S̶e̶n̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶B̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶2̶2̶1̶1 Senate Bill 430* by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, no municipal airport in Arkansas that is paid for "in whole or in part with public funds" can be named for a living person who was elected to federal, state, county or municipal office and received a salary for his service in the office.

Also under the bill, any affected airport would have until Jan. 1 for its commission to rename it.

The Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission changed the airport's name in 2012 to honor the Clintons' years of public service and their impact on the state. The airport's new name was formally dedicated in 2013. It is the state's largest airport.

A preliminary review of the state's 93 public-use airports didn't immediately turn up any airport to which the bill's language would apply beyond Clinton National, which was previously known as Little Rock Regional Airport, Adams Field.

John Miller Field, the municipal airport at Melbourne in Izard County, is named after a former speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives from Melbourne. First elected in 1958, he was a state representative for 40 years. The airport was named after Miller while he was alive.

Miller died in 2014, and Rapert said that as a result, his bill wouldn't apply to Miller Field.

About two dozen Arkansas airports are named in honor of people.

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Bentonville Municipal Airport/Louise M. Thaden Field, for example, is named after a Bentonville native who was among the early female aviation pioneers. She established several aviation records in the 1920s and 1930s and won, among other aviation awards, the coveted Bendix Trophy in 1936, according to Eight Nine Romeo Papa: The Story of Arkansas Aviation written by Dave Wallis.

Clinton National retains Adams Field as part of its official name but only uses the Clinton name in its marketing materials. Adams refers to George Geyer Adams, an Arkansas National Guard captain who died in 1937 when a propeller assembly on an National Guard aircraft he was preparing to fly exploded as the engine was being warmed up, according to Wallis' book.

Rapert's bill amends a 2013 state law, Act 1225, which banned any public buildings or facilities from being named after a living person who in the 10 years preceding the construction of the building or facility held elective office for which he received a salary. His bill adds airports to the language.

The intent of the legislation was to "prevent unfair advantages for incumbent candidates in future political contests," which Rapert said is why the Little Rock airport was named after the Clintons.

Hillary Clinton, who was a U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state in the Obama administration, was the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

"The fact is the commission used the airport for political purposes," Rapert said.

Hillary Clinton garnered 34 percent of the vote in Arkansas against the Republican nominee and eventual winner, Donald Trump, who received 61 percent of the vote in the state.

Her husband was elected the nation's youngest governor in 1978 and went on to serve five terms. He was elected president in 1992 and served two terms.

Rapert said Clinton's presidency was marred by the scandal of an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, which resulted his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives. He was acquitted by the U.S. Senate. Clinton also paid a substantial amount of money to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit.

"People do not enjoy the fact that the airport, the gateway to Arkansas, is named after someone who literally no one else would want to honor," Rapert said. "I think Arkansas is just weary of the Clinton baggage."

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said he was "very disappointed" with the bill and "respectfully disagree[s]" with Rapert's assessment of the Clintons' impact.

The Clinton Presidential Center has had a $3.3 billion impact on the city in its first 10 years, according to a study by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2014, Stodola said. In that time, more than 3 million people visited the center.

He noted that Clinton as president signed legislation in 1998 changing the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to honor the former Republican president on his 87th birthday.

"Not everyone agreed with that," Stodola said.

He also said the Little Rock airport is governed by the city. "Republicans always preach local control, local control until they don't."

The bill is assigned to the Senate Transportation, Technology and Legislative Affairs Committee.

Business on 02/24/2017

*An earlier version of this story listed the wrong number for Senate Bill 430.

Print Headline: Bill seeks Clintons' name off airport

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