By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Ark (Reuters) - The largest and busiest airport in Arkansas would no longer be named after the only president and first lady from the state if a bill introduced in the legislature on Thursday succeeds.
The legislation would prohibit public buildings or civil works from being named for anyone living or who served in public office in the 10 years prior to the structure’s completion.
The bill makes no mention of former President Bill Clinton or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for whom the Little Rock airport was re-named four years ago - as Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field - but its author does not hesitate to identify its target.
“You have a president who was impeached for having an affair with an intern in the Oval Office and then disbarred,” said state Sen. Jason Rapert, the bill’s author and one of the Arkansas legislature’s most outspoken conservatives.
President Clinton was impeached in 1998 by the U.S. House of Representatives, which accused him of obstructing justice by lying under oath about a sexual relationship with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was acquitted in a Senate trial the following year.
Hillary Clinton served as attorney to the city’s airport commission during her husband’s tenure as governor of Arkansas. At the conclusion of her husband’s presidency she won a Senate seat in New York.
She was appointed secretary of state by President Barack Obama, who defeated her for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton won the nomination last year but was defeated by President Donald Trump.
Rapert, whose Senate district does not include Little Rock, said he introduced the legislation after “several Arkansans across the state” had expressed to him their “discomfort” with naming its largest airport after the controversial Clintons.
He conceded his legislation might not win approval.
"But we can prevent this sort of thing in the future," he said.
City officials have defended re-naming the airport, although sometimes tersely.
"I think the name of the airport is appropriate and I support retaining it," said Meredith Catlett, a member of the terminal’s governing commission.
(Reporting by Steve Barnes in Little Rock; Editing by Robert Birsel)