Annexation bill passes Tennessee House with big changes
by Andy Sher
NASHVILLE — The House on Thursday passed a much-amended bill aimed at calling a time-out on annexations, but lawmakers made major changes to the measure that put it at odds with the Senate-passed bill.
Representatives voted 78-16 for the measure, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, is the sponsor of the Senate bill, which passed Wednesday.
Late Thursday afternoon, Watson asked the Senate to stand pat on its version, sending the bill back to the House. And Carter stood pat, sending the bill back to the Senate.
If senators don’t agree, the bill is likely to wind up in a conference committee where anything — or nothing — might happen.
The bill began as an measure to allow residents to vote whether to be annexed by cities. That goal has evolved to a one-year moratorium on annexations involving residential and agricultural land, plus a state study of current annexation laws and practices.
A number of counties and cities want out of the bill, fearing it will hurt economic development.
Watson’s bill would allow county commissions to opt out by a two-thirds vote. Carter’s would require just a majority vote in the county commission.
“We’ve put additional safeguards in the bill,” Carter said, though lawmakers still voted to exempt six counties from the bill.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, warned that could create legal or constitutional problems. Tennessee’s Constitution mandates that laws be applied evenly.
The exemptions are “basically making the bill very shaky if it goes to court,” McCormick warned. “And if there’s going to be any bill that goes to court it’s going to be this one.”
IN OTHER ACTION
The House OK’d a bill directing state regulators to run computer models in counties that have auto emissions testing to determine what would happen if cars in the three most recent model years were exempt from test.
The original bill would simply have exempted those cars, but state environmental regulators and business groups warned it could disrupt plans to keep ozone levels down in Hamilton and five other counties. Businesses worry it could force them to purchase costly control equipment for their operations.
Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, was unhappy with the change, calling the $10 fee on emissions testing on newer models “extortion.”
Also, The Associated Press reported that a proposal to would allow school districts to allow people with police training to be armed in schools is headed to the governor for his consideration.
The House voted 72-15 on Thursday to concur with changes made by the Senate.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.