State Senate Puts Off Action on De-Annexation Bill, Sends It Back to Committee

Pause is temporary, as bill will be reconsidered in State and Local Committee at noon on Wednesday; stout lobbying effort from city assisted in result.

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State Senator Lee Harris arguing for bill's referral
  • State Senator Lee Harris arguing for bill's referral

Nobody’s going anywhere just yet. The bill (HB0779/SB074) pending in the General Assembly that would allow de-annexation by any area annexed by Memphis since 1998 has been referred back to committee.

Several factors combined to produce that result on Monday — including reservations about the bill expressed by Lt. Governor Bill Haslam and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey) and phone calls to legislators by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, abetted by on-site lobbying in Nashville on Monday by Memphis Chamber officials and City Council members.

But the actual mechanism that took the bill off the Senate floor and staved off a floor vote came on a motion by Senator Ken Yager of Kingston, chairman of the body’s State and Local Committee, who found the version that passed the House last week to be “totally unacceptable…bad law and bad policy.”

Yager based his objections mainly on the bill’s singling out a five cities (including Memphis) out of the 350 or so muinicipalities in Tennessee and its use of the hazy term “egregious” to describe annexations by those cities.

After the Senate sponsor, Bo Watson of Hixson, quarreled with that judgment and after a good deal of ensuing to and fro in debate, the Senate agreed to suspend the rules and refer the bill for reconsideration to Yager’s committee, which will hear it during a specially called session on Wednesday at noon.

Mayor Strickland and the Council and legislators representing Memphis itself have opposed the bill for numerous reasons, including the fact that, they say, it could cost the city $28 million annually in revenue and the loss of some 110,000 inhabitants, wreaking unintended consequences and havoc overall.

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