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VOL. 126 | NO. 21 | Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Council Weighs Legislative Wish List

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members during their Tuesday session will weigh a legislative wish list to send to Nashville.

The meeting will begin at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

The list of proposals for the Tennessee Legislature to consider includes a proposal that would allow local governments to keep secret more of the details of luring an industry to relocate or expand in Memphis and Shelby County.

The rough outline of the proposed bill would put those secrets in two categories. One is proprietary information involving trade secrets of the business being recruited.

The other category is more general. It is under the heading of “sensitive information.”

The proposal defines such information as “a file, document or data that is of such sensitive nature that its disclosure or public release would seriously harm the ability of a local industrial development corporation to conclude a PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) agreement or contract for economic or community development.”

Tennessee law now permits the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to hold some information out of the public eye for five years and indefinitely for information that is specifically proprietary.

State economic development officials are required to have the agreement of the Tennessee attorney general for those exceptions.

The legislative proposal being sought by the city and the county mirrors the discretion state officials currently have.

At Tuesday’s meeting the council also will consider a slate of five joint appointments by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell to the New Arena Public Building Authority, the group overseeing the continued financing of FedExForum.

The council delayed action on the slate of appointees last month.

Among the five nominees is state Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville.

It’s not on the agenda, but council members could react Tuesday to the prospect of an amendment to Norris’ bill in Nashville on the standoff between Memphis City and Shelby County schools.

The bill goes to two Senate committees Wednesday in Nashville.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey last week in Memphis expressed a desire to see the March 8 citywide referendum called off as well as a possible state takeover of Memphis City Schools. If council members conclude Ramsey might try to do that by amending Norris’ legislation, they could vote to up the March effective date of an earlier resolution they approved in January backing the MCS board’s Dec. 20 vote to surrender the city schools charter.

Some council members believe the council ratification of the charter surrender would force immediate school consolidation without any kind of referendum. There are conflicting legal opinions on that with most of the attorneys involved arguing that a referendum of some kind is required.

Norris’ legislation would delay a consolidation referendum for at least a year and put in place a planning commission to lay out a transition scenario. Instead of a citywide vote, Norris’ bill would change that to dual votes – one in the city of Memphis and one in the county outside Memphis.

If the proposal didn’t pass in both, it would fail.

The earliest Norris’ bill could go to a floor vote of the full Senate is Feb. 7. Early voting in advance of the March 8 Election Day begins Feb. 16.

In committee sessions before the 3:30 p.m. meeting, council members will get an update on the conversion of The Pyramid as the site of a Bass Pro Shops super store and the accompanying plan to redevelop the neighboring Pinch District. The update at the council’s executive session gets under way at 1:30 p.m.

An 8:30 a.m. session of the public works committee takes up the appropriation of $3.2 million in federal stimulus money for five repaving projects. The stimulus funding is grant money that had already been allocated to the city for use in the current fiscal year.

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