VOL. 131 | NO. 56 | Friday, March 18, 2016
Harris Seeks Legal Opinion on Deannexation Bill, Senate Vote Set For Monday
By Bill Dries
State Sen. Lee Harris of Memphis has requested a legal opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General’s office on the deannexation bill the Senate could vote on Monday, March 21.
The bill is scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor Monday at 1 p.m., according to Harris.
In his written request to Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, Harris said comments from sponsors of the bill “suggest that the purpose of the bill is retribution against the city of Memphis, among other communities.”
The question Harris posed for the legal opinion is: “Is it lawful and constitutional to approve a law that takes arguably punitive action against the city of Memphis and a handful of other communities on the basis of retribution, some claim of misconduct or other claim of egregious behavior related to the city’s lawful action?”
The claim of “egregious” annexations is in the House version of the bill approved earlier this week and its House sponsor, Ooltewah Republican Mike Carter, said the term is essential to the proposal’s constitutionality. Without it, Carter told Memphis Democrat Raumesh Akbari that his proposal would likely be declared unconstitutional.
Akbari sought unsuccessfully before the House vote on the full measure to amend out the term "egregious."
Harris, in seeking the legal opinion, also questions the term as a characterization of the 18 annexations by Memphis since 1998 that are potentially affected by the deannexation proposal.
“Although it is true that the city of Memphis has undertaken annexations, Memphis’ actions were authorized under Tennessee law,” Harris wrote. “In fact, in litigation on this very issue, a Tennessee court confirmed that Memphis’ actions were lawful.”
Meanwhile, with the legislative week in Nashville at an end, Memphis legislators rally Friday, March 18, in front of City Hall in opposition to the bill that cleared the state House earlier this week.
And state Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis announced Thursday he was withdrawing his co-sponsorship of the Senate version of the bill.
In a written statement, Tate said he withdrew his support because of changes to the bill that would make areas of Memphis annexed as far back as 1998 eligible for deannexation through referendum.
Tate, who acknowledged in his statement "this is something that was started by my constituents," said he favors deannexation as an option only for the Southwind and Windyke areas that he represents. Those areas were annexed in 2013.
“I supported the bill because it would have given communities in my district a referendum vote – a say in the matter that they were not granted in 2013,” Tate said in the statement. “I understand the concerns of my constituents in District 33 who want the right to have their voices heard by referendum. But I must take into consideration the implications the newly amended legislation would have on Memphis and Shelby County as a whole.”