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VOL. 131 | NO. 59 | Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Opposers Fight De-Annexation Another Day

By Bill Dries

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When the state Senate’s State and Local Government Committee convenes at noon Wednesday, March 21, in Nashville, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and his administration will have been working Capital Hill for about a day and a half.

They are pushing for an amendment or defeat of the de-annexation bill the committee takes up after the bill was deferred Monday on the Senate floor.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that they are going to allow us some time to explain the impact on Memphis,” Strickland said Monday in advance of the two-day stay for him in Nashville.

Most of the push to send the bill to Senate committee came from legislators who favor the general idea of allowing de-annexation referendums.

MARK NORRIS

Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville was among them and still counts himself as a yes vote. But he approached Senate sponsor Bo Watson earlier in the day Monday about an amendment for the city of Millington.

Millington officials for several years have been trying to undo an annexation of a 10-square-mile area.

Norris says the bill pending before the Senate deletes a provision that would allow Millington to voluntarily de-annex the area, bypassing the need for a referendum. Watson refused.

“You all need to know that. He told me in no uncertain terms – no,” Norris said Monday on the Senate floor. “So what’s the point of standing here and taking up these amendments. This is a sham.”

Watson argued that all of the problems could be resolved once the Senate voted on a set of amendments and then dispensed with about a dozen amendments being offered by opponents of the measure.

Norris said he plans to “fend off as many tinkering amendments as I can” once the bill goes back to the Senate floor.

But he added that he believes the basic bill offered by Watson and House sponsor Mike Carter, both of Hamilton County, has “a lot of problems.”

“This bill gets into the courts of law the way it’s written; it’s not long for this world,” Norris said.

Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro has requested a legal opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General’s office on how the bill stands in relation to the Tennessee Constitution’s clause on general laws required for cities governed by home rule charters, like Memphis.

It’s the second request for a legal opinion on the bill from a senator.

Memphis Democrat Lee Harris has requested a legal opinion on the bill’s use of the term “egregious” to describe the annexations by Memphis and five other cities.

State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager of Kingston said he objected to amendments to the original bill because they don’t give those annexed anywhere in the state the right to de-annex.

“This bill disenfranchises all but six cities they’ve chosen to target,” he said.

Yager pushed for the move back to committee, saying repeatedly that he wasn’t trying to “run out the clock,” referring to the three weeks left in the legislative session.

After he said that several times, Watson quoted Shakespeare, “Thou doeth protest too much.”

When Harris argued that city leaders from Memphis and elsewhere would need several days to get to Nashville, Lt. Gov. and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Wednesday would be plenty of time to get local leaders to Capital Hill.

“They are all in the gallery now. Let’s be perfectly honest about it,” he said referring to Memphis City Council members and leaders of the Greater Memphis Chamber, watching in the Senate chamber. “It will help the Nashville economy to make them stay two more nights.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 8 52 151
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751
BANKRUPTCIES 37 157 618
BUSINESS LICENSES 12 77 276
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0