De-annexation bill sidetracked in Senate

A municipal de-annexation bill ran into trouble on the Tennessee Senate floor Monday and was re-referred back to committee over the the objections of sponsor Sen. Bo Watson, reports the Times-Free Press.

Senators sent Watson’s bill, which passed the House last week, back to the State and Local Government Committee on a 19-12 vote.

They later directed the committee to meet and consider the bill Wednesday in a special meeting. The purpose is to examine House amendments restricting the would-be law’s application to just five cities, including Chattanooga, which the bill says engaged in “egregious” annexations in the past.

The bill would allow citizens in tracts annexed from 1998 forward to petition for elections to de-annex themselves. Residential property owners would continue paying taxes on bonds cities issued to make improvements while the residents lived within the municipality.

Earlier, Senate State and Local Government Chairman Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, objected to amendments placed on the House version of the bill by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah.

Yager questioned the constitutionality of amendments, which under Carter’s bill would limit de-annexation by public referendum to just six cities. Johnson City was amended out on the House floor after city officials moved to de-annex some property as the bill loomed.

The chairman said the limitations and some other provisions were not what the Senate envisioned when Watson’s version was moved out of Yager’s Senate panel last year.

“The amendment that the House has put on is totally unacceptable and totally out of line with the sentiment and policy that drove those votes last year” in his committee, Yager said.