An ‘oops’ in de-annexation amendment?

Apparently no one noticed at the time, but a Senate amendment to controversial de-annexation legislation approved last week deleted a provision restricting de-annexation to areas that were annexed prior to 1998, reports the Commercial Appeal.

That means that any area annexed at any time in a city’s history could now be subject to de-annexation if area residents approve the idea in a referendum. The proclaimed intent of the amendment was to authorize de-annexation statewide, not just in five cities cover by the House version of the bill.

Of course, the date restriction can be restored to the bill at next week’s Senate State and Local Government Committee meeting.

The amendment would make the vast majority of Memphis eligible for de-annexation — according to Shelby County’s website, some 74 annexations have occurred since 1819, when the city was founded.

(Senate Minority Leader) Harris (D-Memphis) said the bill, as written, could devastate cities across the state, and was like “playing Russian roulette with five bullets and a six-shooter.” As a result, he said, some lawmakers are already abandoning the bill, which he said is “headed for a buzz saw.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who is a member of the committee and was at the meeting Wednesday, said he was surprised to find out Friday that the 1998 date had been removed.

…Norris said he confirmed the 1998 limitation was removed only after a reporter called Friday, and that he hadn’t had a chance to speak with Clarksville Republican Sen. Mark Green — who proposed the amendment — to see if the removal of the date was intentional.

“I can’t imagine he would do anything to kill his own bill,” he said.

The amendment was one of two approved by the committee, the other requiring de-annexed areas to continue to pay their share of debt incurred by the city since their annexations.

Norris said he expects he or another senator will propose an amendment to put the 1998 date back in unless there was a good reason for the change.

Alan Crone, who is heading up the city’s lobbying efforts for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, said the bill has a long way to go, and many more amendments — 11 already proposed in committee — before it comes to a vote. But Crone said he’s hopeful senators will see the city’s perspective.