Tag Archives: de-annexation

De-annexation debate cools in summer study

The hot topic of de-annexation was the subject of discourse by “cooler heads” during a legislative study committee hearing Monday than in the legislative session earlier this year, reports the Tennessean.

Several speakers, including Doug McGowen, chief operation officer for the city of Memphis, said while they have pushed back against the de-annexation legislation before, they aren’t necessarily diametrically opposed to it.

“We are, however, all in on the notion that we should work together to ensure that everyone who has a stake in the de-annexation game has a voice in the process,” he said. McGowen asked lawmakers to use a “locally-controlled, data driven” process that includes all stakeholders.

…Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who chaired the special committee and said the panel had completed its task.

Following the meeting, Ketron said he felt the discussion was helpful, adding, “I think we kinda fleshed out a lot of questions today.”

But Watson disagreed. “I don’t think I heard anything I haven’t heard in the previous roughly 11 hours of testimony while we were in session,” Watson said. “Most of this is ground that’s already been plowed before.”

When asked if he plans to file another de-annexation bill during the upcoming legislation session, Watson said he would take information provided in Monday’s hearing and from the Memphis task force and work on another bill.

“We’re trying to work towards a win-win situation where it’s difficult to create win-wins,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to represent citizens who were put under city government with no voice in whether that occurred or not.”

Senate committee kills de-annexation bill

NASHVILLE , Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Senate committee has voted to kill a legislative proposal seeking to allow communities to hold elections to reverse annexation by cities.

The State and Local Government Committee voted 5-3 on Wednesday to study the measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bo Watson of Chattanooga after the Legislature adjourns for the year.

The mayors of Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga had urged lawmakers not to adopt the bill, arguing that de-annexation could end up shrinking the size of their cities.

The House earlier in the month passed the bill on a 68-25 vote. The full Senate had been poised to vote on the measure but ultimately sent it back to committee after Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville questioned the measure’s fairness and constitutionality.

Senators add city-friendly amendments to deannexation bill

A state Senate committee approved several amendments to the controversial deannexation bill Tuesday but delayed voting on the overall legislation until Wednesday, reports Richard Locker.

From the viewpoint of cities, the amendments were mostly favorable — and unfavorable from the standpoint of residents seeking to de-annex themselves from their cities. One requires deannexed property to be taxed for a proportional share of the city’s employee retirement obligations incurred while the territory was in the city limits.

Another amendment approved in the Senate State & Local Government Committee would require at least 20 percent of the registered voters in an area proposed for deannexation to sign petitions before a referendum can be held in the area. The original bill, and the version approved earlier this month by the House, requires only 10 percent.

…The House approved the bill March 14 but an amendment there limited its application to Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport and Cornersville — meaning that only residents of those cities could initiate de-annexation proceedings. The Senate committee last week added an amendment that would return the bill to a statewide application, potentially setting up a showdown with the House.

The committee also approved an amendment favorable to residents who want to deannex: it makes territories whose annexations went into effect since May 1, 1998, eligible to deannex, even if the annexation ordinances were adopted prior to that date. That provision particularly applies to areas whose annexations were approved before 1998 but which were tied up in court and did not become operational until after the threshold date.

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.

Three mayors urge defeat of deannexation bill

The mayors of Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga presented a united front against the deannexation bill in a state Senate committee Wednesday, warning it could destabilize cities’ finances and hurt recruitment of new businesses, reports the News Sentinel.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke sat together at a witness table before the State and Local Government Committee to voice their objections to a bill that would allow residents of areas annexed into cities since 1998 to call referendums for deannexation — and then separate from their cities if approved by a majority of voters in those areas.

But in his questioning of the mayors, Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, said some residents want to leave cities they were annexed into against their will, without a vote, and he likened annexation to forcible takeovers of one nation by another.

“When you think of a city going out and, just on its own, taking land from someone else — to me that’s almost like Russia going in and taking Poland and adding it to the Soviet Union,” Green said. “I really see those as pretty close. When people don’t want to be brought into the city and are forcibly brought in so the city can have a better tax base, I find that egregious. And that’s a big part of why this bill is so emotional for a lot of people right now.”

Rogero said Knoxville officials have identified about 500 residential properties that could leave the city under the bill’s provisions.

“They represent about $600,000 a year in property taxes. That is the equivalent of about a penny and a half on our property tax rate — very small compared to our friends in Memphis, but certainly not insignificant,” she said.

The Knoxville mayor said she supports some provisions of the bill — such as requiring approval of residents for city-initiated deannexation and authority for cities to annex territory not contiguous to their existing borders — which she said could benefit economic development.

“But I am troubled and frankly very confused by the sections allowing elective deannexations in a handful of specific cities. The obvious question is why — why these five cities out of more than 300 in the state?” she asked.

The version of the bill approved by the House on March 14 limits deannexation to Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport and tiny Cornersville in Marshall County, where the bill says annexations over the past 20 years were “the most egregious.”

“The language in the House bill indicates they were chosen because of ‘egregious annexations,’ but it offers no detail or evidence of what constitutions ‘egregious,’ ” Rogero said.

Note: After the mayors’ testimony, the Senate committee approved amendments to the bill — most notably one that makes it apply to all cities in the state, not just the five designated by the House. If that stands, the House and Senate will be at loggerheads on scope of the measure.

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.

Ramsey moves to exempt Kingsport from de-annexation

One of the five cities still included in a controversial municipal de-annexation bill may get a reprieve courtesy of the Senate’s most powerful member, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has filed an amendment that would remove Kingsport from the bill, which allows residents of areas annexed into five Tennessee towns and cities since 1998 to petition and then vote to de-annex their areas from their cities. Kingsport is in Ramsey’s Northeast Tennessee district. Another city nearby but not in his district — Johnson City — was amended out just before the bill passed the House of Representatives last Monday.
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Sen. Tate now opposing bill he co-sponsored

Sen. Reginald Tate is the only Democratic legislator in the state to co-sponsor a de-annexation bill allowing up to 10 areas of Memphis to separate from the city, but Richard Locker says that’s no surprise to anyone who’s followed Tate’s lawmaking career.

He’s often a maverick at odds with fellow Democrats. He voted for Republican Ron Ramsey for Senate speaker. He voted with Republicans for a resolution to sue President Obama over refugee resettlement. He voted in committee to strip the University of Tennessee of state funding for its diversity programs.

But despite being the only Democratic signature on either the House or Senate versions of the de-annexation bill, Tate said Wednesday that he’s against the iteration that won House approval Monday and probably won’t vote for it.

Arriving at Wednesday’s Shelby County legislative delegation meeting where Mayor Jim Strickland asked lawmakers to kill the bill, Tate said he signed on to the Senate bill because he intended to allow only Southwind — where he said he’s lived for nine years, since soon after his election to the Senate — to de-annex.

…He said he wasn’t party to negotiations that led to the inclusion of up to nine other areas that Strickland says could potentially cost the city 111,000 residents.

“All that was changed in the House and I had no part of that. I think that’s what the ruckus is about right now, how the language has changed. I do not like the bill as it passed the House,” he said.

Memphis, Knoxville mayors rally against de-annexation

Only six cities are impacted by the latest version of de-annexation legislation and mayors in two of those — Memphis and Knoxville — are trying to rally opposition to the measure, reports Richard Locker.

The bill is the second phase of a massive shift in Tennessee municipal annexation law that began in 2014 when the General Assembly ended six decades of annexation simply by the majority votes of city councils and replaced it with a requirement for the consent of residents of areas to be taken into city limits, through referendums or petitions.

The de-annexation bill would allow 10 percent of the registered voters of a territory annexed since May 1, 1998, or whose annexation “became operative” after that date, to petition for a de-annexation referendum. De-annexation would occur if approved by a majority of voters in the referendum.

House Bill 779 failed on the last day of the 2015 legislative session but its supporters vowed to return with it this year. And they have, with an amended version that limits most of its provisions to just six cities: Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Johnson City, Kingsport and, oddly, Cornersville (pop. 1,199, in Marshall County) — places where the bill says “citizens have experienced the most egregious forms of annexation and have no other reasonable course to redress their grievance than to petition for a vote.”

… It’s sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

“The City of Knoxville is strongly opposed to de-annexation legislation,” said Eric Vreeland, the mayor’s communications manager, on Wednesday. “…allowing de-annexation of properties that have been a part of the city of Knoxville for at least a decade, or many decades, would be chaotic. Infrastructure and facilities — streets, sidewalks and fire halls, for example — have been constructed as areas have been annexed. Services have been upgraded as businesses and residents have come into the city.”

…Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Wednesday the bill is “potentially devastating” to his city, potentially costing it up to 100,000 residents and up to $64 million in property tax revenue.

Strickland, who took office as Memphis mayor Jan. 1, said the city has identified 10 potential de-annexation neighborhoods that could petition for referendums if the bill is approved in its current form.

Legislators ready to authorize ‘de-annexation’ from TN cities

A bill allowing residents of parts of cities to “de-annex” their territory from the city, by majority votes in referendums called by voter-initiated petitions, won approval of a key subcommittee in the state House Tuesday.

From the Commercial Appeal report:

House Bill 779 sets out the process and requirements for de-annexation from municipalities. Current law allows cities to contract their borders by ordinances approved by the city council or Board of Aldermen, but the bill empowers residents of an area to initiate and approve the process in Tennessee for the first time. Twenty-six states allow de-annexation in some form, according to the Tennessee Municipal League.

The bill follows last year’s enactment by the Tennessee legislature of the most sweeping revision of annexation law since the 1950s, when municipalities were given authority to annex new territory without approval of the residents being annexed. The 2014 law requires approval of residents being annexed, either by petition or referendum.

If approved, a de-annexation referendum must be held if at least 10 percent of the registered voters in an area sign petitions requesting a referendum, which is held only within the de-annexation zone. The zone must be an entire area that was annexed at one time, not parts of it, and the de-annexation cannot leave a “doughnut hole” of newly unincorporated territory within the city limits.

If a majority of voters in the zone approve separation from the city, taxpayers in the zone remain responsible for the share of municipal taxes dedicated to repaying whatever bond debt the city incurred to extend services there.

The City of Memphis and the Tennessee Municipal League, which represents municipal governments statewide, opposed the bill, which won 7-5 approval in the House Finance Subcommittee and now moves to the full committee.

Note: The bill cleared the Senate committee system last month and awaits a floor vote under sponsorship of Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson. The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah.