Atlanta TV station WXIA has interviewed Gov. Bill Haslam about Georgia’s push to revise its border with Tennessee. An excerpt: Not surprisingly, Haslam says he likes the status quo – and has only a passing interest in Georgia’s claim to a piece of the Tennessee River.
“We’re very satisfied with the situation the way it is now for, good reason,” Haslam said.
Q: Do you think Georgia has any busines accessing the Tennessee river?
Halsam: “Well, that’s for somebody beyond my capacity. Ask that to an engineer or somebody who can answer that.”
Q: Well, surveyors say that they do.
A: Yeah. Again, it’s not an issue I spend a whole lot of time focused on.
Haslam says he’s aware that the Georgia legislature passed a resolution calling for the state to sue Tennessee to change the state line to the 35th parallel-if Georgia can’t access the river.
The resolution proposes, as a potential compromise, that Tennessee cede a one-square-mile piece of land that would give Georgia geographical access to the Tennessee River and Nickajack Lake.
This week, Georgia governor Nathan Deal said he would approach Haslam at a conference of Republican governors about negotiations.
“I think there is an opportunity to at least have a civil discussion about that issue,” Deal said.
— Hat tip: TNReport, which has a video of the TV station making its video.
Gov. Bill Haslam and TVA’s new CEO, Bill Johnson, are indicating that Georgia’s legislative effort to move the state border and divert Tennessee River water to Atlanta is little more than time-consuming fighting words,according to the Chattanooga TFP. Haslam, through a spokesman, said he has no interest in going along with Georgia’s latest attempt to get access to the mighty river to help slake the Peach State’s thirst for water. Georgia lawmakers are threatening to march into the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the nearly 200-year disputed state boundary issue if Tennessee won’t grant access to the river in Marion County.
“The governor will continue to protect the interests and resources of Tennessee,” Haslam spokesman David Smith said via email.
One Tennessee lawmaker, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, was more strident.
“Well, they’ve threatened to take us to court, so I guess we’ll let the AG’s [attorney general] office take care of it and go to court with them,” said the Chattanooga Republican. “We’re not going to pass a law to give them water.”
From the Chattanooga TFP:
Despite nine previous resolutions that have left a 200-year-old border dispute unresolved, Georgia lawmakers want Tennessee to know this time they mean business.
In a vote Monday, Georgia senators approved House Resolution 4 with one key change: If Tennessee declines to settle, the dispute will be handed over to the attorney general, who will take Tennessee before the Supreme Court to settle the issue once and for all.
“I would hope that the Tennessee House and Senate would realize that one, we’re serious,” said Georgia state Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, “and two, there’s no reason we shouldn’t resolve it and move on.”
Geisinger’s resolution in the House offers to relinquish 66.5 square miles of land that Georgia lawmakers claim is rightfully theirs in return for a 1.5-mile strip that would give them access to the Tennessee River at Nickajack Lake. The Peach State could build a pipeline to deliver up to 1 billion gallons of water a day to thirsty Atlanta and other parts of Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
“This resolution is a good-faith offer to settle the long-standing dispute,” said Brad Carver, an attorney for the Atlanta firm Hall Booth Smith.
Tennessee lawmakers have said Georgia has no right to Tennessee water and that they will not agree to such a resolution.
A dispute between a Texas-based company providing aviation services at Chattanooga’s airport and the local airport authority board has taken flight and landed in the middle of the Tennessee Legislature, reports the Chattanooga TFP. TAC Air, a company providing fuel and hangar space for private airplanes at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, is backing a bill that jumps into the dispute.
It would block future use of grants from the state’s Transportation Equity Fund to “compete” against “existing, privately owned” fixed-base operators such as TAC Air.
Three House members and a senator from outside Hamilton County are sponsoring the bill, which is scheduled to come up in the House Transportation Subcommittee and Senate Transportation Committee later this week.
(Note: The legislation is SB912, sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, and Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma. Reps. Vance Dennis and Terri Lynn Weaver have signed on as co-sponsors with Mathney.))
The company has been fighting with the airport since officials in 2010 unveiled plans to spend $10 million on new facilities for corporate tenants and personal aircraft with the operation run by another company. Airport officials said the facilities, on which some $5 million in grants have been expended, were needed because of complaints about TAC Air.
But TAC Air executives have accused Lovell Field officials of using taxpayer money to effectively ground its existing business.
Pam McAllister, TAC Air’s Chattanooga general manager, said Monday the company is being forced to compete against its own “landlord,” the quasi-governmental airport authority, at taxpayer expense.
“How can we compete fairly when we don’t have access to the funds they do?” she said.
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers are once more asking to redraw the state’s northern border in the hope of getting water from the Tennessee River.
The House of Representatives voted 171-2 on Tuesday to adopt a resolution seeking from Tennessee a strip of land leading to the river. The offer will be sent to Tennessee officials, who have laughed off similar ideas in the past.
Georgia lawmakers argue that a flawed 1818 survey misplaced the 35th parallel. If Tennessee’s southern border stretched along the parallel, as Congress decreed in 1796, Georgia could take water from the Tennessee River. No one much cared in modern times until a water dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida threatened metro Atlanta’s water supply.
“It’s basically our water — at least it was when it was on our land,” said Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, who sponsored the resolution.
Under his plan, Georgia would accept the current border with the exception of a slice of land allowing for access to the Tennessee River. Tennessee leaders have so far been dismissive of the latest request.
A border change would likely require Congressional action or a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Georgia lawmakers have debated similar requests in previous years. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue considered pursuing a lawsuit seeking to redraw the border after a federal judge ruled that Atlanta had little right to take water from the Chattahoochee River, its main water supply. That ruling has since been overturned.
Georgia leaders have floated the idea in various forms over the years. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, suggesting expanding road and rail links to Chattanooga, Tenn., in return for water access. Attorney General Sam Olens backed boosting the role of Chattanooga’s airport in return for a pipe carrying Tennessee River water to Georgia.
A new state law approved this year to settle a dispute between the City of Memphis and Shelby County governments over $6 million in in-lieu-of-tax payments by Memphis Light Gas and Water “is constitutionally suspect.”
So says a state attorney general opinion, reported upon by the Commercial Appeal. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Curry Todd at the county government’s request and was questioned during floor debates as another attempt at state legislative intervention in a Memphis-Shelby dispute. The bill, designed to settle the tax dispute in the county’s favor, was opposed by Memphis officials.
Before the law, MLGW (Memphis Gas, Light and Water) made payments in lieu of taxes based on its gas system operations county-wide to the City of Memphis, which could then distribute it to the county.
Shelby County claimed that the city owed it $6 million in payments on the basis of the utility’s sales of natural gas outside the city limits. The governments have argued over the issue for years, and the city filed a lawsuit last year claiming it had actually overpaid more than $86 million tbetween 1981 and 2000, demanding part of it back.
Shelby County pushed for the bill, which became Public Chapter 984, to require MLGW to make the in-lieu-of tax payments that it owes the county directly to the county government. It won approval in the state House on Jan. 23 on a mostly partisan 64-25 vote and the Senate on April 26, also on a mostly partisan 20-3 vote, with Republicans statewide voting with Shelby County Republican lawmakers in favor of the bill.
But the bill as passed applies in only two counties — Shelby and Knox — because it is limited to counties that have adopted county-charter form of governments under state law and which have municipalities operating municipal gas systems.
Atty. Gen. Robert Cooper, in an opinion released Tuesday, said the law treats the in-lieu-of tax payments in the two counties differently from other counties, where the municipalities “may” make in-lieu-of tax payments to other taxing jurisdictions but it does so without articulating any “rational basis” for doing so.
The opinion says the state Constitution does not prohibit the state legislature from making distinctions in law based on various classifications of local governments, but does forbid classifications that “contravene some general law which has mandatory statewide classification.” The opinion was requested by state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis.
The Legislature has stepped into a dispute between Memphis City government and Shelby County government over dividing up money received by the city’s utility. Rick Locker reports on the House vote for the bill — suburban Republicans for it, urban Democrats against — and provides a lesson on “caption bills” in the process. An 1897 Tennessee law keeping horses off public sidewalks has become a vehicle for the state legislature to settle a current $6 million dispute between Memphis and Shelby County governments.
The House of Representatives approved a bill Monday night — on a mostly party-line 64-29 vote — to settle a long-running squabble over $6 million in payments in lieu of taxes from Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division that Shelby County says the city owes it.
The bill is sought by Shelby County government and opposed by the city, which in November filed a lawsuit saying the city had actually overpaid more than $86 million to the county government between the 1981 and 2000 fiscal years and wants back as much of that amount as possible.
During a 34-minute floor debate on Monday’s bill, Democrats charged that the measure is the latest example of the new Republican majority intervening in a local dispute on the side of GOP-dominated suburbs. They likened it to last year’s passage by suburban Republicans of a slowed-down process for merging the city and county school systems.
Perhaps more important, the way the bill is working its way through the General Assembly raises questions about whether it violates at least the spirit of a state constitutional provision designed to give the public notice about a bill’s subject matter before it passes.
As it was originally filed by Rep. Curry Todd and Sen. Mark Norris, the bill would have raised the penalty for violating a 115-year-old statute regarding horses on public sidewalks. The bill now goes to the Senate for final approval.
HB1376 is what is known in legislative parlance as a “caption bill” — a short, skeletal bill with little more than a caption and brief, innocuous wording filed by sponsors who intend to amend the bill later with whatever substantive legislation they want to become law.
An amendment drafted by Shelby County’s lawyers and presented by Todd, R-Collierville, deleted the bill’s original language and replaced it with the new language, amending a 1987 statute governing payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) by municipal gas systems. It provides that unless the city and county reach an agreement prior to April on the MLGW PILOTs, Shelby County gets what it is entitled to under its existing property tax rates.
Municipal gas systems and horses on sidewalks are both subjects covered by the Tennessee Code’s Title 7 — a broad swath of state law encompassing 59 chapters governing all aspects of local governmental functions and entities.
Only a court could decide if the amended bill violates Article II, Section 17, of the Tennessee Constitution, providing that “No bill shall become a law which embraces more than one subject, that subject to be expressed in the title. All acts which repeal, revive or amend former laws, shall recite in their caption, or otherwise, the title or substance of the law repealed, revived or amended.”