• TN Legislative Update: And, the Deannexation Discussion Continues
  • September 21, 2016
  • Law Firm: Chambliss Bahner Stophel P.C. - Chattanooga Office
  • Just because the Legislature isn’t in session doesn't mean there isn’t work to be done and post-session obligations to keep. You may recall an issue from this year's legislative session that received quite a bit of attention but was not resolved (drum roll, please) - deannexation.
     
    Well as promised, the Senate Deannexation Summer Study Committee met on Monday, August 22 to further examine the issue. The committee, comprised of Sens. Ketron, Briggs, Green, Jackson and Johnson, heard nearly two hours of testimony and statistics from numerous speakers on both sides of the issue.
     
    Synopsis:

    Although no legislation has changed, it is likely we will see the re-introduction of deannexation legislation, in some form, next session. With elections this fall and some new players at the Legislature next year, both sides on this issue will have some lobbying to do.
     
    Here's the skinny:
     
    REWIND: 2016 Deannexation Legislation

    During the 2016 legislative session, HB779 / SB749 passed out of the House, after lengthy debate, but got hung up in the Senate State & Local Government Committee, which sent the bill to summer study. The overall goal of the heavily amended legislation was to allow resident-initiated deannexation. The bill had many versions. At one point, it only applied to six counties and exempted certain cities. The version passed by the House allowed for deannexation by ordinance and proposed that deannexation may occur by a two-thirds vote of the county legislative body; the Senate version wanted to require 20 percent of voter signatures for a referendum and allowed cities to continue taxing deannexed property owners for a proportional share for costs of public employee pensions and OPEB obligations. So obviously, the two versions did not match, but it didn’t matter because the bill was never voted on in the Senate Committee. The Senate State & Local Government Committee decided to study the issue further over the summer. Stale mate.

    FAST FORWARD: Summer Study Committee

    The Senate State & Local Government Committee stuck to its word, and the promised Senate Deannexation Summer Study Committee met on Monday, August 22. The committee heard testimony from a bevy of speakers, who provided legislative analysis to other states that have implemented similar legislation, presented data, and offered overall differing perspectives on the topic.
    Pro-deannexation legislation advocate and Citizens for Home Rule President John Avery Emison testified that the Citizens for Home Rule group has been fighting for deannexation rights since 1980. The issues related to deannexation were debated for hours in both the House and Senate, and he can't imagine there is an unturned stone on this issue.
     
    Ken Moore, Mayor of Franklin, Tennessee, told the committee that Franklin would be negatively impacted by deannexation, and if parts of the city were to deannex, it would cause confusion and delays in emergency responses by over burdening Williamson County emergency services. The mayor also suggested the need to further study the city's ability to continue to issue bonds, how cities will deal with loss of tax revenue, and the impact on schools and infrastructure. He stated, "Deannexation is only practical if an area does not have city services. We do not have any community banging on our doors to deannex from the city of Franklin."

    PAUSE: What Next?

    In summary, the committee did what it was intended to do - hold a hearing and study the issue further. It is not anticipated that the group will meet again before the 2017 session. However, it is likely we will see the re-introduction of deannexation legislation, in some form, next session. With elections this fall and some new players at the Legislature next year, both sides on this issue will have some lobbying to do. So what happens next? Wait and see