House Speaker Beth Harwell has replaced Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, on the powerful Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations after appointing him to the position in April.
She replaced him last month with Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, but Hill said Thursday the replacement is temporary and that Carter was put on to help a TACIR study that could lead to changes in the state’s annexation law.
The timing is odd, though.
Shortly before it was announced officially that he was being appointed to TACIR, Hill surprised Harwell by casting the deciding vote in the House Local Government Committee against advancing a measure to allow local referendums on permitting grocery stores to sell wine. Harwell was standing by to exert her privilege to vote had the vote come down to a tie. Hill was the committee’s chairman.
“That’s not the case,” Hill said about the possibility Harwell made the change in response to Hill’s action on the wine measure.
Harwell and Republican leaders of both chambers of the General Assembly supported the bill.
“Representative Carter has taken my spot, because he outlined the bill on the moratorium on municipal annexations,” Hill said Thursday. “Part of that legislation asks TACIR to study it (the bill). I was happy to let him do that until they finish their report. He knows much more having authored the bill, but I will be coming back when they’ve finished.”
The committee’s debate on the day of the wine vote was cut off. That made Harwell an unhappy camper, and Hill later apologized.
He told The Associated Press afterward that he was frustrated that supporters ended debate on the measure before any of at least 10 amendments could be discussed in the committee. That motion was the culmination of an odd sequence that first saw members refuse a normally automatic request to delay a vote by a week. Debate was then cut off without any questions.
“It was just wrong to cut off debate, and not just to hear the amendments,” Hill said.
Harwell was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
TACIR, a 25-member body, serves as a forum for discussion and resolution of intergovernmental problems and is composed mainly of state senators and representatives. TACIR is expected to play a role in how the final legislation is shaped regarding annexations in Washington County and the rest of the state.
Often referred to as a “think-and-do-tank,” TACIR has studied issues ranging from public infrastructure to government modernization, and most recently, education financing and accountability. If called upon, the commission responds to technical requests by the General Assembly, state agencies and local governments.
TACIR has been charged with completing a comprehensive review and evaluation of current state annexation laws and submitting a report of its findings and recommendations, including the proposed legislation, to Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.
Responsibility for the appointment of four state senators and four state representatives to TACIR rests with Harwell and Ramsey.