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Annexation measures clear Senate committee

March 19th, 2014 8:58 pm by Gary B. Gray

Annexation measures clear Senate committee

As promised, state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, pushed legislation forward this week that would let voters decide for themselves whether they want to be annexed into municipalities, despite a public plea from Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin on March 6 for the senator to pull the bill.

Crowe’s bill was one of three annexation bills to go forward.

SB 869, a companion to the bill passed in the House sponsored by sRep. Micah Van Huss R-6th, won approval Tuesday in the Senate State and Local Government Committee in an 8-1 vote, with Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, voting in opposition.

The committee also passed another annexation bill sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson. Watson’s bill puts in place a referendum process by repealing annexation by ordinance completely. In addition, the members approved a bill by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, which continues the moratorium on annexation and will direct the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to study the complexity of the state’s annexation laws in their entirety.

“I am pleased that the Senate committees have agreed with our assessment that citizens being annexed should have the right to vote on whether or not they wish to be annexed,” Crowe said Wednesday. “I look forward to hearing from TACIR once they have the opportunity to review the collateral impacts of repealing annexation by ordinance.”

Crowe said TACIR will study, among other things, how new annexation laws deal with corporations and businesses that lie within the areas to be annexed and how legislators might deal with situations where municipalities have already extended utilities in anticipation of annexing certain areas.

“Above all, however, the people’s right to vote will be preserved,” Crowe said. “Both bills, my bill SB 869, and Senator Watson’s bill, will move on a path to the Senate floor and at some point, one bill will carry the provisions and intent of all three bills.”

Van Brocklin, who said he was not speaking for other commissioners, warned the bill would harm Johnson City and other municipalities and that problems resulting from the legislation “is authored by the very representatives that have been elected to serve the people of that municipality.”

Crowe cited the House bill’s overwhelming success and the fact this showed there was support throughout Tennessee and a consensus that those being annexed by ordinance should have a voice in their own annexation.

The senator said he respected Johnson City and Washington County leaders, as well as the mayor’s comments. However, he pointed out Tennessee is one of a dwindling number of states that give cities broad power to annex without the consent of those being annexed, and the state is one of only a few in the nation that allows cities to force annexation of those being annexed without a referendum. 

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