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Senate OKs bill that would end annexation by ordinance in state

March 27th, 2014 9:19 pm by Gary B. Gray

Senate OKs bill that would end annexation by ordinance in state

The state Senate on Thursday passed a consolidated bill that, if passed by the House and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, would end municipal annexation by ordinance, halt annexation of farmland and require a referendum for any annexation, whether requested by municipalities or property owners.

“The days of annexation by ordinance are over,” state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, said from Nashville. “With three separate annexation bills working, we decided to all get together and combine them into one bill — SB 2464. We determined the best way to do this was to completely do away with annexation by ordinance.”

Crowe sponsored legislation in the Senate introduced and passed in the House by state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough.

This bill mandates a referendum by registered voters settle the issue of annexation in affected areas. Cities and/or residents would initiate referendums. And even if only one landowner is involved, that person would have to petition the city and have a referendum, Crowe said.

Another piece of legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, eliminates annexation by ordinance — period. Carter’s bill ultimately became the “delivery system” in this cooperative effort.

Finally, a bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, requires further study of overall annexation issues by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The commission would be tasked with studying these issues until February 2015.

This particular aspect may, in the end, be the most important. TACIR will be looking at scenarios such as whether Wal-Mart would get to have a say in a proposed annexation of the land on which the company’s store sits. It also will be trying to iron out the matter of who actually would get to vote in referendums.

“Micah’s (Van Huss) bill was actually ahead of other bills, and it passed the House overwhelmingly,” Carter said late Thursday. “It plowed the ground for my bill. That literally gave birth to this piece of legislation. Without Van Huss’ bill, it would have lost wind.”

The bill now goes to the House floor.

Carter said his bill was being used as a vehicle to accomplish what all three bills aim to achieve.

“We had been talking for several days, and we developed this strategy,” Carter said. “The Van Huss bill remains alive in the Senate. So if this bill fails, we’ll fall back on it. It will be a safety valve. In the strict parlance of parliamentarianism, this is not a combination bill. It is one of the greatest acts of the peoples’ will being accomplished over political desires.”

Crowe said TACIR’s recommendation to allow a consensus approach “essentially, created a flame that caught fire and resulted in three bills being pursued.”

“The one that today proved to be the best vehicle to carry and balance the majority of our concerns was the bill Senator Watson, myself, and Representative Carter sponsored — SB 2464,” Crowe added. “Our actions today deletes annexation by ordinance completely and leaves current law in place that provides that residents may ask to be annexed through referendum and that the city may initiate annexation by referendum, as well. Thus, the bill will impose no additional cost than is already authorized in law.

“TACIR also recommended that we extend the moratorium on annexation and requested further study of the ancillary issues regarding our state’s annexation laws, especially with regard to how we will deal with corporate and business interests within areas to be annexed that are not residents but do own property within the area to be annexed.”

If it successful, SB 2464 would result in the following laws/actions:

- Repeals annexation by ordinance, creates annexation by referendum.

- Exempts land used for agricultural purposes unless requested by the owner.

- Extends moratorium on municipal annexations (other than requested) to 2015.

- Requests TACIR to continue its study to determine how to procedurally give nonresidents a vote.

- Exempts metro governments.

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