Legislation to give Tennesseans a voice in annexation
Mar 02, 2014 | 741 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(Editor’s Note: The following weekly summary from the 108th General Assembly of the Tennessee Legislature has been submitted jointly by state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, representing the 24th Legislative District, and state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, representing the 22nd Legislative District.)

Legislation designed to reform Tennessee’s outdated annexation laws passed the Tennessee House of Representatives last Monday with an overwhelming 78-8 vote.

As passed, the bill gives a voice to citizens across the state, allowing communities to cast a decisive “yes” or “no” vote when a city attempts to annex their property. House Republicans fully believe the legislation will lead to more fair and efficient annexation proceedings.

For years, legislators have been trying to change Tennessee’s abusive and antiquated annexation laws. With the passage of House Bill 590, this year’s group of lawmakers becomes the first in decades to achieve substantial annexation reform for the state.

Now that the House has passed the legislation, the bill awaits action in the state Senate before traveling to the desk of Gov. Bill Haslam to be signed into law.

State, federal partnership

to benefit ‘Main Street

Community’ programs

State leaders joined together last week to announce the launch of the “IDEA Initiative,” a partnership of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission to assist Tennessee Main Street communities in setting achievable, effective and sustainable development objectives. There are currently 27 Main Street communities across Tennessee.

IDEA stands for “Ignite Downtown Economic Action.” The initiative will provide each participating Main Street Community with an assessment and a set of specific recommendations for economic development based on the National Main Street Center’s Four Point model: design, economic restructuring, organization and promotion.

In addition, the IDEA Initiative will sharpen the focus on the role of local Main Street programs as drivers and contributors to comprehensive local economic development efforts. This proven strategy works by strengthening local Main Street teams, improving action plans, increasing understanding and confidence in Main Street districts for investors and developing economic restructuring resources and reference tools for each local program.

In 2012, designated Main Street communities generated more than $82 million of public/private investment and created 604 new jobs. Main Street programs are located in Bristol, Cleveland, Collierville, Columbia, Cookeville, Dandridge, Dayton, Dyersburg, Fayetteville, Franklin, Gallatin, Greeneville, Jackson, Jonesborough, Kingsport, Lawrenceburg, Lebanon, Leiper's Fork, McMinnville, Morristown, Murfreesboro, Ripley, Rogersville, Savannah, Sweetwater, Tiptonville and Union City.

Legislation to return

bridge construction dollars

to counties across the

state gains momentum

House lawmakers last week announced support for legislation that will aid in returning millions of dollars to taxpayers in the form of bridge infrastructure improvements to counties across the state.

The bill, which changes the way the state currently manages its State Aid Bridge Grant Program, will allow bridge funding set aside by the state to now be used by communities in the form of direct expenditures to upgrade, repair and rehabilitate bridges that have fallen in disrepair over the years.

Currently, in order to receive funding through the Bridge Grant Program, a 20 percent local match must be made. However, because many local governments cannot afford the match, a large percentage of the bridge funding set aside by the state has gone unused.

The legislation pushed by House lawmakers reduces this local match percentage to only 2 percent, ensuring local governments can now afford the grant funding and are not burdened by excessive infrastructure expenses.

Lawmakers argue the legislation simply unlocks local money that has been sitting unused for a number of years to help aid communities with important bridge infrastructure projects and upgrades. In addition, while the 2 percent match can be paid using direct funding, the bill also allows municipalities to match the rate using in-kind services, allowing local road departments to invest sweat equity to satisfy the program’s requirements instead of our tax dollars.

The bill will be heard by the full House next week.

House unanimously

passes data privacy bill

A bill designed to better protect the personal information of Tennessee taxpayers unanimously passed the House of Representatives last week in Nashville.

The legislation, which has been applauded by pro-privacy groups statewide, requires both current and future state employees who have access to proprietary and personal information of those dealing with state agencies to undergo criminal background checks, better ensuring taxpayer information is protected.

With nationwide news outlets recently discovering the massive failures of the federal government to protect the private information of individuals across the nation, House Republicans in our state have committed themselves and are actively working to better secure the personal information of all Tennesseans.

The bill now travels to the desk of the governor to be signed into law.