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What do the Tri-Cities want from state lawmakers in 2018?

Hank Hayes • Dec 31, 2017 at 3:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Tri-Cities municipal governments are again urging Northeast Tennessee lawmakers to turn away from deannexation measures unless cities fail to meet their annexation plan of services.

That was in a 2018 legislative wish list — called the Tri-Cities Joint Legislative Policy — developed and approved by local government leaders from Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol, Tenn.

Last year, state Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, filed a bill that would have allowed annexed residents to organize and hold de-annexation referendums.

His bill passed in the Senate with amendments, but didn’t move forward in the House.

In its Joint Legislative Policy document, the Tri-Cities again pointed out that Tennessee cities of all sizes provide the fuel that drives the economic engine of the state.

“Yet cities continue to struggle to provide the fuel for the economic engine,” the document noted. “Cities face a number of threats: erosion of revenue sources; changes in annexation and de-annexation laws; and loss of control over municipal concerns. Cities need the help of our legislators to make Tennessee thrive.”

Here are four other things to know about the Joint Legislative Policy:

* The Tri-Cities again asked for tax relief by raising or eliminating the single-article tax cap on major purchases; the ability to enact a local option restaurant privilege tax; and reducing or eliminating trustee fees on local option taxes collected by the state.

* The wish list also sought a repeal of state law allowing counties to appropriate one-time expenditures to county schools without sharing those funds with city schools.

* In public safety, the Tri-Cities asked lawmakers for tighter restrictions on pain clinics distributing buprenorphine products such as Subutex and Suboxone. Tri-Cities governments also oppose legislation that would restrict a local government’s ability to seize assets related to drug trafficking and DUI arrests. They also want the authority to prohibit smoking outside entrances to city-owned buildings.

* In public transportation, the Tri-Cities again is asking lawmakers to extend rail service along the Interstate 81 and Interstate 75 corridors.

The policy document used to be submitted to local lawmakers during a January meeting in one of the Tri-Cities. This year’s meeting between city officials and lawmakers will be held Jan. 29-30 in Nashville.

The Tennessee General Assembly will reconvene in Nashville on Jan. 9.

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