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Tri-Cities to lawmakers: 'Keep local control local'

Hank Hayes • Jan 3, 2019 at 7:30 AM

Tri-Cities municipal governments are again urging Northeast Tennessee lawmakers to reject de-annexation measures unless cities fail to meet their annexation plan of services.

That was in the cities’ 2019 legislative wish list — called the Tri-Cities Joint Legislative Policy — developed by local government leaders from Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol, Tenn.

“Keep local control local,” the policy asked lawmakers.

The policy pointed out that since 1999, cities have followed prevailing law and allocated “extensive capital” to provide services to annexed areas.

“Authorizing de-annexation of taxable properties that were included in the repayment assumptions for this capital could have a very negative impact on municipal bond ratings,” the policy document noted.

In the document, the Tri-Cities again pointed out that Tennessee cities of all sizes provide the fuel driving the economic engine of the state.

“Yet cities continue to struggle to provide the fuel for the economic engine,” the document stressed. “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 of up to 2 percent; and enacting local option taxes on tobacco products.

* The wish list also opposes any legislation that would reduce the authority of regional planning commissions to regulate land use within cities’ urban growth boundaries.

* In public safety, the Tri-Cities asked lawmakers for legislation to require Suboxone clinics to obtain a certificate of need like methadone clinics are required to obtain. The cities also want to expand the second-degree murder statute to hold people criminally responsible for illegally distributing drugs resulting in the death of the user.

* In public transportation, the Tri-Cities again asked lawmakers to initiate studies to extend rail service along the corridors of Interstates 81, 40 and 75.

The policy document used to be submitted to local lawmakers during a meeting in one of the Tri-Cities. This year’s meeting between city officials and lawmakers will be held Feb. 4-5 in Nashville.

The Tennessee General Assembly, with more than 30 freshmen lawmakers this year, will reconvene in Nashville on Jan. 8.

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