published Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Hamilton County takes wish lists to legislators

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is seen in this file photo.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is seen in this file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION

Hamilton County's legislative delegation consists of:

• Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson

• Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga

• House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga

• Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga

• Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga

• Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge

• Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah

Hamilton County leaders have made their wish lists and checked them twice to present them to state lawmakers this morning.

Today's breakfast at the Chattanooga Choo Choo is an annual meeting between the local legislative delegation and local constitutional offices, including the county mayor, county commissioners, sheriff, the county clerk, the district attorney, the county register of deeds and Juvenile Court.

Each will have several minutes to present items they hope state lawmakers will address in the upcoming legislative session. The 108th Tennessee General Assembly convenes Jan. 8, 2013.

"We just want them to have a good, open line of communication and rapport with us so we can be on the same page about issues or legislation that is going to impact the county," said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, whose office holds the event.

The delegation's chairman, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said the group will meet in Nashville before session starts to go over the local government wish lists.

"This allows local government to set the stage for their expectations this session," said Watson. "We need to know what issues are of primary concern, and whether they are going to ask us to bring forward specific legislation."

Routine requests will likely include more money for local schools and for state inmates housed in local jails, along with the county's perennial request that the state not impose any unfunded mandates.

But the mayor's office and the other county leaders will have more specific items they plan to bring up as well, such as a letter from the Hamilton County Commission in support of changing state law to allow liquor distilleries in the county.

Hamilton County was excluded from a 2009 law that opened up dozens of other Tennessee counties to liquor manufacturing. The Chattanooga Whiskey Co. has lobbied to have the county brought under the law so the owners can move their distillery from Indiana to the label's hometown.

Seven of nine commissioners signed the letter of support in November.

Members of the delegation are split on the whiskey issue, with several undecided and at least one, Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, in opposition. But House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, has expressed confidence that it will pass.

Another commission-originated letter, which sought to give commissioners more direct power over their salaries, did not get enough signatures to be brought before the commission.

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