NASHVILLE — After a two-year battle, the Tennessee Senate today passed Sen. Bo Watson's much amended de-annexation bill that would allow disgruntled voters in sections of cities annexed by ordinance after 1999 to secede.
The bill passed 29-3 and contains various provisions that have made cities and Watson's colleagues more comfortable.
Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, is expected to push the companion bill in 2018.
As he presented his bill, a clearly miffed Watson, R-Hixson, said "this may be the most comprehensively compromised piece of legislation this body will ever consider."
Watson said he's been "amazed ... quite frankly" by the attacks from "various constituencies."
Latest changes to the bill include a provision that expands the referendum vote on whether a section could secede to the entire city and not just the affected area.
Another provision would prevent areas located well within a city from leaving in order to prevent "donut holes."
Residents who do vote to leave would still be on the hook for taxes related to bond issues and improvements made during their sojourn in a municipality.
Another provision creates an exemption for cities who undertake their own de-annexation initiatives provided they pass ordinances prior to Jan. 1, 2018.
During his presentation, Watson unhappily recalled how the House-approved bill last year was on the Senate floor when it was forced back to the Senate State and Local Government Committee where various issues were raised.
Watson said while he had previously been assured the bill would return to the Senate floor, it was shipped off to a summer study committee. Then, Watson noted, new concerns resulting in the additional changes were made this year.