NASHVILLE - The state House today overwhelmingly voted to end a nearly 60-year-old law allowing cities' to annex territory without consent, sending the bill to Gov. Bill Haslam for his consideration.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, passed 85 to 4. Senators approved the measure, sponsored there by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, last week.
Carter, who fought cities and the Tennessee Municipal League which opposed the measure, called the repeal of the 1955 law the result of a "true citizens' movement. There have been no lobbyists, special interests or big money involved."
It should, he said, "stand as testimony that government can work ... when the politicians put self aggrandizement and reward to themselves to the side and reflect the will of the people."
The bill ends Tennessee towns and cities' ability to annex territory by ordinance. Instead, annexations can only occur through a petition of willing property owners wanting to come into a city or through a referendum vote.
Critics have raised concerns the bill would jeopardize cities' growth and economic development. Carter rejected those arguments.
Efforts to repeal the annexation-by-ordinance law have failed for years. Sen. Watson has carried a version for several years. But the effort always failed to get traction in the House until Carter, a freshman lawmaker and one-time top aide to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, took up the issue.
"I'd just like to say that when Rep. Carter brought this bill in the beginning a lot of people told him it was laughable, that it couldn't be done," House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, told the chamber.
He added: "I think he's proved things have changed around here" and was able to "put power in the hands of the people."