Senate expands scope of controversial de-annexation bill

Senate expands scope of controversial de-annexation bill

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Tennessee Senate created its own version of a controversial bill.

The de-annexation bill passed in the Tennessee House of Representatives earlier this month. That version of the bill only allowed a de-annexation referendum in five cities across the state, including Memphis. That means communities like Cordova, Hickory Hill, or any community that was annexed after May 1998 could break off from their parent cities.

The Senate's version of the bill, however, moves more to the extreme. It would allow any community in the state to petition for a de-annexation vote. In addition, there is no minimum date set--any community annexed at any time would be allowed to petition to separate.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is opposed to the bill and traveled to Nashville twice to speak against it. He said it could cost the city hundreds of thousands of residents and tens of millions of dollars in taxes. However, supporters of annexation said they are being forced to pay for services they don't need.

A Senate committee met Tuesday to discuss the changes and what the next step will be.

The committee passed almost a dozen amendments to the bill after the committee heard passionate pleas from de-annexation supporters.

One of those residents was Patricia Possel. She spoke to the committee about her south Cordova area being forced in to a city she never wanted to be a resident of and never chose.

"It was hostilely annexed July 1, 2012. The first time we were able to vote for city council representation was November 2015. That's four long years of taxation without representation," Possel said.

She says being forced into the city limits made people in her area less safe.

"Since being forced into the city, crime has increased in my area. I'm not just talking about vandalism and small, petty property losses. A neighbor's friend, Susan McDonald, was murdered August 1, 2015," Possel said.

McDonald was murdered by two men while sitting in a car near a friend's house in south Cordova last year.

Possel wasn't the only one addressing the committee and asking for the support of de-annexation.

"I like to give the straight skinny," said Terry Roland, Shelby County Commission Chairman. "We want to keep people in Shelby County, so we need to be giving them incentive to stay, rather than forcing them into situations like they're in right now."

Meanwhile, the committee passed several amendments to the bill, including making it apply equally statewide, not just some cities.

They also changed the number of signatures required to get de-annexations on the ballot to 20 percent of residents.

In addition, they amended the bill to say residents only get one chance at a de-annexation vote. No matter how it turns out, it can never be voted on again once that one chance is over.

Other amendments also make areas that de-annex liable for city workers' pensions and other capital improvements.

However, Possel was adamant and said her and her neighbors deserve the right to decide for themselves if they live in the City of Memphis or not.

"We were denied our American right to vote. For four years we have been taxed without representation. Please, right the wrong and give us the right to vote," Possel said.

A senate committee will vote on whether to send the amended bill to the full senate Wednesday.

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