Capitol Update

January 28, 2022

Redistricting Update


 After the Senate passed redistricting plans Thursday of last week, the House followed suit Monday night. The bills redistricting the state House and Senate and the U.S. Congressional Districts are now on their way to the Governor’s desk for his signature. In general, the bulk of Tennessee’s population growth occurred in Middle Tennessee, meaning state legislative districts in both East and West that did not keep pace with the growth tended to shift toward the center of the state. Some counties will find themselves represented by new state Senators and Representatives after the election this fall. It’s never too early to begin building those relationships, so if you know your country will experience a change, I encourage you to reach out soon to your potential new legislators. County Government Day will be a great opportunity to begin building those relationships.   

Bill to Allow Regulation of Party Vehicles Rolls Forward


A bill that would allow cities, counties and metropolitan governments to regulate entertainment vehicles moved forward out of the House Transportation Committee this week and has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Finance Subcommittee next week. The bill (HB1392) by Rep. Freeman of Nashville adds “entertainment transportation” vehicles to the types of passenger service that local governments can regulate, alongside other passenger-for-hire services like taxis and buses. The proliferation of party vehicles operating along Broadway and other tourist areas in Nashville in particular has raised safety concerns as well as caused complaints that the city is losing a family-friendly atmosphere. There have been numerous high-profile incidents where excessive drinking on one of these vehicles has led to passenger injuries and traffic problems. The bill has a fiscal note showing a permissive increase in both local government costs and revenues if a city or county chooses to enact a regulatory process for these vehicles. 

Alternative Notice for County Commission Meetings


In response to complaints raised by his county that it is having difficulty getting timely publication of notice of meetings of the county commission in local papers, Rep. Cepicky of Maury County filed a bill (HB1677) this year to allow for alternative methods of providing notice. As originally proposed, the bill would allow the county to post notices of meetings on social media. In response to concerns raised by Deborah Fisher of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government about access to social media, an amendment was proposed to allow the county to post notice of meetings on the county’s website when publication of notices cannot be done in a timely manner, provided that the county also post a notice at a location like the courthouse where the public is likely to see it. The Cities and Counties Subcommittee approved the bill with the amendment on Tuesday morning and forwarded it to the House Local Government Committee where it is scheduled to be heard next week. 

Register of Deeds Commission


This week, the Senate State and Local Government Committee recommended a bill that would allow county registers of deeds to retain more of the commission they charge on collecting the state’s realty transfer tax. The bill (SB1663) by Sen Gardenhire has a fiscal note estimating that the charge would shift a little over $11 million from the state’s coffers to counties. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee where the fiscal impact will have to be addressed before the legislation can proceed any further.

Public Safety Surcharge


A bill that would allow local governments to levy a public safety surcharge for defraying the cost of providing services like fire protection and emergency communications services was postponed to the final calendar of the Cities and Counties Subcommittee at the request of the sponsor. The bill (HB1450) by Rep. Doggett was filed last year at the request of one of his local governments. Collection of the surcharge could occur through an agreement with an electric, water or sewer utility as a part of the utility’s billing process, but only with the consent of the utility. The bill also included a provision that allowed mediation through the comptroller’s office in circumstances where an interlocal agreement on how much local governments would contribute to an emergency communications district has expired and the local governments cannot agree on a new formula. 

Bill Filing Deadline Approaches


Legislative leadership has announced that Wednesday, February 2nd, will be the deadline for filing new legislation for 2022. It is anticipated that a rush of legislation will be filed with the General Assembly over the next week. So far, only 400-500 new bills have been filed in each chamber. Over 1,600 bills were filed last year, so we expect to see roughly 1,000 pieces of legislation show up over the next week. As always, the county associations will be reviewing all bills for potential impact on county government. 

For a printer-friendly copy of this week's Capitol Update, you can download a PDF version here