By MATT BLOIS
At a meeting on March 14, the Williamson Inc. Board of Directors voted to support several bills moving through the state legislature.
In a press release, the group says it believes these bills will have a positive impact on Williamson County’s business community.
“We look forward to working with and supporting our state legislative delegation as they focus on issues important to the future of Williamson County, specifically creating a way to fund our schools in a long-term, sustainable way,” Williamson, Inc. President and CEO Matt Largen said, according to the press release.
The group endorsed five bills.
Williamson Inc. calls finding a long-term solution for school funding its number-one priority.
The group has endorsed two bills moving through the legislature that would allocate additional money to fast-growing school districts.
One version proposes giving some sales tax money to schools with a 2 percent increase in enrollment during the past five years. Another version of the bill defines high-growth as schools that have grown by at least 250 students per year over the past five years.
The funding would come from the existing state sales tax. The changes could cost the state somewhere between $18 million and $32 million to provide the extra funding to schools.
Williamson County is part of a judicial district that includes Hickman, Lewis and Perry Counties.
This bill would make Williamson County its own judicial district, and would create a new judicial district for the other three counties. That change would take effect in 2022, if the bill is passed.
All four counties currently have five judges. If the bill is passed Williamson County’s district would have four judges and the fifth judge would serve the new judicial district.
Williamson Inc. hopes the bill will pass because it would expedite court decisions in the county.
This bill would create a tax credit for restoring historic structures.
The current language in the bill would offer a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the cost of rehabilitation in Davidson and Williamson Counties. Other counties would get a larger tax break.
The tax credit would be capped at $4 million per year, and the projects have to meet standards set by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
The state senate has passed the bill on two initial considerations and referred it to to a commerce and labor committee. The house assigned the bill to a budget committee.
In a press release, the Williamson County chamber of commerce said it endorsed the bill because it would encouraged redevelopment and renovation of historic structures in downtown areas in Williamson County.
Williamson County Representative and Speaker of the House Glen Casada introduced a bill in the house that would allow Williamson County to test out convenient vote centers starting in 2020.
Convenient vote centers would allow Williamson County voters to cast a ballot at any polling place in the county on election day, regardless of their precinct.
A previous law allowed Rutherford County to create convenient vote centers last year. Rutherford was the first county to implement the program.
The Daily News Journal, a newspaper serving Rutherford County, reported that voters found the open polling places easier to use.
Voters in Williamson County can already vote at any polling place in the county during early voting. On election day, current law requires voters to go to a specific precinct.
This bill, introduced by Williamson County Representative Brandon Ogles in the House, would require the state’s revenue department to send a report to several committees in the state legislature about the number of cars that have stickers allowing them to use carpool lanes.
That bill was referred to an infrastructure subcommittee in the house, which is chaired by Williamson County Representative Sam Whitson.
Williamson Inc. said in press release it supports the measure because better enforcement of high occupancy vehicle lanes could “open up the HOV lane for dedicated bus rapid transit in the future without the high infrastructure cost of building a new lane on I-65.”